Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

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Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby hewhocaves » May 7, 2012 10:55 pm

I've been thumbing through this years budget for another reason (which I may post about, once my blood cools down and I can do something other than rant) and I've noticed the following:

For the 2012-2013 budget the Executive Vice President (EVP) is guessing that -

the JCKS (Journal of Caves and Karst) will be distributed electronically to 60% of the membership
the NSS Members Manual will be distributed electronically to 15% of the membership (there was a way to do this?? how do I sign up? The last thing I want is another doorstop cluttering up my desk!)

But there is no option for the NSS News to be distributed electronically.

I'll be frank. I've been a caver since 1991. I have pretty much every NSS News since the mid 80s. They take up a metric s**t-ton of space. My house is only so big, and space shelf is at a premium. While I love the NSS News and happily thumb through it regularly - there are pretty much only three issues from the past 15 years that I consistently refer back to - an article on Boartal Cave in WV, an article on quartzite caves in Venezuela and an article on Halite (salt) caves in Chile.

The JCKS, by comparison, I read and refer back to frequently - yes. I'm a scientist and geologist, and read the JCKS. It's neither criminal or shameful. In fact, I would argue that every time the NSS stands in front of congress, federal employees, the media and the public and wants to be heard and heeded - you're standing on the shoulders of the scientists. Not the photographers, surveyors, rescue people, or poets in the Arts and Letters Section (a section, btw, that I co-founded). These are all wonderful and critical aspects of our society and should be encouraged to flourish. But they matter not a whit to the powers that be in a post-WNS world.

So I look at the shrinking budget of the JCKS (down to $27,540 from a high in 1988 of about $45,000 - about the only thing in the NSS that has shrunk in size, unless you count the carbide fund) and I ask myself - how can we expect the rest of the world to take our WNS science seriously when we do not take science seriously?

The line-items in the budget speak for themselves -

NSS NEWS Budget = $158,500 of which more than $100,000 is printing and postage costs
JCKS = $27,540 (assuming 60%) get it electronically - which may not be an option - it may be forced on the membership)

Heck the Members manual cost $18,270 - that's an immense sum for a glorified phone book!

Now, I'm not saying that we should eliminate the Members Manual (although my info is wrong in it.. oops! my bad) or kill the quality of the NSS News (I love the way it is!). I'm not even saying that we should force the membership to get an electronic JCKS. But, from the rumblings I'm hearing, we've gotten to the point where we can't put out a JCKS. What's that's going to say about the US's premier caving / cave science organization? Don't you think the CBD would eat that up? Would you blame them?

Hey, people in charge! (That's you, BOG and Directors and officers and whatever else pulls our strings). Make an electronic NSS News an option. Throw the savings back into the JCKS so that they can continue to be this hemisphere's premier cave-science magazine. JCKS has a ginormous backlog of articles that it lacks the resources to publish (mine's in there somewhere.. well, it will, when I finish it!). Moving the savings to JCKS will allow it to flourish so that it no longer looks enviously at the deep pockets of the Speleophilatelic Section. I've heard members complain that the JCKS is inaccessible. Well, maybe if it could get out from the backlog and not wonder where its' next meal was coming from it would have the resources to publish invited educational articles on aspects of cave science (one an issue would be nice). Those would have helped me immensely when I was only a prospective scientist and I'd be happy to contribute to them. But they can't do that now - they can hardly breathe now!

Hey membership! (That's us). Get the NSS News electronically! It looks great on one of those tablet-y nook kindles and it will free up loads and loads of shelf space. That's space that can be used to store convention guidebooks and other NSS Publications, as well as cave gear. If we get a quarter, or a third of us to go electronic, we can save the society a bunch of money and more importantly save a historic part of the society!

John Tudek
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Post-script - You have my permission to reprint / reuse this post in its entirety provided you cite the author.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby agosnell » May 7, 2012 11:40 pm

Well here is my 2 cents. I don't want electronic NSS news.

If it is an option I am fine with that....but I would never choose it.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby NZcaver » May 8, 2012 1:10 am

I was thinking of a long, detailed response - but I think shorter will do it better.

