British Association for American Studies
Executive Committee Minutes
The two hundred and ninety-ninth meeting of the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies was held at the University of Hull on January 23rd 2020.
Minutes of the Previous Meeting.
Were approved as an accurate record.
Conferences Subcommittee: Report from David Hering (Liverpool Coordinator)
The AGM will take place from 3:30-5pm on Friday 17th April in Lecture Theatre A, Central Teaching Hub.
We now have a room booked from 9am until 1pm on Thursday, so any time then will work for the exec meeting.
We have a full set of panels and we are currently receiving acceptances from delegates, who were notified before Christmas. We will be finalising the schedule before the end of the month and putting the programme together.
Registration will go live this week.
BAAS2020 twitter account has been set up @baas_2020 so we’re encouraging delegates to follow us on that
Sustainability – we’re aiming for an all-vegetarian buffet (excepting dietary requirements). We’re also not printing the AGM papers to save paper. There’s still some discussion about ‘conference swag’ i.e. whether a bag is a good idea. We’re aware that bags are not necessarily sustainable but there is the question of giving people things which they then have to carry around, and the question of ‘value for money’ re: registration fee.
We’re in discussion with publishers about stalls – three have confirmed so far.
We’ve sent our grant application off to the embassy.
Registration for BAAS2020 is now open at the following address: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/english/our-events/baas-2020/ Please note that earlybird rates are valid until 16th February.
– There are only 80 seats available for the BAAS dinner at Tate Liverpool (excluding institutional organisers/keynotes), so I’ve been encouraged by Cara to send out an early warning to everyone that if you’re planning to be at the dinner you should book as soon as possible. Tate was by far the best venue and will be opening up its Theaster Gates exhibition to us for a private viewing before dinner – they had a limited number of seats but we felt they were the best place, and that it would get everyone down to the Albert Dock too.
– Could everyone advertise the registration far and wide, please? I have emailed Ben about putting it in the newsletter and have announced it to our presenters and via Twitter (@baas_2020), so if anyone reading could retweet etc that would be very helpful (could the official BAAS twitter account retweet too?)
Hull 2021 (Jo Metcalf, Rachel Williams, and David Eldridge)
The Exec Com toured the UoH campus (key spaces: Brynmor Jones Library, Canham Turner building, Middleton Hall) and the Guildhall, where the dinner will take place. Key spaces have been booked and A/V/catering requirements noted.
We will continue exploring ways to run a more sustainable conference, including sustainable promotional materials/conference packs, maximising use of digital screens and conference app, increasing meat-, fish-, and dairy-free catering options.
Thanks to Alice McDermott, Claire Thurston, and Becky Day from the Faculty of Arts, Cultures, and Education Events team for their continued support and guidance.
Three keynote speakers have now confirmed their attendance:
- Claire Wardle (Hull)
- Merve Emre (JAS)
- Sarah Pearsall (Eccles)
Chair’s Business (Cara Rodway reporting)
Death of a colleague:
Dr Mary Ellison died earlier in January. She was a Fellow at Keele. Stephen Tuck wrote to tell me and explained ‘Mary Ellison made a major, but I think little known, contribution to American history in the UK.’ Stephen has just finished writing a piece with Clive Webb on the development of Southern history in the UK (for the Journal of Southern history), and learnt that Mary Ellison had been the supervisor for a large number of high profile scholars, especially in civil rights (including Adam Fairclough and Peter Ling), as well as being a key person in the new American studies department at Keele. She wrote on a range of topics, including an interesting piece on Black women’s resistance to slavery in 1983. Larry Hudson recently told Stephen that she was an ‘inspiration as a tutor and person’. We are in discussion about a way to mark Mary’s contribution to the field in the UK.
Events and meetings attended since the last meeting:
On 11 October I attended the UKCASA (UK Council for Area Studies Associations) AGM. This included a presentation by Stephen Hill, Director of Research England, on the future of research funding. Quite a positive presentation: working on the UK government aim to make research and development funding reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027 (which would mean UK spending reaches the OECD average). Third of R&D spending is in the public sector with 2/3rds in the private sector. Current model is to double public sector funding which will hopefully stimulate private sector spending. Major issue is what will that do to university delivery and sustainability (e.g. factoring in real economic cost of doctoral student training – people, space, resources etc). Emphasis on sharing out funding to places that don’t receive a fair share but still lots of unresolved issues. Other part of the presentation was on research trends and concluded that ‘Increasing collaboration and interdisciplinary research, alongside continued focus on a broad range of impacts, are likely to characterise the research landscape in the coming years.’ Interesting to hear what other area studies associations are doing. The most interesting suggestion was the Japanese Studies Association who are providing funding for doctoral students in their writing up year: something for BAAS to perhaps consider.
