General Section News – November 2015

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.

Source:  Joanna L. Collins, MFS, Section Secretary

It is time once again to make plans to attend the 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting in Las Vegas, NV. While it may seem like we were just in Orlando, many individuals have been working behind the scenes during the last several months to ensure we have a great program. Your Section Program Chairs have built a dynamic lineup of scientific sessions, workshops, and special sessions which will be outstanding and in line with the theme of Transformation: Embracing Change. Be on the lookout in the next newsletter for the General Section’s contribution to the 2016 meeting-themed article.

In line with the theme, one must consider where one has been in order to move forward and change with the times to meet the needs and demands of the future. Our Historical Committee has been diligently tracking down our beginnings and roots and updating historical records to ensure our past is memorialized. We welcome members to send AAFS and General Section mailings and committee reports (Nominating Committee deliberations are excluded) if you have them, especially from 1990-2000, to William Andrews (

Through survey responses received last year, our Long Term Planning Committee identified several areas of interest to the section membership. One was in renewing our luncheon speaker presentation at the General Section Luncheon, immediately preceding the Wednesday afternoon General Section Business Meeting. The 2016 presentation is titled “Bank Robbery on the South Side of Chicago” presented by Special Agent Brian Clark, who is with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. This presentation promises to be informative and entertaining, but you must pre-register for the General Section Luncheon to attend. Don’t miss out! After the luncheon is the General Section Business Meeting where committee reports, Academy updates and happenings, and voting takes place. Attendance at this meeting is highly encouraged and it is one of the requirements for promotion and advancement within the Academy, not to mention a great chance to network with colleagues and volunteer to serve in various positions for the following year.

Speaking of advancement and promotions, there are a number of ways in which you can gain points for advancement, one of which is through committee work. Several sections within the AAFS have committees to assist with accomplishing the tasks of the section. While not all sections have committees, the General Section, as the third largest section, currently has eight standing committees and three ad hoc committees. Those committees were established either by the membership or the Section Chair; the standing committees were voted on and approved by the section membership. In the creation of those committees, parameters were set including not only the mission or duties of the committee, but also the nature of its members.

The committees within our section were created in order to assist the section officers with handling the necessary business of the section while also allowing the opportunity for other members to get involved and have a voice regarding the operation of the section. With more than 700 members and roughly 40-50 committee slots, there is obviously no way each member of the General Section could serve on a committee. As previously mentioned, there is a policy for all standing committees regarding the number of members on each committee as well as the membership status for those committee members. For example, the Nominating Committee has three members, all of which must be Fellows. Therefore, no one serving on that committee is doing so for promotion, but rather for service to the section. There are also several other committees, such as the Awards Committee and the Disciplines Committee, where a Fellow is required to chair the committee. Again, as with the Nominating Committee, Fellows are often tasked with being committee chairs and in some cases are the entire membership of a committee, as a Fellow is a long-standing member of our section, a leader in our section, and one who has proven with other service to the section that they have the ability and knowledge to chair that particular committee.

Therefore, committees were not solely created for promotion within the section. They are first and foremost for service to the section and allow members of the section to have a voice in the section business. However, service on a committee is a means to get promoted. Obviously, not all members of the General Section will have an opportunity to serve on a committee due to the number of committee slots versus the number of members. Thus, one might state that more committees should be created. However, that is counterintuitive, as we cannot create committees simply to create committees, as they must have a purpose. Furthermore, any standing committee would require a change in policy and thus a vote by the membership at an annual meeting.

With that being said, many individuals believe they have to serve on a committee to get promoted within the section; serving on a committee is only one way to get promoted. You can also present a paper at an annual meeting, publish a paper in an acceptable journal, serve as a moderator at the annual meeting, serve on an AAFS committee, present at an AAFS Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Summer Camp, or present at an AAFS Forensic Science Educational Conference (FSEC).

As your section officers, we understand it can be frustrating if you are not appointed to a committee when you are willing to serve. However, we also have to follow our Policy and Procedure Manual to ensure the rules are followed. We cannot possibly appoint all the individuals that wish to serve; as many times, the open slots for committees are not in the membership class of that volunteer. Yes, sometimes it might take a few years to fulfill the necessary requirements for promotion, but that is the nature of professional organizations.

We do our best to ensure members are not serving on more than one section committee; however, that is not always possible due to the requirements for each committee. We also do our best to ensure that those chosen for committees are not selected as moderators, to give all individuals a chance to serve and promote. We do our best to have time slots for papers and posters at the annual meeting so we can have as many quality papers as possible. We try to never reject quality papers in order to allot time for every acceptable paper. It is also worth noting that as General Section officers, we have no control over the selection of members for AAFS committees including the AAFS Program Committee.

Hopefully, this helps in the understanding of committee service; if not, there will be a short presentation on committees at the General Section Business Meeting. Finally, we are always open for suggestions, so if you have one, please let one of your section officers know. Claire Shepard, Section Chair, can be reached at and Joanna Collins, Section Secretary, can be reached at Perhaps you have a solution that has not previously been proposed or considered.