AGU Board of Directors Meeting, December 2023


The AGU Board had an interesting day-long meeting before the opening of AGU23, thanks to the commitment and contribution of all our Board members and staff. We started the meeting with a gift from the sea: salt, from our ocean ecosystem.

We discussed a wide range of important issues, opening with reflections on COP28 and the participation of AGU. It is the third time an AGU delegation attended COP, with specific goals of developing new governmental relations and partnerships, sharing the Ethical Framework with new audiences, and creating more awareness about our global organization. The report highlighted the side events AGU sponsored and participated in with MIT, Penn State, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the Ocean and the Cryosphere pavilions.

The discussion raised the global challenge of transiting from fossil fuels to clean energies, and how AGU and its community of scientists can inform this process. This was followed by a comprehensive summary of the state of the Union, strategies and challenges, focusing on the organizational culture, reputation and work environment.

The commitment of our volunteer leaders and staff is key, particularly when we initiate the CEO transition. For the Board, this transition presents challenges and opportunities. As it was emphasized, we need to focus on the mission and strategic priorities.

There is a wide range of factors involved that need to be considered and integrated into our planning. This includes considering strategies that focus on the diversity and potential growth of the membership, including the needs of young and new members and the international membership. We know that the AGU Annual Meeting continues to be the best place to interact with and hear from these groups. Another consideration is the collaboration and partnerships with societies and organizations.

Embracing this cultural shift offers exciting possibilities. The collaboration of international societies, organizations, entities, and members during the annual meeting provides many growth opportunities. We must look for the convergence of ideas, experiences, and backgrounds to imagine our future.

AGU focuses on maintaining a culture of civility and core values in large gatherings, addressing financial setbacks and exploring new revenue sources.

The meeting then turned to its role in translating research into real-world impact and fostering inclusivity in academia, private sectors, and networks of different entities.

The Board then reflected on a year of unexpected changes. Despite challenges, our commitment to AGU’s mission and values persists. We are continually re-shaping AGU and heard highlights of the amazing work of the staff and their dedication—“working backstage,” but always working.

During this time, efforts include renewing governance practices, reinforcing volunteer-staff partnerships and progressing with the search for an Executive Vice President of Science. AGU launched a pilot program for students and early career scientists, gathering data and feedback about the value of associations and AGU specifically.

AGU continues its leadership role in scientific ethics, developing an Ethical Framework for Climate Intervention Research, Experimentation and Deployment.

Membership Research 

New research has been conducted to help AGU re-imagine its membership model and value proposition, which are critical to the organization as we move forward. The Council and Board have been engaging with the membership staff and consultants throughout the project. The program focuses on a more tailored initial experience, guided planning, and the introduction of career coaching to foster a sense of partnership and engagement with AGU offerings. The success of these initiatives is expected to contribute to the retention and growth of AGU membership.

We are developing a new era of membership: changing the dynamic and recognizing what is needed for future members of our community to want to be part of AGU’s mission. We are building them a bridge of experiences.

The goals are to connect experiences, establish credibility with AGU and recognize the significant responsibility of being a partner in their career growth.

AGU23 Safety Briefing 

Safety for everyone is AGU’s top priority at our meetings. The security protocols and plans for AGU23 were detailed and well organized, with the participation of different entities of the city and the AGU staff. It is an incredible level of preparation dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive environment at our conference.

Lastly, the AGU Meetings Code of Conduct remains the cornerstone of a successful and safe meeting for all.

The importance of this preparation was driven home when we heard the final highlight—more than 26,000 people would be joining us for AGU23.

Characteristics of Exceptional Boards

The Board then turned to sharing what we are learning about how to operate as an “Exceptional Board.” This is a framework for highly effective association boards with highly impactful strategies that follow its mission, develop high aspirations and promote collective work. These are boards that will make brave decisions.

The Board’s responsibilities are to set directions, provide oversight and ensure and allocate resources. It was highlighted that every individual should understand the skills, roles and responsibilities to act in the best interests of AGU.

Commitments Today and in the Future

The goals adopted by the Board are ambitious and extend beyond a fiscal year or a Board member’s term. We may need more immediate solutions to some of our challenges, but we are also thinking in the long term for the future. We need to find our place, not independently, and shape the organization for the next generations.

In the upcoming year, the AGU Board will outline commitments to fulfill its fiduciary duty, address financial concerns and prepare for a CEO search. This involves a detailed review of programs, ensuring organizational resilience during transitions and cultivating a Board culture that navigates AGU’s complexity while prioritizing leadership responsibilities.

2024 Objectives, Key Results and Budget

The Board then received an overview of revenues and expenses, showing changes and trends from 2019 until now. We also went through the 2024 Budget statement of Activities.

In 2024 there is no plan for additional programs;  revenues for publications could rise because of the new journal; net assets need to be raised next year. Overall, in 2024 AGU remains financially healthy.

The broad recommendation is to maximize the budget and think about how to reduce expenditures and prioritize activities. AGU has focused on lowering our expenses in almost all areas.

In the context of finances, we discussed several options for the Annual Meeting. We expect approximately 9% of AGU24 attendees to participate virtually, and we want to ensure that they have an equitable experience.

The review of programs is planned to allow us to continue adjusting the budget, as well as identify how and where to invest so that we stay focused on strategic objectives.

In summary, finances are a key focus, with steps taken to close the gap between revenue and expenses, ensuring a strong position and beginning the trend that will lead us to a balanced budget.

In the end, the Board approved the 2024 key objectives and budget. We then concluded the meeting, with thanks to the Board members once again for their time and commitment to AGU.

—Ligia L. Pérez-Cruz, International Secretary, AGU Board of Directors

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