On 6 and 7 December the BAAS Postgraduate conference took place at the British Library. It was a very successful event, despite the unusual organisational model which saw two students from different institutions collaborating with a separate institutional host (in this case the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library). I was impressed with the eagerness of the delegates, many of whom were in attendance at 9am on the Saturday morning. Tim Galsworthy and Lauren Eglen, the PG co-organisers, did a great job and were ably supported by the BAAS PG Rep, Olivia Wright, and my Eccles Centre colleague, Philip Abraham. I’d like to minute our thanks to them all.
On 16 December I attended the JAS Editorial Board meeting. It was a great opportunity for the Editorial Board to meet Alison Stanton, the recently appointed Editorial Manager. The co-Editors and Associate Editors set out their ongoing plans for the journal which continue to prove innovative and exciting, with particular projects foregrounding BAAS and JAS’s ongoing commitment to improving BIPOC representation within the community and to developing our discussion of pedagogical practise.
Other items to report:
As discussed at the September meeting, I can officially confirm that the US Embassy selected BAAS to administrate the next phase of the Embassy’s Small Grants Program and have awarded us $89,000 for 2019-20 (the award runs until the end of December 2020). Lydia Plath and Matthew Shaw have agreed to continue to serve as co-Managers of the programme, with Katie Edwards continuing as administrator. The Embassy has also agreed to extend the previous 2016-2019 grant to allow us to spend the remaining $6,800 alongside the current round.
As you may recall, BAAS was approached by the organisers of the next English: Shared Futures conference, taking place in Manchester, 26-28 June 2020. The organisers invited us to contribute fully-formed panels to the programme. We have had two accepted: ‘Definitions Towards Solidarity: BAME Americanists in the UK and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies’, organised by Christine Okoth (building on the Targeted Research Panel she convened for BAAS 2019), and ‘Doing American Studies Now: African American Text, Media and Theory’, organised by Nicole King. I have also been invited to speak on a panel looking at the work of learned societies.
As you will know, I have proposed trying a new social media strategy for the 2020 calendar year which will see each Executive Committee member responsible for managing the official BAAS Twitter account for one month. I hope this will improve the regularity of our engagement via Twitter and will help us give a better flavour of the variety of disciplinary areas covered by BAAS, thus producing a more representative and engaging public face.
Finally, I’d like to propose a new pattern for committee meetings between now and the April 2021 conference. In order to reduce the travel burden on committee members aiming to get to 4 in-person meetings a year, and the associated time, environmental and financial costs, I’d like to suggest that we aim for 2 in-person meetings of the full Executive committee, at the annual conference in April and then again in the autumn, with the summer and winter meetings taking place via video conference (with a site visit to the next year’s conference venue, still taking place for the Conferences sub-com chair and the Chair as well as other interested parties, with the remote Exec meeting to follow shortly after). I propose that we take out a subscription to a professional service, Zoom, which will cost us £143.88 for the year (roughly the cost of one or two train tickets). This will also enable sub-committees to meet remotely, hopefully more regularly than just quarterly. In order to improve efficiency and increase productivity, I suggest that the sub-coms have brief update meetings in-between the full committee meetings (so roughly once every 6 weeks). There is no expectation that these will be lengthy meetings. We will review the arrangements in April 2021 and see if we are happy to continue, or if the formula needs to be adjusted. Could also be used for other BAAS activities e.g. PG peer reading group; can do webinars etc could be used for PG workshops [seek committee discussion and approval]
Notable Achievements of Members
Other items to discuss: sending a note round the mailing list when new minutes are added to the website.
Secretary’s Business (Rachel Williams reporting)
We received one nomination for the BAAS Honorary Fellowship – Sue Currell. Executive Committee members unanimously and enthusiastically supported this nomination. Cara contacted Sue to inform her of the award, and Sue was delighted to accept the Fellowship.
RW and Jenny Terry continue discussions to transfer the SAMS registration; this has been held up by UCU strike action.
RW has ordered and received a new batch of BAAS bookmarks from University of Hull central print services – to discuss payment with EH and NW.
