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Notes Rec. (2014)68, 187–192 doi:10.1098/rsnr.2014.0001 Publishedonline29 January2014 LECTURE ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT, SIR PAUL NURSE, GIVEN AT THE ANNIVERSARY MEETING ON 29 NOVEMBER 2013 THE SOCIETY, THE FELLOWSHIP AND GOVERNANCE MyAnniversaryAddressthisyearisinwardlooking,coveringwhattheRoyalSocietyisfor, the Fellowship, especially with respect to elections, and governance of the Society.
Anniversary Address 189 The subject groupings reﬂected in the Sectional Committees may be slow to properly accommodate emerging areas, and may also give too much emphasis on areas that are past their prime. My view is that the Society needs to grasp this nettle more effectively by regularly reviewing the appropriateness of the research areas represented by the Committees, perhaps by greater reference to the numbers of scientists working in different areas. However, I fully acknowledge that this is not an easy task! Athirdissue,alwaysdifﬁcultinself-electedbodies,iswhetherournominationprocedures properlydealwithissuesofdiversity,suchasresearcharea,geographyandgender.Speciﬁc nomination committees can help in these circumstances, and in response to this issue nomination groups have recently been set up to try and improve the breadth of election to the Fellowship.
190 P. Nurse publicengagement.Achievingtheseobjectivesrequiresnotonlythehighest-qualityresearch scientistsbutalsootherindividualswithdifferingtalentsandexperience.Forexample,these could be leaders of scientiﬁc organizations, politicians or communicators. If candidates in this category are scientists, they would be considered as General Candidates; as is the case now, their scientiﬁc contributions would need to be assessed to ensure that they are or have been sound research scientists. In recent years the numbers elected in the General or Honorary category have been low, partly because the numbers reserved for General candidates can be diverted into Mainstream candidates and usually are, which substantially reduces the numbers elected, partly because with only one honorary slot usually being available each year, often ‘no one is judged as being good enough’, and partly because it is notcleartoeveryonequitewhatGeneralandHonoraryFellowsarefor.Recentchangeshave tried to tackle these issues by clarifying their roles, by grouping General and Honorary candidates together, and by not allowing diversion of candidate slots into the Mainstream, thus protecting the General and Honorary number. This grouping is now considered by a subcommittee of Council, getting advice from the Sectional Committees on scientiﬁc capabilityasappropriate.
Anniversary Address 191 and Councillors only forone or two years. Given the time it takesto learn how the Society operates,aone-yearorevenatwo-yearperiodisgenerallytooshortforanelectedindividual to have much impact, running the riskof giving too much inﬂuence to the Ofﬁcers and our staff. The new Charter gives greater ﬂexibility over this, and the present three-year terms should improve overall governance. Mechanisms are in place to try and ensure that the composition of Council is balanced, for example with respect to broad subject areas, gender, and geographical distribution. Election is no longer tightly connected to the Sectional Committees, reducing the possible risk of individuals thinking that they act as representatives of a particular specialist discipline. Council members should be representing science as a whole, although it is important to ensure that there is sufﬁcient scientiﬁc breadth present on Council for effective governance.