EDP Sciences

42nd Meeting of the Board of Directors

42nd Meeting of the Board of Directors

La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, 6 & 7 May 2005

CONDENSED MINUTES 

 

The following members of the Board were present: Drs. M. Arnould, M. Breger, M. Crézé*, K.S. de Boer, E.J. de Geus, G. di Cocco, P. Harmanec, L. Leedjärv, B. Leibundgut*, G. Meynet, F. Moreno-Insertis, P.E. Nissen (Vice-Chairman), M. Paparo, Aa. Sandqvist (Chairman), I. Tuominen, R. Tylenda, J. Ventura, J. Zorec, J. Zverko.

Others attending:
Editor-in-Chief Dr. C. Bertout, Associate Editor-in-Chief Dr. M. Walmsley, Letters Editor Dr. P. Schneider, Associate Editor from the IAC Dr. J. Beckman.
EDP Sciences Publisher (until Items 1-8 and 10a had ben completed - noon on Saturday): Mr. J.-M. Quilbé, Ms. M.-L. Chaix, Ms. E. Lamarre, Mr. D. Grunberger.
ESO Finance Officers: Mr. P. Fischer, Dr. C. Galea.
Observers: Drs. L. da Silva (Brazil), M. Rubio (Chile)
Absent with notice: Drs. C. Cesarsky, J. Fernandes (Observer, Portugal), F. Genova (CDS), H. Sol, A. Zensus.

1. Welcome and announcements

The Chairman opened the meeting at 14:00 o’clock on Friday and welcomed all present*.
*He noted that Dr. Cesarsky from ESO would be replaced by Dr. Leibundgut and that Dr. Sol from France could not attend and had delegated her vote to Dr. Crézé.

The Chairman thanked Dr. Moreno-Insertis for the organisation of the meeting and the interesting visit to the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the previous day. He also thanked the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) for hosting the meeting and Mr. Campbell Warden for acting as Secretary to the meeting.

Dr. Moreno-Insertis then welcomed all those present to the IAC and Tenerife.

2. Adoption of the Agenda

The Chairman proposed that the discussion of the financial matters be moved to after Item 13 as some proposed changes could impact on the proposed budget. This was agreed unanimously by the Board.

The Chairman noted that it had been suggested that the discussion on the New Standing Rules and Bye-laws (Item 10) be started on Friday albeit limited to about an hour, - to give members an opportunity to think about this topic early. He therefore proposed that the Agenda be followed until this time is left and then proceed to Item 10. This was agreed unanimously by the Board.

The Board unanimously adopted the revised Agenda.

3. Approval of the Minutes of the previous Meeting

The only comment on the Minutes received (de Boer) was the request for the inclusion of some points:
    Item 7, in regard to the contract with the Publisher, the deadline by which it could be cancelled should be included in the Minutes. The Chairman reported that this was 31 December 2004 and that this should be reflected in the Minutes even though the contract was indeed not cancelled.
    Item 11, in regard to a link on the A&A Journal site to a preprint “The A&A Experience with Impact Factors” by the Chairman, and this link was to his home site to a contribution to Volume 5 of ‘On Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy’, edited by A. Heck.
    Dr. de Boer emphasised the importance of clarifying the ownership structure of the Publisher.
The Board unanimously approved the Minutes with the above-mentioned additions.

4. Report of the Editors

The Chairman thanked the Editors for their very thorough “Report of the Editors for 2004”, which had already been distributed to the Board members.

4.1 Letters Section

Dr. Schneider, the Letters Editor, presented the Letters section, highlighting the stability of the number of submissions.

4.2 Main Journal

Among the highlights of his report, Dr. Bertout, the Editor-in-Chief, commented that the first year of operation using Associate Editors has been very successful, once some starting problems were overcome. He reported that the current operation is very smooth and considers the change to have been very positive.