Much as I enjoy reading the traditional NSS News, with all the traveling I do an electronic version would be more practical for me. I love thumbing through old paper copies and re-reading articles, but I'm also a big fan of the online KIP archive for easy reference. It would be nice to have virtually all publications available in electronic form, but I also think paper copies should continue for those who prefer them.

Regarding JCKS, I'm not a scientist. In the half-decade or so that I received the Journal (which I stopped when opting-out became an option), I recall maybe 2 articles that moderately interested me because they were related to projects I helped with. Are there a significant number of educational and scientific institutions around the US and internationally that pay to subscribe to the Journal? I'm not sure. I certainly wouldn't want to see the Society lose the JCKS as a resource, but where does it stand with respect to supply and demand? Does the level of interest across the membership justify the increase in production you're suggesting?

P.S. I just visited the JCKS website and found the production changes editorial from last year, which proposes a solution that seems reasonable to me.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby UnderGroundEarth » May 8, 2012 7:27 am

I also prefer to receive the printed copies and I have been working on completing my library with every single copy ever printed. I'm only lacking some issues from the very early years (40's & 50's) so if there is anyone out there that no longer wants your print copies because you prefer them online - which you can view them all here https://secure.caves.org/nss-business/p ... ndex.shtml - up until the last year - I would more than willing to take them off your hands!

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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby hewhocaves » May 8, 2012 7:54 am

Jansen,

The trouble, as I understand it, is that the changes were proposed to be able to put out the same quality publication with the previous year's budget. However, the administration took that cue (I'm not sure who in the admin did it - I don't travel in such lofty circles) to slash the budget considerably. So, rather than have insufficient funds to produce a paper copy for everyone, we have insufficient funds to produce an electronic copy for everyone. Problem not solved!

I agree with you that an electronic option is attractive (for both the news and the. JCKS). I'm a bit of a luddite and only just jumped in the tablet - e-reader bandwagon. But for the couple hundred bucks I've spent (I went high end and got an android tablet. An Acer iconia if anyone's interested) I find the convenience of being able to carry around references, current fiction, photos and maps - definitely the maps at all times to be such a plus! Having searchable back issues of the News on hand would also be great.

How much does it matter that we produce a JCKS? A lot. As the primary expression of the society's commitment to science, its what separates us from the church groups and the boy scout troops who go caving. It gets our foot in the door for the big discussions on the national stage. We don't notice it because we're in the organization but it alters the world's perception of us and increases out stature. I have had people in the past tell me that, as a society, we don't need the JCKS. Usually their argument is that since they don't read it, no one must read it (or 99.9% don't - effectively no one). That's a short-sighted argument. I could just as easily argue that we should sell our cave preserves west of the Mississippi because I will never visit them. (Indeed this has been argued by some in the past - also a bad idea). Once we start down the road where individuals decide what's best for the society based solely on their personal needs, we effectively cease as a society. Because with 10,000+ individuals, we'd have 10,000+ different directions. Nothing, not even the News or the WNS fund could survive that.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby wyandottecaver » May 8, 2012 6:20 pm

I had a big response too...then decided NZ was right.

The JCKS is a project that will never be widely read by the membership but should be important to the society. Not only does it let us publish science, and gain a voice, but managed correctly it will let us GUIDE scientific inquiries in the directions we want.

Unfortunately, you can only support the JCKS as it should be (self supporting is a pipe dream), with a robust healthy organization. The NSS isnt that. It is dying. We have forgotten that we were founded by people who went CAVING and that without CAVING there simply wont be a NSS except for the CBD lawyers and USFWS WNS spokepersons who have joined.

I would venture half the people in the NSS would drop without the NEWS. It is basically the only thing the Society does that has a broad, tangible give-back to CAVERS. We can force the JCKS electronic because most members wont miss it. I like electronic options. But I would take my news in print.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby MUD » May 8, 2012 8:06 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:.....a robust healthy organization. The NSS isnt that. It is dying. We have forgotten that we were founded by people who went CAVING and that without CAVING there simply wont be a NSS.....

The NSS membership is now under 10,000 and has been dropping members steadily over the past year.

I do like the NEWS in print. All the other stuff could be electronic for me!
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby Mudduck » May 8, 2012 8:22 pm

I vote for the option. While I anxiously await the news every month, I do keep them and they do take up much real estate. And yes I keep them to reread on occasion.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby hewhocaves » May 8, 2012 9:38 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:I had a big response too...then decided NZ was right.

