This proposal addresses issues raised by our survey in 2016, and the subsequent discussion of the survey at the 2017 ASA meeting (see http://asapews.org/pewssurveyreportfinal.pdf ). The survey explored ways to strengthen PEWS in the context of declining membership. Several newer ASA sections emerged in the last 10 years (e.g. Development, Global and Transnational, Poverty, Inequality and Mobility) that overlap substantively with PEWS in important ways. The growth of these sections corresponds in time with declining PEWS membership. Thus, the council and larger membership agreed the section should act now to remain vibrant and viable.
The survey results point to three key opportunities to strengthen the section. First, the survey suggested that current and former members value the section to the extent that it promotes their career success, and that research excellence was one important determinant of that success. Second, many members and former members perceived a lack of diversity in the section. Finally, current and former members perceived that the section could be more epistemologically, theoretically and methodologically heterodox.
The Council has developed a three-pronged proposal to leverage these opportunities. We propose:
1) a reimagined statement of intellectual identity designed to reflect the work actually done in the section;
2) programmatic changes to help members advance their career and promote research excellence, and to enhance demographic, theoretical and methodological diversity.
3) structural changes to the PEWS governing body to make the programmatic changes viable, spread the workload more evenly among council members, and increase the number of opportunities for members to participate in section governance on an ad-hoc basis.
The Council feels that our current organizational structure, where elected officers do most of the work of the section, may have given the section the appearance of an exclusive club, as some members commented in the survey, where a small core of officers makes all of the decisions and a large periphery of members feels somewhat marginalized. The aim of this proposal is to dispel that appearance by involving many more members in the work of the section. If a large and diverse cross-section of the membership gets involved, the section should begin to feel more inclusive. At the same time, this will allow the section to offer more to its members: more opportunities to win awards for research, teaching, and contributions to diversity and more opportunities to provide service to the discipline, all of which tend to be rewarded within academic institutions.
The Council invites the PEWS membership, as well as non-members, to comment on the statement of intellectual identity and the concrete proposals, over the next few months on this blog. We welcome suggestions for additional or alternative programmatic/governance changes, as well as revisions to the intellectual identity statement. At the 2018 ASA meeting, we plan to have a longer than usual business meeting at which we hope to vote on whether to informally implement these changes in 2018-2019, put them up for a formal vote as changes to our bylaws in the spring of 2019, and discuss any additional issues that may remain.
The three parts of the proposal–the intellectual identity statement, the programmatic changes, and the governance changes–are outlined below in 3 consecutive blog posts. Permalinks to each of these posts can also be found at the top of the screen for easy access. Please comment on each part of the proposal on their respective threads.