Language editing

The Editor-in-Chief reported that the median time is 2 hrs 4 mins per paper, with the average 2 hrs 34 mins per paper. Some take up to 4 hours. About 65% of the papers can be edited with the available staff; in fact due to their doing overtime almost all are edited. There is need for an additional position for the language editing staff.

Published material

The total for 2004 was 19,050 pages, the goal was 19,000 and the drop in Letters due to special issues has made this possible. Due to a small backlog, the time from acceptance to publication increased to 3.6 months and this is now decreasing.

Page charges

The Editor-in-Chief reported on the detailed study carried out and on the increase in the number of pages charged. The system used was explained, first author and then pro-rata according to number of co-authors from non-sponsoring countries. He is to continue to be friendly towards those astronomers from countries with difficult economic circumstances. Ireland and UK have a reciprocal agreement in regard to Monthly Notices (MNRAS) and, taking this into consideration, the total rate of papers for which the charge is waived is 10%, in accordance with an earlier Board decision.

Proposals to improve the A&A style

The Editor-in-Chief presented the two main proposals:

  • To expand the guidance provided on style of papers and merge it with the macro instructions as a one page document under ‘advice to authors’.
  • To introduce “Structured Abstracts”
    Structured Abstracts have been accepted in the field of Medicine but have not yet been widely adopted in Astronomy and Physics.
The Editor-in-Chief made special mention of the positive experience of working with the Publisher who always shows a very professional and cooperative attitude.

4.3 Discussion

The Chairman thanked Dr. Bertout for his excellent report and the general discussion ensued.

4.4 Structured Abstracts

The Board agreed unanimously to the introduction, on a voluntary basis, of Structured Abstracts for a trial period of one year and decided that an editorial should present the new system.

 

4.5 The new Style Manual

The Board unanimously approved the new style manual.

 

4.6 Press Releases & “News and Views” items

The Editor-in-Chief referred to the “Press Releases” as already distributed with the papers for the Meeting and explained the complementary nature that the ‘News and Views’ items have. These are selected articles that the Editors would like the community to know about. Whereas press releases could be seen as part of public outreach they also give prominence to the journal. The Chairman thanked the Editor-in-Chief for the success story of the press releases and the use of a two-pronged approach, one to the astronomical community and one to the press. No action was recommended for “News and Views”.

10a. New Standing Rules and Bye-laws

In accordance with the revised Agenda (see §2), the introduction of Item 10 was now begun.

The Chairman recalled the development of A&A leading to the need for a substantial change in the working of the Board and to new Standing Rules: A&A has begun admitting members from outside Europe, Argentina last year and observers from Brazil and Chile (and Portugal) this year, with interest shown by Croatia and Australia. Such growth has important implications and these have been studied by a subcommittee established by the Board two years ago. A first set of conclusions were discussed at the Board Meeting in Tartu last year. The Subcommittee (consisting of Drs. Arnould, de Geus, Meynet and Moreno-Insertis) then went on to draft new Standing Rules and Bye-Laws (SR+BL's) for the Board, which have also been iterated with the Executive Committee (EC). The Chairman then mailed the draft SR+BL's to all members of the Board several months in advance of the present Meeting, so that there was ample opportunity for the Board members to react and discuss them electronically before the Meeting. The Chairman now thanked the Subcommittee for the excellent work done.

Dr. Meynet then gave a presentation of the draft SR+BL's prepared by the Subcommittee, summarising the main points and highlighting the opposite requirements that exist between representation of the views of each member country and the need not to lose the managerial flexibility of the Board. He emphasized the desire to have the Board freed from discussions of lesser points and identified key issues which would be decided at the Board level. Dr. Meynet addressed each of the seven key points in the new SR+BLs in turn. These seven points are:
    1) Composition of the EC
    2) Voting procedure in the Board
    3) Electronic consultation
    4) Frequency of the Board meetings
    5) Rules for accepting new members
    6) Rules for calculating the financial contributions
    7) Rules for waiving the page charges

The Chairman thanked Dr. Meynet for the clear presentation and proposed that some specific questions related to the understanding of the proposals be raised before tackling the issues where there may be different feelings among the Board Members.

