During the recent EGU Autumn 2021 elections, Alberto Viglione, from Politecnico di Torino, was elected as the new president of the Division on Hydrological Sciences. As a first-time elected division president, he will be inaugurated during the EGU General Assembly in April 2022 in Vienna, and serve for one year as Deputy President after the inauguration. He will then serve as division President for a two-year term starting from the 2023 EGU General Assembly.
In this post, I reflect on the many challenges of EGU division presidents and on how a supportive community is so important for the activities of the Union.
What do EGU division presidents actually do?
When I started writing this post, I quickly realized that, obviously, I could not generalize over all division presidents and list everything. However, there are some things that basically all division presidents do.
Division presidents are:
- members of the EGU Council: the Council decides on the bylaws, electoral rules and candidates list, membership fees, budget, committees, etc.;
- members of the GA Programme Committee: the committee coordinates the scientific programme of the annual General Assembly; each division president is the chair of the programme group of their own division, which is composed of all officers, chairs of subdivisons (see here for the EGU22 programme committee, for instance);
- ex-officio (non-voting) members of the Medal Committees of their division: in our case, Henry Darcy Medal and John Dalton Medal;
- members of the Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award Committee, and they also vote to decide on the Arne Richter Awards for Outstanding Early Career Scientists at the Union level.
Depending on the division, the president is also:
- member of the Division’s Blog editorial team (find the Hydrological Sciences Blog here);
- member of the Division’s Twitter account management team (follow us here);
- member of one (or more) Committees and Working Groups of EGU (Outreach, Education, Policy, Equality, diversity, and inclusion, etc.).
Some division presidents accept also extra responsibilities within the Union or the Council, often related to: travel support to the General Assembly, support to topical events, selection of EGU Artists In Residence proposals, organization of side events, etc.
You are now probably thinking out loud:
Whew! That’s enough to keep a division president occupied all year along!
This is how a typical calendar looks like for a division president:
The General Assembly is a key moment for division presidents
In normal times:
- The General Assembly week is when we meet our members and informally exchange with the conveners. We usually have a “Meet the Division President” specific time at the EGU Booth to chat with everybody wanting to know better our activities.
- We attend the presentations of our students and collaborators, present our own work, and get updated with the latest scientific works of the community. Division presidents usually pay special attention to new sessions that are held for the first time and bring new scientific fields to the programme.
- Division presidents also have to organize, with support from Copernicus staff and EGU Office, the medal ceremonies, which usually follow a certain protocol. They also chair the medal lectures.
- We attend meetings of the subdivisions (whenever possible!), meetings of the editorial boards of the journals most closely related to our division (in our case, HESS – Hydrology and Earth System Sciences), and we have two extra Programme Group and Council meetings (one on Sunday just before the General Assembly, and one on Friday afternoon just before the conveners’ party).
- In the HS division, we have a dinner-meeting with the officers on Monday evening, including also past presidents and HESS Executive editors, which is an opportunity to recap the past year and prepare for the next one.
- Finally, during the General Assembly in Vienna, we also have the opportunity to exchange lively conversation with the presidents of other divisions, the EGU office staff, and Copernicus staff.
Being surrounded by a supportive community is vital
I am sure you can now see how challenging it was for the division presidents when they had to move from the typical on-site General Assembly in Vienna to the fully online meetings in 2020 and 2021. Many of our current activities had to be adapted or even re-invented. One of our most agreeable activities (meet the members face to face) was suddenly out of our list. Besides, we had to have many extra Programme Group and Council meetings to plan the General Assemblies and solve unexpected issues along the way. Behind the scenes, tensions were everywhere. We were tired and sometimes “a bit lost” in the planning under so much uncertainty.
The success we achieved together at EGU, and the forces we are putting together now to plan the next General Assembly as a hybrid conference, would not have been possible without the strong commitment of the PG chairs (Susanne Buiter in 2019/2020 and Peter van der Beek in 2021/2022), and the support of the EGU Executive Office.
From my side, I also had the chance to have been surrounded by very supportive people all the time, including the HS officers, Elena Toth (past president and acting as deputy-president during my terms), and Alberto Montanari (who was in the Council as Union President and, as you know, is also a past HS Division president).
The support of the very comprehensive HS community, who knows that we are struggling and doing our best to maintain the high quality of our scientific sessions, is also very precious, offering a real sense of togetherness.
Finally, difficult situations can also be viewed as learning opportunities. I personally learned to be more patient with myself, with people around me and with time. I learned to accept that not everything will be under control and not everything I wanted to do would be realizable. The most important thing is to try and remain optimistic!
I am sure that Alberto Viglione will also receive great support from the community, and I look forward to working with him in the next years!