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October 6, 2006

An Interview with Sigma Xi President James Baur

James F. Baur James F. Baur is president of Science Solutions Inc., which concentrates on joint projects with research groups of or related to the former Soviet Academy of Sciences. His experience also includes college physics teaching and fusion energy research. Baur lives in Charleston, West Virginia, and has been a Sigma Xi member for 44 years.

What are your goals during your term as president?
As we work to enhance successes and identify initiatives, I'd like us to take the long view, looking ahead to the year 2030. What should Sigma Xi's structure, reach and emphasis be 25 years from now? And what action should be taken along the way to attain a future worldview? Factors for consideration might include relationships with world science, humanitarian or governing organizations; communication techniques, membership refinements and perhaps even separate, semi-continental offices for Sigma Xi geographic divisions in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Pacifica and the Americas, to list a few.

Would you elaborate on the Society's global dimension?
Sigma Xi's International Committee and the board of directors established the International Partner category of chapter-type local groups. The Sigma Xi Moscow Partner and Sigma Xi Georgia Partner have been approved and installed. More partners in Africa and Eastern Europe are in formation. I am advocating the formation of chapters from groups at Gulf of Aquaba (joint Jordan-Israeli research group), South Pole (Western group) and Antarctic Station (Russian affiliated group), and nascent groups I have visited and encouraged in Seoul, Beijing and Ulaanbaatar. The International Committee is hard at work in all aspects of this endeavor. Like science, Sigma Xi should be global and transcend national boundaries.

How can Sigma Xi promote this global view?
Scientists and engineers in China, Mongolia, Kenya and many other countries cannot afford the normal Sigma Xi dues. The Society and the International Committee are heeding the will of our delegates at recent annual meetings to go global without subsidizing new chapters and members from our modest dues. I am encouraging that a Sigma Xi Global Fund be established with contributions from multinational corporations that do business and have an interest in fostering science in developing countries and regions. This would be a means to supplement reduced dues of members in chapters in their operational areas. Thus, many thousands of competent and deserving scientists from all over the globe could join, enlarge, enrich and enliven Sigma Xi. As chair of the International Committee, I have participated in functions at the Moscow Partner and the Hungary Chapter. I have asked my colleagues there to help do a feasibility study for each place to host a Sigma Xi meeting. I envision a fun and unusual program, with special presentations on Russian or Hungarian science, as well as opportunities to absorb the aura, architecture and culture of Moscow or Budapest. Now that would be fun!

What other areas will have your attention?
I'd like to promote an increase in annual meeting attendance. Frequent chapter delegate attendance improves Society governance and greatly influences fruitful chapter activities. I favor exploring use of hotels with less expensive rooms and the trial use, at least, of a room-share list as a service to delegates to control meeting costs and increase attendance. Increasing chapter membership is another priority. In those instances where chapters cannot be brought up to a critical mass of members, I advocate an effort to consolidate one or more chapters in the area to serve all Sigma Xi members there and to enrich the consolidated chapter with more members and institutional resources.

How would your suggested regional collaborations work?
Through local initiative and leadership. When three to six chapters collaborate on speakers, programs, open houses or poster judging, it offers a number of advantages, including increased attendance and promotion of companionship among the memberships of the individual chapters. Such consortia have worked successfully in Connecticut, Southern California and Arizona, among other areas.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I also advocate an aggressive program to foster more open house activities, especially ones that bring local industry and government laboratories and their scientists, officials and facilities into the Sigma Xi movement. And I would especially like to implore members and officers to share ideas and speak their minds by calling or e-mailing the president, any director or the executive director. Sigma Xi would be the better for it.


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