Awards Subcommittee: Stephen Mawdsley reporting
Role Handover (August 2019)
A special thanks to Emma Long for providing handover notes and advice during the transition process.
Setup of Awards (September)
We ran competitions in fourteen award categories this year. I am pleased to report that we have maintained our various national and international award partnerships (i.e. GTA awards). A special thanks to Louise Cunningham for assisting with the set-up process and to Ben Offiler for providing me access to the BAAS website for editing purposes. In September, I updated the various awards profiles on the BAAS website and began the promotion process.
Promotion of Awards (October – December)
As agreed at the last meeting, I trialled promoting the BAAS awards though non-print means. I updated last year’s poster templates for digital distribution and set up a series of pre-loaded Tweets on the BAAS Twitter feed. Based on likes/feedback and on the number of applications we received this year, it appears that our trial of digital-only award promotion was successful. A special thanks to all committee members for assisting with the promotion process.
Applications to Awards (December – January 2020)
We had a bumper crop of applications this year. Some highlights include 13 applications to the Book Prize and 40 applications to the PG short-term travel award. I will prepare a more detailed award-specific report for the AGM.
Assessment Panels (January – February)
Overall, I received a very warm reception during the awards panel recruitment process. Most academics accepted the invitation to serve.
To assist with the adjudication process, I created a ‘Guidance Document,’ which was circulated to awards panels. A special thanks to Louise Cunningham and Katie Edwards for processing and distributing the application packages.
Treasurer’s Business (Eilidh Hall (EH) reporting)
Currently number 626 members in the online system; up by 6 from the last report. There are 657 (as at 01/01/2020) total active members on the Google spreadsheet – below report compiled by Louise Cunningham:
Membership Numbers per category as at 1 January 2020
Active memberships from the BAAS online membership system:-
Please note that I am unable to get a breakdown of concessionary membership types as the membership type field is not complete in all records.
BAAS Membership – 12 (Honorary 10/Free 2) Richard King/Mick Gidley (2009), Michael Heale (2010), Helen Taylor (2011), Susan Castillo (2012), Tony Badger (2013), Iwan Morgan (2014), Ian Bell (2016), Phil Davies (2017) & Judie Newman (2018). Richard Gray given this category for free access to JAS (not a member). Sue Wedlake given free membership by S Currell as BAAS Chair (2015).
Schools membership – 2 (schools’ data from the membership google spreadsheet hasn’t been imported to the online membership system). Previous membership reports show 8 members. Clear & Creative were working on this category, so may need to check why this number has reduced?
Concessionary membership with JAS – 62 (62 active/recurring payments)
Individual membership with JAS – 82 (82 active/recurring payments)
Individual membership – 181 (181 active/recurring payments)
Concessionary membership – 287 (287 active/recurring payments)
Total active memberships = 626 minus 19 joined after 1 Jan 2020 = 607
Active memberships from the BAAS membership google spreadsheet:-
BAAS Membership (Honorary/Free) – 11 (As detailed above, minus Richard Gray who is not on the google sheet as he is not a current member).
Schools membership – 18 (schools data from the membership google spreadsheet hasn’t been imported to the online membership system)
Concessionary membership with JAS – 68 (PG – 54, PR – 7, PU – 7)
Individual membership with JAS – 80
Individual membership – 190
Concessionary membership – 290 (PGN – 259, PRN – 7 PUN – 24)
Total active memberships = 657 as at 01/01/2020
Membership type key
Students (inc. Journal of American Studies) = PG
Students (JAS online) = PGN
Unwaged Members (inc. Journal of American Studies) = PU
Unwaged Members (JAS online) = PUN
Retired Members (inc. Journal of American Studies) = PR
Retired Members (JAS online) = PRN
Account balances (as of 23/01/20)
BAAS Charity Barclays Current Account £12,656.40
BAAS Charity Barclays Savings Account £169,200.90
BAAS Charity Shawbrook Savings Account £TBC CR to confirm
BAAS Publications Barclays Current Account £42,640.78
CUP: we received an earlier than usual advance payment in November but won’t get the balance until late spring/early summer – so NW and EH will continue to monitor the Publications account to ensure that we have enough cash reserves to meet outgoing expenses, especially with the appointment of new staff.
Sussex have been invoiced (on 23/01/20) for the return of surplus money from EBAAS conference, total £12,020.00.