The Board noted the need to have the ‘ownership’ of A&A clarified. The Board agreed with the Chairman’s statement that this should not require halting the process of drawing up the new SR+BLs. The Chairman offered to circulate all the documents in his possession related to this topic. The existing Standing Rules are already available on the web site of the Board.

The issue of the validity of electronic voting was discussed and the feeling was that there was no legal objection to it, and both e-mail and web-page based system alternatives were considered. Electronic voting was certain to be an efficient and transparent voting method, especially since it was requested that electronic votes were to be sent to both the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the Board (to avoid email failures) and, also, that the results (including individual votes and totals) must be sent to all Board members.

The Chairman now focused on a preliminary discussion of the three major points of the new SR+Bls which are debatable (the Board agreeing that the remaining parts of the document were acceptable except perhaps for structure and legal formalisms). The three points are (1) whether or not to have biennial meetings, (2) the size of the Executive Committee, and (3) the issue of membership categories and resulting voting power. Concluding that a fruitful discussion on the new SR+BLs had finally begun, the Chairman adjourned the meeting until Saturday at 10.00 o’clock.

----------------------------

The Chairman welcomed the members to the Saturday morning session and presented Mr. Quilbé, in representation of the Publisher, EDP Sciences, whom he invited to present their report.

5. Report of the Publisher

Mr. Quilbé reported on present and proposed future activities such as “Electronic-only institutional subscriptions” and a “Rolling Service” (see Items 7.2 and 7.3). At this point, in order to complete presentations from the Publisher, the Chairman invited Mr. Grunberger to present the proposed new A&A web site which will unify the several existing web sites, essentially skipping to Item 8 on the Agenda:

8. Report of the Subcommittee for unifying and simplifying the A&A web entry point

At the Tartu meeting, the Board created a subcommittee, consisting of Drs. Bertout and de Boer and Mr. Quilbé, to consider unifying and simplifying the A&A web entry point. Mr. Grunberger, from EDP Sciences, presented the results of preliminary studies of this problem.

Mr. Grunberger also presented two proposals on how the web site could be hosted:

  • a single site (e.g. www.aanda.org) for all Journal-related data on a powerful server able to support a high volume of access;
  • or a series of related sites hosted on servers of different capacities according to the kinds of data management to which the different uses would submit them.

The Chairman opened the discussion on the two proposals for site hosting presented by Mr. Grunberger.

After considerable discussion on some of the technical details, the Board agreed unanimously on the following actions:

  • that the existing Subcommittee would study these details;
  • that the Executive Committee would decide on the proposals received from the Subcommittee;
  • to encourage the Publisher to continue its efforts to develop the web portal;
  • to endeavour to have the new portal on-line with the change of calendar year (2005/2006).

6. Number of pages 2006

The Chairman proposed that discussion ensue on the number of pages per year. It was noted that the current backlog is decreasing quickly. The Board decided unanimously to keep the target of 19,000 pages for 2006.

7. Contract with the Publisher (1 January 2006 – 31 December 2007)

The Chairman introduced the discussion of the contract with the Publisher, making reference to the three points agreed between the Executive Committee and Mr. Quilbé and which also have been approved electronically by the Board. He explained that the Contracts Officer at ESO would draw up the final formal text of the “Amendment No. 2 to the Contract for the Publishing of Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal”. The Amendment No. 2 will include these three points which are (i) the “Letter of Understanding”, signed by the Chairman and Mr. Quilbé in November 2004, (ii) the stipulation for increasing subscription prices, and (iii) the restriction to 19,000 for the number of published pages in the year 2005. The Amendment No. 2 will further include the introduction of an electronic-only Institutional subscription with a 25% discount for the years 2006 and 2007, and an experimental “Rolling Service”.

