Wednesday, 07 July 2010 10:40

Vice-President Membership Report 2009-2010

Membership Activities

The mandate of the Vice President Membership is to act with the Executive Council and the Membership Recruitment Committee, including the Regional Directors, to maintain and increase membership in the Society. The specific responsibilities associated with this office are described in the Society’s Procedures and Operations Manual available on the website (www.bioeng.ca).

Renewed ties with Engineers Canada (EIC), the Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC), and the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering (CIGR) are bearing fruit, as evidenced by this year’s CIGR World Congress in Quebec City. Stéphane Godbout will assume the role of Liaison Officer to the CIGR after the conclusion of the congress, taking over the position from Lal Kushawa. Claude Laguë is the new Liaison Officer to the EIC, and has been reporting regularly to the Society executive in this capacity. Neil McLaughlin now serves as the Liaison Officer to the AIC. In this regard, the AIC is potentially a valuable ally and resource. For instance, the inaugural issue of the AIC publication Sustainable Futures (Spring 2010) contains several articles which prominently feature biotechnology, bioprocessing, bioresource technology, etc. It must be noted, however, that the word “engineering” does not appear in that issue, although engineering is implicit in the subject of each of those articles!

Finally, an electronic survey of members who have left the Society is currently being developed to help generate ideas about how the Society can improve and grow to better serve its membership.

Membership trends

Figure 1 shows the demographic for the Canadian Society for Bioengineering (the Society) for the years 2002-2010. New membership in 2010 was slightly less than in 2009, but the retention was better, resulting in the first noticeable increase in total membership since 2006-2007.

Membership by technical area

Figure 2 shows the distribution of members among areas of technical interest. There appears to be a general trend toward more diversity among the membership when sorted according to these categories. The numbers among the different categories are becoming more balanced due to growth in biological engineering, food and bioprocess engineering, and the emergence of aquaculture. It could be speculated that future expansion of the society might continue along this path of increasing diversification. Members that do not indicate a primary area of expertise are likely to be students.

Membership by region

Membership by geographical region (Figure 3) also shows a general trend toward balance between the major agricultural provinces. There has also been a decline in absolute and relative numbers in Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta, and an expansion in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The “Other” category includes international members other than from the United States.

Future directions

Three important tools for delivering value to our membership and for marketing the Society continue to be the Annual General Meeting and regional meetings, the journal, and the website. The Annual General Meeting will be held in conjunction this year with the CIGR congress, as mentioned, which will raise the profile of the Society. Many thanks to the organizing committee for taking on this challenge! I encourage regional groups to organize their own meetings under the auspices of CSBE/SCGAB or ASABE, and applaud the efforts of those responsible for recent regional meetings. The administration of the Society’s journal (Canadian Biosystems Engineering) has undergone some substantial changes and its evolution is ongoing. Please direct your feedback about the journal and further potential improvements to the editor, Sri Ranjan. Similarly, comments about the Society website (www.bioeng.ca) can be directed to the site manager, René Morissette.


Figure 1. Membership breakdown by year. Total membership is shown in bold at the top of each column.
Cohorts are shown by color, with the percentage retention shown for recent cohorts as referenced to the year
of first enrolment. For instance, in 2007 there were 727 members in total, and 45% of those enrolled in 2007
were retained in 2008.

Figure 2. Membership breakdown by primary technical area. Categories are stacked in graphic in the
same order as they appear in the legend.

The Society executive is entertaining the idea of expanding the role of the Secretary/Manager to include marketing and recruitment. It is apparent that this important role is bigger than can be managed solely on a volunteer basis, and that it requires the sustained and substantial effort of someone whose mandate explicitly includes this responsibility. The marketing of the society will require the investment of not only of time, but also of monetary resources. This is the model followed by other, larger societies, such as ASABE, that have a paid administrative staff and a budget dedicated to this purpose.

As the face of bioengineering continues to change, there is debate about which segments of the engineering community the Society should attempt to include and how best to do so. This debate will continue in response to the changing landscape of the nation’s bioindustries, public policies, academic programs, and research community. I am certain that the application of engineering principles to biological systems for the betterment of society will continue to be absolutely indispensible, and hence the role of such professionals will continue to grow in importance. There is therefore similar opportunity for the Society to develop and grow in the service of this professional community.

As always, I encourage you as a Society member to actively participate in the CSBE/SCGAB to ensure its continued growth and vitality.


Figure 3. Membership breakdown by geographic region. Categories are stacked in graphic in the
same order as they appear in the legend.

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Grant Clark

Grant grew up on a mixed farm in Central Alberta. He received an industry-cooperative B.Sc. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Alberta, Edmonton (1993) and a Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering from McGill University, Montreal (2000). Grant then worked as a Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta until coming to McGill in 2007. His research program in ecological engineering involves the use of computational tools and physical systems to study how ecosystems can be designed, created and managed so as to provide services and solutions.

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