A fundamental issue that has been discussed at Science for Peace Board and Executive meetings is the question of how best to communicate and organise in order to be most effective in the projects that we undertake. The basic “structural” problems in this area manifest themselves in several ways:
- While we are, in principle, a national organisation, most of the planning and activities take place in Toronto where most of the members reside, and it is difficult for members in other locales to participate in Toronto-led initiatives;
- Those in other locales have difficulty undertaking initiatives that require discussion and/or ratification by the board of SfP, with whom they can’t communicate rapidly and effectively;
- SfP isn’t as visible as it needs to be in order to attract new members;
- It’s difficult for new members to ‘plug in’ to existing projects because of lack of information.
Many of these problems revolve around communication, yet the vast majority of us have at our disposal a communication tool unparalleled in the history of technology: the internet. While being careful not to view the internet as the solution to all our problems, it is a tool that can help us if it is used appropriately. In particular, it can be very helpful in making Science for Peace more inclusive for members both nationally and internationally, and if student membership increases as is hoped, one day there will be Science for Peace members in many different locations around the world. In addition, it can help people within Toronto both keep abreast of, and contribute to, local events and projects.
A number of Science for Peace members are now in the process of dealing with some of these issues. The general proposal, to which members are encouraged to make contributions, suggestions, and/or modifications, involves establishing mechanisms for collaborative research, discussion, event planning, production of papers and educational materials involving people who are both in geographically localised and non-localised settings. By making these mechanisms available via the internet, it is hoped that:
- The activities of Science for Peace will be more visible to prospective, new, and long-time members, which will increase membership and collaboration
- The effect of distance will be somewhat overcome; and
- The products of our activities, be they reports, letters, educational packages, leaflets, pamphlets, etc. can be easily shared and disseminated.
More specifically, a set of email discussion groups, perhaps both for discussion of issues and for organising around research and event planning might be implemented. A ´resident expert’ from our group might lead/moderate each discussion topic. We can use videoconferencing at our board meetings to allow participation of members all over the world.
A ‘task board’, or ‘to do list’ might help:
people who undertake initiatives can post sub-tasks that need to be accomplished, and other members could view a list of such tasks, and choose to undertake one or more. Even large-scale projects that have been generally approved by the membership can be posted, awaiting a suitable volunteer to ‘plug-in’ and take them up. A calendar that lists upcoming events and provides links to associated information would help us keep abreast of, and participate in, ongoing activities.
A member registration site that allows prospective members to join electronically would make it easier for people to join. A structure in which we make available bulletins, newsletters, Journal of Science for Peace articles, etc., and participation in email/web based discussions might attract new members and encourage the existing membership to produce researched materials. A searchable archive of research materials, posters, leaflets, pamphlets, etc. could be created.
For example, and as a very basic outline, we could develop a programme in which the militarisation of Canadian Universities could be studied. In order to help potentially interested individuals to get up to speed on the subject, materials could be posted on our web site. However, a great deal of research and the production of educational materials for the public will need to be generated. An email discussion group would facilitate discussion of the relevant issues; a ‘todo list’ would help distribute the workload; a repository of materials would allow for information sharing so that strategies, campaigns, and lecture materials could be downloaded and used at centres across the country. Petitions, such as a Pledge of Conscience not to engage in any military research, development, production, or sales can be ‘signed’ via a web interface, giving maximal exposure. This will also help recruit new members who are interested in this particular issue, and engage them in research to help expose to the public the extent to which universities are being co-opted into the pursuit of militarisation, further increasing the exposure of Science for Peace.
This, of course, represents only the very broad outlines of this specific campaign. Similarly, biotechnology and genetically modified organisms, amongst many other topics will be important areas where research needs to be performed and materials prepared and disseminated. I encourage members from across the country to consider this proposal, to make suggestions as to how it can be improved and, most critically, become engaged in these activities by doing research, producing educational materials and by mentoring new members who wish to join Science for Peace.