7.1 Letter of Understanding

The Amendment No. 2 shall include the substance of the “Letter of Understanding”:
In regard to the increase in subscription price for 2006, the Chairman proposed that the 2.1% inflation projection by Eurostat be reflected in the subscription cost, after which the Board decided unanimously to increase the subscription price by 2.1% for the year 2006.

7.2 Electronic-only Institutional Subscriptions

The Chairman welcomed the proposal by Mr. Quilbé to offer a 25% discount for new electronic-only institutional subscriptions for 2006 and 2007. The Board considered this to be very competitive and decided unanimously that an electronic-only subscription rate should be introduced for the years 2006 and 2007, to begin with, and that this subscription shoud receive a 25% discount in comparison with the regular paper-and-electronic version.

 

7.3 “Rolling Service”

The “Rolling Service” involves letting the latest two issues of the electronic version of the Journal be free in access. As explained by Mr. Quilbé, this is good advertising for A&A and good for the dissemination of science to all scientists. It is believed that Institutes will still want to retain a regular subscription for access to past papers.
The Board expressed its consensus to proceed as proposed, i.e. the Rolling Service will run until 30 April 2006, at which time a study of the effect on Institutional subscriptions will lead to a decision on whether or not to continue the service

The Chairman thanked Mr. Quilbé for his fine service and the excellent partnership existing between A&A and EDP Sciences. At this point the representatives of EDP Sciences left the meeting.

After discussion, the Board decided unanimously to accept the key elements of the Amendment No. 2 to the Contract with the Publisher and noted that the final text will be prepared by the ESO Contracts Officer. Once it has been signed by ESO’s Director General and EDP Sciences’ Managing Director, a copy will be distributed to the Board members by the Chairman.

 

10b. New Standing Rules and Bye-laws

The Chairman initiated the continuation of the discussion of Item 10 which had begun on the previous day. He proposed that this be done in a structured way and emphasized that Article 13 of the current Standing Rules stipulates that “Modification of these Rules requires the approval by a number of votes which is at least two thirds of the number of members on the Board”. With the present number of members being 21, a vote of at least 14 is required for enacting changes in the Standing Rules.

Frequency of meetings

The first point addressed was the frequency of meetings. After considerable discussion about the merits of biennial vs. yearly meetings and the possibility of organising ‘virtual’ web-hosted meetings, the Board approved the Subcommittee’s recommendation in the SL+BLs that “the Board holds regular plenary meetings once every two years”, complemented by the possibility of Extraordinary Plenary Meetings.
Result of the vote: 15 Approvals, 3 Rejections and 2 Abstentions.

Size of the Executive Committee

The Chairman invited comments on the number of members of the Executive Committee noting that the Subcommittee’s proposal is 5, consisting of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and 3 Country Representatives. Some Board members wanted 7 persons on the Executive Committee. A compromise proposal suggested that the number be 6, i.e. the 2 Officers plus 4 additional Country Representatives. After further discussion, the Chairman called for a formal vote on the compromise proposal which included a timetable for electing the members. The Board decided by formal vote that the Executive Committee consist of 6 persons, namely the Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, and 4 Country Representatives. To ensure continuity, every second year, two of the four Country Representatives must be elected to the Executive Committee; a temporary arrangement should be made at the beginning with two Country Representatives being elected either for 2 or for 6 years, to prevent all 4 Country Representatives stopping their membership simultaneously.

Membership Categories

The Chairman invited the members to consider the issue of assigning 1, 2 or 3 votes to the member countries according to their financial contribution, as proposed by the Subcommittee. This is obviously the most sensitive point in the new SR+BLs and led to a very vivid discussion. After considerable discussion about the appropriateness of reflecting a differentiating procedure between the countries the Chairman finally recommended support for the Subcommittee’s proposal and called for a formal vote of approval. The Board rejected the Subcommittee’s proposal for Membership Categories by not attaing the two-thirds majority (i.e. 14) votes required.
Result of the vote: 12 Approvals, 7 Rejections and 1 Abstention.