The JCKS is a project that will never be widely read by the membership but should be important to the society. Not only does it let us publish science, and gain a voice, but managed correctly it will let us GUIDE scientific inquiries in the directions we want.


It's either important or its not. It can't only be "conveniently important" when it suits you. If that's the case, request the BOG change the name of the organization from the National Speleological Society to the National Caving Club or the National Spelunking Society. And replace Convention with OTR or TAG fall cave-in. Because that is where the differences lie.

wyandottecaver wrote: Unfortunately, you can only support the JCKS as it should be (self supporting is a pipe dream), with a robust healthy organization. The NSS isnt that. It is dying. We have forgotten that we were founded by people who went CAVING and that without CAVING there simply wont be a NSS except for the CBD lawyers and USFWS WNS spokepersons who have joined.


Thats demonstrably untrue. The JCKS (along with its predecessor the NSS Bulletin) has been around for as long as the society has been in existence. If you go back and look at the books like "Depths of the Earth", "The Caves Beyond" and others, you will see that the NSS has been as much about science as it has been about fun since day 1. If anything, we've strayed from our roots by distancing ourselves from it.

wyandottecaver wrote: I would venture half the people in the NSS would drop without the NEWS. It is basically the only thing the Society does that has a broad, tangible give-back to CAVERS. We can force the JCKS electronic because most members wont miss it. I like electronic options. But I would take my news in print.


And here I'm a little angry. At NO TIME did I ever suggest that we drop the News at all. Please do not put words in my mouth, it's quite rude. All i suggested was that the option be available for people to get the News electronically and for the savings there to be transferred to the JCKS, which is badly in need of it to remain viable in any form.

I've spent a fair percentage of the day looking through the back budgets of the society. Over the past ten years, we've averaged a little over $600,000 a year to spend budget-wise. About $150,000 of that goes to printing and mailing the NSS News. That's a little less than a quarter of our budget, just for printing. You want to know who the biggest beneficiary of the NSS is? The company that prints the News. Along those lines, we're not a caving organization - we're a publishing organization. The only other large sum that comes close as an outlay is the salaries for our staff in Huntsville ($125,000 + $50,000 to maintain the building itself).

Do you want to know how much science we actually fund? This year we have $8540 allocated. Yeah, I'm asking far too much of a speleological society when I say that we should add back the 3 percent of the NSS budget back into the JCKS. I'm a total (expletive) bastard, I am.

Oh, I'm sorry? Did someone say "well, we'll still have conservation?" Wrong. Conservation outlays this year total a little over $10,000 dollars, and that includes the $5000 for maintaining all our cave preserves.

You're right, Wyandotte. We *are* a caving club. And it's deplorable that we've become that. Bill Stephenson would be rolling in his grave.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby GroundquestMSA » May 8, 2012 9:56 pm

hewhocaves wrote:That's a little less than a quarter of our budget, just for printing. You want to know who the biggest beneficiary of the NSS is? The company that prints the News.


Tat this huge percentage of the budget is used for such a purpose is entirely appropriate since Wyandotte is correct in saying that the News is the biggest return for most members.

hewhocaves wrote:If you go back and look at the books like "Depths of the Earth"........ you will see that the NSS has been as much about science as it has been about fun since day 1. If anything, we've strayed from our roots by distancing ourselves from it.


Having recently read "Depths of the Earth," I fail to see how it has a whole lot to do with science. I would classify it as an extremely fun and inspiring adventure book more than anything.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby NZcaver » May 8, 2012 10:24 pm

John, I know you're rather worked up about all this, but I suspect Todd was making a general comment rather than trying to be insulting and put words into your mouth.

It has long been said the NSS is a three-legged stool, comprising of science/exploration, conservation, and caver fellowship. I'm sure different individuals have different opinions and priorities relating to different legs, but we're all in this together. Remember this member survey from back in 2005? Some interesting comments under "who are we" and publications. At that time, the JCKS was reasonably popular among the majority of those surveyed. And so were most other publications.