Question re: renumeration of expenses for Alison Stanton (JAS) – should be put through payroll in line with payments made to other JAS members (e.g. bonuses to editors)? Short term, we can put through particular expenses as a one-off. Going forward meeting work should be incorporated into salary – people who are on the payroll should not be invoicing Treasurers for additional work, it should be subject to the same PAYE deductions.
Clarification was given to TRPs re: attendance at dinner. We will make sure there are reserved spaces for them but no further funding will be provided – with the understanding that this can come out of TRP funding.
On this – lead members of the TRPs have received the first 2020 payment to allow for early bird registration, etc.
EH and NW need to change the name registered on the Shawbrook savings account. It is still under CR’s name.
The Treasurer workload continues to be heavy and EH and NW have ongoing work commitments that make managing BAAS work difficult at times. We need to start thinking about a transition toward a handover when our tenure ends in 2021. We cannot assume that someone like Cara will be present to help out with handover and we need to work on the assumption that time scales are long for things like bank mandate changes, etc.
CR proposed talking to the accountants re: professional support from them (with a fee).
CR proposed looking at courting a Treasurer-Elect for 2020-21 to co-opt on to the board. This way, the T-E could do work shadowing and to begin change over processes in good time. EH agreed this was a good suggestion. Exec members are asked to think of people who might be interested.
In the meantime, we appreciate everyone’s patience.
Publications Subcommittee: Mike Collins reporting
Publications has had three main areas of ongoing business since the last meeting of the Exec at the BAAS PG conference in the British Library in December:
- The JAS Main Board Meeting
- USSO discussions over remuneration of editorial staff
- The British Online Archives Fellowship/Internship
Holly O’Neill prepared the annual JAS Publishing report in November with the following Overview points:
Journal circulation remains strong though the number of institutional subscribers has gone down from 9,304 in 2018 to 6,010 in 2019.
Articles were downloaded 74,944 times through Cambridge Core in 2018
“Historians and the Civil Rights Movement” by Adam Clough was the most downloaded article in 2019. [Mike – this arguably reflects teaching in 20th century US history as the most dominant sub-discipline of BAAS/JAS] “The Erotic Charisma of Alexander Hamilton” by Caroline Hamilton and “The Historiography of the Black Panther Party” by Joe Street are also regularly downloaded.
Online usage is up 38.5%
It is the plan to extend Cambridge Core Share [a system that creates URL links for social media sharing of JAS content to be available on all journal content soon.
Open Access continues to be a main discussion topic at CUP but there are no specific plans relating to JAS at this stage – though CUP are discussing ways to permit personal retention of copyright for authors
The journal continues to publish on time and the expansion to an extra issue is proceeding well
Editorial Board meeting 16/12/19
Sinead and Nick proposed two primary points of discussion – above and beyond regular editorial business, and confirmation of new Board Member Sarah Gleeson-White of Sydney.
Replacement of the other vacant position in History is not yet filled but will be in the new year hopefully
Eithne Quinn has proposed the expansion of the Board in light of the new issue per year. S and N are trying to identify possible areas of specialism needed and how the constitution of a new, expanded board would function.
Peer Review Code of Conduct: Developing documents that guide readers in “writing supportive and constructive readers reports” to be published on the journal webpage. Lots of positive noise here from the board and useful suggestions on the wording.
Feedback Emails to Peer Reviewers: to inform peer reviewers of the eventual outcome of articles they have reviewed. Currently this is not done and is a source of some frustration to the Editorial Board who invest lots of time in peer review. Again, the Board agreed and this is moving forward.
Additionally, the possibility of a podcast was floated by Georgiana. Holly O’Neill will explore how the current journal platform could host such a thing. Discussions ongoing
I have been working hard on developing a way to remunerate USSO after opening this discussion with them last BAAS conference following the handover to me from Joe S. This is ongoing, but has stalled as USSO prepared the handover to its new editors. Part of the issue here is that because of the voluntary nature of the USSO journal and its staffing by people on insecure academic contracts there has been a large devolution of power to around 6 sub-editors over the last 4 years (all of whom the current main editors want to be paid in the event of remuneration being agreed). The USSO editors see their role as as labour-intensive as the JAS editors and want remuneration in line with this. Clearly, this is impossible, although some additional support “in kind” might be workable, including training opportunities with CUP (I can discuss this with Holly O’Neill potentially in due course)
Our counter proposals (Cara, Rachel, Eildih and myself met at BAAS PG to discuss this) involved the possibility of greater expenses and helping them move to seeking funding through advertising and monetisation. The USSO editors rejected this proposal on the grounds that BAAS, in turn, would seek greater oversight of the editorial board and processes as a result of additional support from the Publications Sub-Com and Exec.
