President's Message


D. Phillip Woodruff
D. Phillip Woodruff
President - IUVSTA
(1998-2001) Triennium

Dear Colleagues,

This is my second message as President of IUVSTA but we are already close to the end of the first year of the current (1998-2001) triennium. Our first full Executive Council Meeting (ECM) of the triennium was held in February this year in Saillon-les-Bains in Switzerland, and this very central European location ensured that we had excellent attendance despite the weather (there was an excess of snow and tragic events with avalanches higher in the mountains, but in Saillon we had rain and slush!) A good turn-out of Councillors and Divisional representatives is certainly what we needed for this first meeting, and the ECM agreed to support several new scientific workshops, and also had some healthy debate on a number of matters.

High on the list of debated topics, and very much in my mind in writing this message, is the matter of electronic communications and IUVSTA’s use of the World Wide Web. We made great strides in this direction during the last triennium, and there is now far more information concerning IUVSTA, far more readily available, than was ever possible with only paper communications. The amount of paper travelling the world to support the ECMs has been reduced. Experiments in distributing committee meeting papers (including the STD Agenda) by simply emailing the address (URL) of a local web site seem to offer a way to overcome the problems of incompatibilities in email attachment formats and look like a promising route ahead; indeed, this method is now being tested for the distribution of ECM Minutes. The IUVSTA www site offers great scope for the distribution of more archival material. However, establishing a www site also carries with it a big responsibility – if its information is not regularly updated it rapidly ceases to have much value; indeed, it can become counter-productive because users lose confidence and cease to check the site, yet no longer get the paper communications.

We are very well aware of the fact that there have been problems with our web site in the last year or so; some of these problems have been associated with the loss of our original web-master and the eventual change-over, but there have also been difficulties in collecting all the information which should be installed. For example, we still have half of our Scientific Divisions with almost no useful information on the web, yet these Divisions do run IUVSTA-sponsored workshops and should offer the most obvious interface to IUVSTA for practising scientists and technologists. Lars Westerberg, as Chairman of the Publications Committee, has been trying hard to tackle this problem, but he has had very little assistance, and it is clear that one person cannot take all the responsibility. In the first instance, we have agreed that Divisional Chairmen or their nominated representatives must become responsible for collating their own information. This was his (and my) message at our Council Meeting in Saillon, and we will be pursuing this distribution of responsibilities in the coming months. We are also keen to identify volunteers to help with this key area of IUVSTA publications, perhaps by taking on specific coordinating roles for aspects of the web site.

Finally, I should say that while we have a vision of how the IUVSTA web site should work, we also welcome opinions and suggestions about the site in general, and the format and utility of these electronic News Bulletins in particular. The format has already evolved from the old one used in the printed versions only about three years ago, but I feel sure there is still lots of scope for improvement.

D. Phillip Woodruff
August 1999

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