I want to be clear I am in no way advocating the loss of the Journal. But I wonder, is this the only connection to science the NSS has? What about grants? The NSF? MOUs? You mentioned the NSS Bulletin which was a publication of the NSS from the beginning in 1939. Back in those years, it was the NSS publication and thus included a mix of articles including science, technology, exploration, and fellowship related stuff. Again, the stool has more than one leg. And perhaps a seat connecting them together where the weary caver can rest at the end of a good day underground.

Regarding science being "conveniently important" or not - all I can say is I suspect when caving ceases to be important (or convenient) to members, that's when the NSS or the National Caving Club or whatever will die. But hopefully not in my lifetime, since I already paid up my life membership.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby hewhocaves » May 8, 2012 11:28 pm

Jansen,

I'm more or less done with this topic. I've spent the while day catching up on various back-channel email dialogues between people who have a say and have come away convinced that the NSS as an organization is about as committed to science as a damp tablecloth. You mentioned Grants and I've already related the pittance that we spend furthering research. As an aside, I was encouraged this year to not apply for an NSS grant because the amount of time spent to do the paperwork isn't worth the size of the grant. I can hunt for better grants elsewhere. This means that when I give talks, posters and write papers, the NSS won't be among the people who get the positive press.
The NSF, ad I understand it, has nothing to do with science and is a long-term financial safety net for the organization. Looking back at the previous budgets, I see NSF earmarks for all the other things the society does, and very little (if anything) for the sciences. But as it wasn't my focus, I didntexamine it so closely.
MOUs are exactly that, written agreements. They can say whatever people want them to say - but usually they are agreements that one party will call on the other in response to some specific need. Where they concern scientific agencies, they are the end result of the NSS's former commitment to science, not the cause of it. If the scientists leave because their goals and the society's goals run counter to one another, those MOUs will disappear as well.

I do agree with you in that the society has three legs - exploration, conservation and science. Or, rather, it has one leg and two stumps. As supporting evidence, I refer you back to the budget allocations in a previous post.

Like I opened with, I'm done with this thread. Further comments would only be repetitive and , frankly, I have better ways to occupy my time.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby NZcaver » May 9, 2012 2:06 am

hewhocaves wrote:Like I opened with, I'm done with this thread. Further comments would only be repetitive and , frankly, I have better ways to occupy my time.

Well, OK then. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby wyandottecaver » May 9, 2012 7:39 pm

Well since hewhocaves is done I guess I cant offend him.

I at no point said the JCKS was a "convenience". I said it was important to the Society even if not widely read or important to most Members. (Jansens link may show I was overly pessimistic) I read the JCKS regularly, but like you I am a scientist. But the REALITY is that if you expect the Membership to bemoan a publication most dont read....well.

I also never said that science wasn't part of the NSS. I said it was founded by people who went caving and understood that caving was the Society backbone. Bill Stephenson would indeed roll over in his grave to see us ignoring the people and the activity that allows the Society to care about Science and conservation in the first place (which is why we are having troubles now). I will note that in those days the percentage of our budget to FUND science was even less. We mostly just published it ad-hoc.

Jansen has a point. What we probably should do is use more articles we cant publish in JCKS in the NEWS. That way we can give both a broad venue to the science, and make the NEWS more diverse.

I never said you wanted to drop the NEWS. I said it was vitally important to the Society as a tangible give-back. You certainly implied that the NEWS was over-rated in terms of budget allocation. I pointed out why it probably wasnt. I also said I at least, and by implication many others, would still take it in print. Thus your savings plan may or may not be as effective as you hope. If we spend 1/4 of our budget to keep 1/2 our Members thats probably wise.
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Re: Why can't we get the NSS News electronically?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » May 10, 2012 5:55 pm

The original question remains unanswered.

Sure, maybe the majority of the membership would prefer a print newsletter -- those of you who don't want no stinkin' fancy electronical newsletter can hold your fire, since it's irrelevant to the point -- and, after all, it is nice to have something tangible for our annual dues.

But what it even 5% of a ~10,000 member population opted into a monthly PDF? Wouldn't 500 fewer copies to print and 500 fewer copies to mail, per month, save the Society about a bajillion* dollars annually? Have any of you looked at how much it costs to print and ship things these days?

Jeff

* this financial figure is an estimate
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