The advertisement for jobs on the new editorial team will be live in March and the outgoing editors will interview. We should open this discussion up again with the new editorial team – whoever the may be. My feeling is that if there is to be decasualisation and remuneration for work on the publication that there needs to be a consequent streamlining of USSO’s work model.
This is currently in BOA’s hands as they need to come back to us with a model of what they actually want from the fellow. There has been six months of back and forth on this – I have had 4 or 5 separate meetings with BOA (including Rachel, James and others at times) to establish what the Fellow would do now the BOA model for its publications is not based on individual scholarly input but “big data”. In short, the fellowship will not be running in this cycle. It may run next year, but I suggest that be the last time we pursue this. The cost-benefit calculation is ceasing to work in either of our favours – they have a fellow/intern they are not sure what to do with, and we have are no longer getting the research experience for BAAS members.
I expect to hear back from Kathryn Rose at BOA in the next few weeks, but am not actively pursuing this. Let’s probably just call this an expenses saving for the year!
Development and Education Subcommittee: Lydia Plath reporting
Update on actions from the last meeting:
- Terms of reference for the subcommittee are now on the website.
- Development Fund – no further progress; awaiting outcome of budget discussions from CR and treasurers. We are still hoping to launch this at the conference in April.
- CR will liaise with CP re. the Membership Survey.
- Decolonising American Studies Conference – LP, NW and CO have had initial conversations about hosting this at UCL. Further exploration and discussion with UCL colleagues is ongoing.
Activity since the last meeting
- Future of the Inclusive Conference: After productive planning conversations with CR and CO, we have contacted all of our sister organisations about the idea, and received a good amount of interest. TW will also come on board as part of the planning group. The next step is to confirm a date (likely early September at the BL) and then to plan the event and advertise. We also need to consider whether external speakers would be useful at the event. Action: LP to arrange another planning meeting with CR, CO, and TW.
- The collaboration between BAAS and The Brilliant Club has been very productive. Emma Horrex was appointed in a competitive application process to develop a Key Stage Three Programme with the theme “Music with a Message: Understanding America through Song” which was completed in December 2019
PG Representative report: Olivia Wright reporting
PG BAAS Conference at the British Library:
Very successful conference, 14 panels in total and 75-80 people registered. Great response on Twitter too. Big, big thanks to everyone from the exec that came.
As usual we had a USSO sponsored PG keynote from Lucy Mounfield (Nottingham University) which was excellent.
Had a “suggestions box” and got a couple of thoughts: could BAAS run some kind of workshop programme for PGs, and could we bring back the PG and ECR peer reading scheme. Exec’s thoughts on these? Some initial questions to think about:
Workshops – who would run them? Where would we host them? Repeated workshops in different places? Volunteers to run them? What topics would we cover?
Peer reading scheme – speak to HOTCUS about this? Would it be a lot of work for upcoming PG Rep to take on by themselves? Could it be an informal network/mailing list?
Prepare to advertise for organisers for this year’s PG BAAS conference around February. Are we going to follow a similar format (students from different universities rather than 2 from the same) and if so, how do we decide where it is hosted? Could we collaborate with other groups (e.g. PG HOTCUS/IAAS/EAAS?)
New PG Rep to be elected in April – when do we advertise? Do they have to be first or second year (full time) in order to still be a PG for the 2 years or does this not matter? Will promote it on PG Twitter when the time comes.
Any Other Business.
Proposal to align all BAAS communication and written materials with British Dyslexia Association guideline. See: https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/advice/employers/creating-a-dyslexia-friendly-workplace/dyslexia-friendly-style-guide (major one is ‘left align text without justification’).
Proposal to, where possible, buy book tokens/vouchers for independent book stores – e.g. for USSO keynote speaker winner. For convenience and fairness, this would need to be a book store near the residence or workplace of the awardee. This year, we bought Lucy Mounfield a voucher for £100 for Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham. National Book Tokens are a good option as well as they can be used in almost all bookshops.
Date of next meeting (Liverpool BAAS 2020)