After further discussion, the Chairman called for a formal vote approving a proposed modification of the membership categories. The Board rejected the proposal of having two membership categories - the larger contributors which pay more than average getting two votes and those paying less than average getting one vote - by not attaining the two-thirds majority (i.e. 14) votes required.
Result of the vote: 12 Approvals, 6 Rejections and 2 Abstentions.

The Board, having failed to adopt this one remaining important aspect of the Subcommittee’s proposed SR+BLs, then decided to request the Subcommittee to continue to review membership categories and the respective weighting of the voting procedure, while getting input from Dr. Paparo.

 

11. New full memberships for Brazil, Chile and Portugal

As the representative of Portugal was not present, the Chairman invited Dr. da Silva and Dr. Rubio to address the Board. Both expressed the happiness of their community to join A&A and thanked the Board for considering their application. After Dr. da Silva and Dr. Rubio had left the room, the Chairman expressed pleasure of having Argentina already a full member and to now welcome Brazil, Chile and Portugal. The Chairman noted that this meant that A&A was no longer an exclusively European community but had opened to the whole world - a very positive development.

After discussion, the Board then decided to admit Brazil, Chile and Portugal as full members of A&A starting 1 January 2006

Drs. da Silva and Rubio were welcomed back into the room with applause.

12. The application by Croatia to join A&A

The Board considered the request for A&A membership that the Chairman had received from Croatia and noted the need to receive clarification of which governmental body will formally accept financial liability for its annual payment.

The Board agreed that the Chairman will reply indicating that the Subcommittee is still reviewing the Standing Rules and Bye-laws and also requesting clarification of which governmental body would formally accept financial liability for Croatia’s annual payment.

9. Financial Matters

9.1 and 9.2 Financial Statements and Auditors’ Report 2004

Mr. Fischer presented the financial statements (document A+A/2005-1) and Auditors’ Report (document A+A/2005-4) which had been distributed to the Board members. He noted that Auditors’ Report for 2004 did not take into consideration any changes in the Standing Rules. After some details had been discussed and clarified, the Board approved unanimously by formal vote the financial statements (doc. A+A/2005-1) and took note of the Auditors’ Report (doc. A+A/2005-4).

 

9.3 Scale of Contributions 2006

Mr. Fischer referred to the method for calculating the national contributions and presented the scale of contributions for 2006 (document A+A/2005-2), already distributed to the Board members. The ratios used for calculations were the standard OECD references. It was requested that all countries should use the GDP as published by the World Bank so as to harmonise the basis for this calculation in the future. The Board then approved unanimously by formal vote the scale of contributions for 2006 (doc. A+A/2005-2).

 

9.4 Draft Budget 2006

Mr. Fischer then presented the draft budget for 2006 (document A+A/2005-3). He mentioned the usual procedure that the total amount be adjusted by inflation. In this case there had been the perspective of additional contributions as a result of new members and in view of the small amount involved, this had been added on top rather than readjusting all the contributions. After discussion of the saving that would result from not having a separate Editor for the Letters and which could to a large extent cover the added expense of additional Associate Editors (see Item 13), it was agreed not to change the proposed budget. The Board then approved unanimously by formal vote the draft budget for 2006 (doc. A+A/2005-3).

