2015 CAO Fall Meeting

The ACLS Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its 2015 fall meeting in Montreal, Quebec on October 29-November 1, hosted by the Toursime Montreal. The meeting had two foci this year, scholarly publishing and public engagement. The schedule accommodated presentations from speakers outside the CAO on each topic and then turned to presentations from within the group. 

The meeting began on Friday morning, October 30, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, with opening remarks by ACLS President Pauline Yu and CAO Executive Committee Chair Nancy Kidd. Jean-Marc Mangin, executive director of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, one of ACLS affiliate organizations, welcomed the group to Canada and gave a brief update on the state of humanistic research support in Canada.

Kath Burton, a publisher from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, gave the first presentation of the meeting. Her talk, “Publishing Economies of Scholarly Communication,” looked at the collaborations and adaptations publishing companies are undertaking to support the scholarly research environment. Burton then answered questions from the floor. The following session on “Academic Publishing in Our Societies” was moderated by John Kutsko, Society for Biblical Literature, and featured Milagros Pererya, Latin American Studies Association, and Steven Smith, American Political Science Association.  Pererya offered an historical overview of LASA's publishing models leading up to its new open access model. She provided a comparison of revenue and expenses, and reported on the many benefits of open access in terms of finances and dissemination. Smith spoke on APSA’s newest addition to its publication portfolio, an online-only open access journal. This new journal will allow for the association to respond creatively to emergent trends in higher education and social sciences. He also presented information on ORCID, a free platform that creates and maintains a registry of unique researcher identifiers which can manage their record of output and research activities.

The CAO business meeting was presided over by Nancy Kidd. She provided an update on the 2014 data survey which will be reported on to the full Council at the 2016 ACLS Annual Meeting. At the spring meeting a discussion was initiated on the possibility of changing the name of the CAO. The CAO Executive Committee discussed the issue further over the summer and decided that the change would be timely. The committee proposed the Conference of Executive Directors, which they feel better represents the obligations and responsibilities of the role, as well the increasing professionalization of the position. The name of the body exists in ACLS governing documents; therefore, a name change will be formally proposed to the Council at the ACLS Annual Meeting in 2016.

The CAO meetings are occasions for executive directors to learn from each other. This year a new session was added entitled “Show and Tell: Programmatic Initiatives,” moderated by David Lucsko, Society for the History of Technology. Attendees were invited to very briefly describe programmatic initiatives undertaken in their societies that would be of interest to the group. Among those participating were Susan Olson, Law and Society, on Life of the Law, a multimedia platform that brings together scholars and journalists to explore the relationship of law to American society through podcasts on broadcast radio. Paul Erickson, American Antiquarian Society, spoke on Common-place, AAS’s quarterly online magazine of early American history and culture. The journal is a more informal space for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture and is designed to reach a public audience.

The next session allowed for participants to break out into separate groups, by society size, to discuss two topics, 1) membership recruitment and retention and 2) addressing diversity challenges. Keith Francis, American Society for Church History, gave an introduction to the session. The group reconvened to report back on their discussion, with Alex Beecroft, American Comparative Literature Association, moderating the reconvention.

On Saturday, Scott Jaschik, Editor of Inside Higher Ed, gave a talk entitled “Why Scholars and Scholarship Are Ignored or Misunderstood in the Public Square.”  He presented an overview of the public and policy-making views on higher education and the humanities. He stressed the need of humanities advocates to articulate their case with urgency and clarity.  Following this session, Stephen Kidd, National Humanities Alliance, took the group through NHA’s “Humanities Working Groups for Community Impact,” an effort to establish communities where local partners support humanities organizations’ work. NHA is convening humanities organizations in select sites around the country to explore how such communities can be built and sustained over time.

 Keith Francis, American Society for Church History, moderated the grab-bag session, an informal, wide-ranging Q&A session that allows the group to share current issues and concerns. This session focused on managerial and operational issues.

The final session of the meeting, moderated by Amy Newhall, Middle East Studies Association, was a presentation from four societies on initiatives their societies have undertaken that actively engage the public. Ed Liebow, American Anthropological Association (AAA), spoke about two projects, The Race Project and World on the Move. The two traveling exhibitions include interactive exhibit components, historical artifacts, multimedia presentations, and graphic displays to tell the stories of race and migration from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. Both projects were developed under AAA’s public education initiative. Cliff Kuhn, Oral History Association, described the Veteran’s History Project, a partnership between OHA, the American Folklore Society, and the Library of Congress. AFS and OHA have conducted workshops that provide training for interviewing US war veterans to document their personal experience narratives and oral histories. Approximately 9,000 participants have contributed to this effort. Stephanie Rowe, National Council on Public History, spoke on NCPH’s resource, The Public History Navigator: How to Choose and Thrive in a Graduate Public History Program, designed to help undergraduate and graduate students considering careers in public history. Andy Vaughn, American Schools of Oriental Research, summarized ASOR’s work on the Cultural Heritage Initiatives, a cooperative agreement between ASOR and the US Department of State designed to document, protect, and preserve the cultural heritage of war-torn Syria and northern Iraq. The main effort is three-fold: 1) documenting damage, 2) promoting global awareness, and 3) planning emergency and post-war responses. ASOR’s public outreach includes providing satellite imagery showing destruction of sites and an up-to-date perspective on the state of cultural heritage in Syria and northern Iraq through a series of weekly reports available on their website.

Fall meetings of the CAO are held in cities of interest as possible convention sites and are hosted by each city's convention bureau. Thanks to the generosity of Toursime Montreal, the group enjoyed accommodations at the HôtelBonaventureMontréal, Montréal MarriottChâteau Champlain, and LeCentre Sheraton. Receptions; meals, and meeting rooms at other select properties (Palais des congrès de Montréal, InterContinental Montréal, LeWestinMontréal, Hyatt Regency Montréal, Delta Montréal, and the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel); and visits to local attractions such as Pointe-à-Callière Museum and the Ghost Walk Tour in Old Montreal.

The CAO will next convene on May 7, in Arlington, VA, following the 2016 ACLS Annual Meeting.