13. Future of Letters Editor

The Chairman noted that the contract of the Letters Editor, Dr. Schneider, ends on 31 January 2006. The Executive Committee has discussed this and a proposal for restructuring the handling of Letters as well as the creation of two additional Associate Editorships had already been circulated to the Board several months ago. The suggestion is to no longer have a dedicated Letters Editor but that the respective duties be assigned to the specialised Associate Editors for each field. This proposed change would increase the duties of the Associate Editors and therefore their number should be increased by two. So as to continue to have supervision for the Letters the present Associate Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Walmsley, should take on the role of Letter Editor-in-Chief and the Editor-in Chief, Dr. Bertout, would take on the additional role as the Associate Letters Editor-in-Chief. After discussion, the Board decided unanimously to adopt the above proposal, stopping the Letters Editorship, making the Associate Editor-in-Chief additionally the Letters Editor-in-Chief and the Editor-in-Chief additionally the Associate Letters Editor-in-Chief, and creating one new Associate Editorship in Cosmology (with emphasis on theory) and one Associate Editorship in Observational Stellar Astronomy. The changeover would take effect on 1 January 2006.

The Chairman requested that an announcement be made as widely and as soon as possible that these two new Associate Editor positions are being offered. The Board decided that the search committee will be the Executive Committee (including Drs, Bertout, Schneider and Walmsley). The Chairman will circulate electronically the search committee’s recommendation for candidates and the final decision will be made electronically by the Board.

 

14. Electronic-only Journals

The Chairman reported on the contact received from the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (JCAP). Its Director, Dr. Hector Rubinstein, was invited to the February Executive Committee meeting in Paris and he presented both the Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP) and JCAP. Their system, while being electronic-only with no paper version, is claimed to be much cheaper than ours. After discussion of their proposals and their intentions it was noted that the present arrangements with EDP Sciences are very satisfactory.

15. Election of Vice-Chairman

Dr. Nissen is retiring both as Vice-Chairman and from the Board effective June 2005. The Executive Committee has nominated Dr. de Boer to be the new Vice-Chairman. This had been circulated by the Chairman several months earlier and there had been no other nominations. At this point Dr. de Boer left the meeting room.

The Chairman invited comments from the Board on the nomination of Dr. de Boer. The Board then unanimously elected Dr. de Boer to be its new Vice-Chairman for the period May 2005 – May 2008.

Dr. de Boer then re-entered the room and was greeted by applause.

16. Other business

The Chairman noted that no other issues had been presented but expressed on behalf of the Executive Committee and the Board the sincere appreciation for the very great contribution by the retiring Letters Editor, Dr. Schneider, and presented him on behalf of the Board with a token of their appreciation of his service in the form of an engraved metal Viking sailing ship. In reply, Dr. Schneider commented on how much he had enjoyed the interaction with the other colleagues involved. He also noted the satisfaction of working with the Executive Committee and in particular that its members had no personal or national agenda but were sincerely working on behalf of the Journal.

The Chairman also expressed his appreciation of the period of working with the retiring Vice-Chairman, Dr. Nissen, and especially for his very clear constructive contributions. He then, on behalf of the Board, presented Dr. Nissen with a memento of his service also in the form of an engraved Viking sailing ship. Dr. Nissen remarked on the positive experience of working with the Board and with the scientific editors which has been very constructive.

17. Next meeting

The Chairman gave the floor to Dr. de Geus who invited the Board to hold its next meeting in the Netherlands, probably at Dwingeloo. He expressed his hopes for good weather during the meeting and expressed his commitment to do his best for a good organization of the meeting. It was proposed to have the next Board meeting on 6 May 2006.

----------------------------

The outgoing Chairman invited the incoming Chairman, Dr. Meynet, to start his appointment. In reply, Dr. Meynet thanked the outgoing Chairman for his excellent work and presented him with a certificate and an engraved pewter jug.

The outgoing Chairman reflected on the progress of A&A since he became Chairman in 1999: the merging of the Supplement Series with the Main Journal, the change of Publisher from Springer to EDP Sciences,  the new editorial structure of Associate Editors, and the expansion to include non-European countries in the A&A membership. He made special mention of the fine collaboration with the Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Bertout.

As there was no further business to be considered, the outgoing Chairman closed the meeting at 18:35.

----------------------------