Guidelines for ESERA Special Interest Group Coordinators

The Executive Board of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) has made a decision to establish Special Interest Groups (SIGs) as an intermediate level structure within the ESERA community. SIGs are intended to emerge as self-enabled organizing structures that will function as specialized, thematic groups within the ESERA community. It is anticipated that SIGs will gradually be able to undertake an active role in the conference program organization and review process as well as have the opportunity to receive support from the Association in organizing parallel activities.

Coordinators of a SIG are expected to function as an important liaison between the members of the SIG, the ESERA Executive Board and the ESERA community as a whole. Assuming the role of a SIG coordinator involves responsibilities with regard to the organisation of SIG activities such as conference symposia, seminars, newsletters and other publications. At any one time, each SIG will have two Coordinators. Together they will serve as the communication link between the SIG and the ESERA association.

These guidelines have been drafted by the ESERA Executive Board in order to elaborate the rationale for establishing SIGs within the ESERA community and also in order to provide a coherent structure for managing the SIGs in a sustainable manner. However, it is important to keep in mind that every SIG, by nature, will be different and hence, the Coordinators should not hesitate to contact the ESERA President or Secretary with any questions.

The ESERA policy for SIGs and relevant information, including contact details, can be found on the ESERA website: www.esera.org.

1. How to establish a new Special Interest Group

The ESERA Board invites proposals to establish SIGs on specific topics within science education research related to science teaching and learning processes, thematic domains or methods of inquiry. SIGs comprise of researchers who study one or more aspects within a broad field of science education research domains. If you feel that a certain theme or research domain in science education is not represented amongst existing SIGs and the domain could benefit from a more explicitly articulated sub-structure, it is possible to apply for the establishment of a new SIG.

Application Procedure: Submit a proposal for establishing a new SIG by e-mail to the ESERA Secretary. The proposal needs to include the following information:

  • A mission statement with a clear profile description of the new SIG. This mission statement is intended to provide a description of the identity, aims and scope of the proposed SIG and it should not exceed 500 words.
  • Short curriculum vitae of two ESERA members who are committing to serve as the first co-ordinators of the SIG for a period of 6 and 4 years, respectively. These two persons have to be from different countries and no more than one can be from outside Europe.
  • A list of at least 20 ESERA members (identified by name and email address) who have committed to join the SIG as its founding members.
  • A plan of activities to be organised in the future.

The Executive Board will discuss this proposal for establishment of a new SIG during its next meeting within at most six months of the date of submission. The EC will evaluate the proposal and take the final decision. The decision will be communicated to the proposers by the ESERA Secretary.

Once a SIG is established, the ESERA Board will take the responsibility to offer every ESERA member the opportunity to enrol as a member of the new SIG, at a small fee (additional to the ESERA membership fee).

2. Requirements for the SIG to remain active

In order to keep a SIG at a sustainable level of activity, there are a few minimum requirements:

  • A plan of activities to be organised in the future.
  • A SIG should have a minimum of 20 members at any time;
  • It is compulsory to have a SIG members meeting during the biennial ESERA conferences.
  • The agenda for this meeting should be sent to all SIG members and posted on the ESERA website, at least one month in advance;
  • There should be at least one SIG activity (for example a newsletter, website etc...) that facilitates communication among the SIG members;
  • The SIG-coordinators should organise an election when stepping down in order to ensure that the SIG will continue to have two coordinators at any time;
  • At the end of every year, the SIG coordinators report in writing on the activities of the SIG. The reports are submitted to the ESERA Board and are published on the ESERA website;
  • The SIG is expected to organise an invited symposium at each biennial conference. The SIG coordinators are responsible for inviting presenters, for putting together the proposal and for organising this symposium.
  • The SIG is expected to have one experienced researcher participant in at least every second ESERA summer school.

If any of the above requirements is not met, the ESERA Board may decide to dissolve the SIG. Advance notice of a discussion to dissolve the SIG will be provided to every SIG member at least two months in advance.

3. Responsibilities of the SIG coordinators

An ESERA member (minimum period of membership of 4 years) who has research experience and a publications record in a field that is covered by the Special Interest Group is eligible to serve as SIG coordinator. The two SIG-coordinators need to be affiliated to institutions in different countries. No more than one coordinator can have a non-European affiliation. A SIG coordinator can serve for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years, starting their term at the SIG members meeting of the biennial ESERA conference. By exception, one of the two founding SIG Co-ordinators can serve for a term of no more than six years.

The SIG-coordinators receive the applications for new coordinators and organise the elections. The ESERA online elections system can be made available for the voting process at the request of the SIG co-ordinators.

The main responsibility of the SIG-coordinators is to keep the SIG active (see section 2). To achieve this, the SIG-coordinators are expected to undertake the following tasks:

  • Organise a SIG invited symposium at the ESERA biennial conference;
  • Organise a SIG members meeting at the ESERA biennial conference;
  • Monitor the financial situation of the SIG and the balances of the activities and keep the ESERA Treasurer informed of the status on an annual basis;
  • Organise at least one SIG activity (website, newsletter, etc.) that facilitates communication among SIG members;
  • Find a successor or possible candidates for a successor when stepping down, beginning the process at least three months in advance. For the election procedure, there is an online voting system available upon request;
  • Compose an annual report of SIG activities. This should be submitted for the ESERA website not later than 1 December of every year;
  • Act as a link between the SIG members and the ESERA Executive Board;
  • Inform the ESERA Board about the SIG's future initiatives;
  • Propose keynote speakers for the biennial ESERA conference. Both coordinators will receive a request from the ESERA conference organisers, prior to every biennial conference, asking them to propose at least one keynote presenter each. The SIG-coordinators are advised to consult their SIG members on this issue;
  • Act as a reviewer for the ESERA conference and the summer school;
  • Propose at least another 5 reviewers for conference submissions, from among the SIG members;
  • Make an active effort to encourage participation in each ESERA summer school from among the SIG members. 

4. Communication with the ESERA Board

  • Once a year (in May), the ESERA Board will send a list of SIG members to the SIG-coordinators. If a more updated list is required at any time, this can be received upon request to the ESERA Treasurer;
  • When SIG activities are organised, the ESERA Board should be informed so that information about the activities can be published on the ESERA website and promoted through the ESERA network;
  • When newsletters are published, these must be sent to the ESERA Board for publication on the ESERA website;
  • In order to receive funding for SIG activities, a request for funding and a report of the activity must be provided to the ESERA Board (see section 5);
  • ESERA publishes a newsletter with Association News. A request for information to be included in this newsletter about upcoming SIG activities or other SIG news will be sent to the coordinators at least one month in advance;
  • A synopsis of the minutes of meetings of the Executive Board (twice a year) will be published on the ESERA website, at most one month after every meeting.

5. Financial support for SIGs

ESERA provides financial support consisting of up to a maximum amount of 1000 Euro per two years for SIG activities. In order to receive this financial support, a request for funding must be submitted to the ESERA Board. The approved amount (up to1000 Euro) will be paid by the ESERA Treasurer after the SIG-activity is performed and upon receipt of the SIG-coordinators report. This report should include a list of the participants indicating who are SIG members. If a pre-payment is necessary, ESERA can pay a percentage in advance and the remaining amount will be paid upon receipt of this report.

The request for funding should contain the following information:

  • Information about the nature, goals and aims of the activity and the preliminary program (eg in the case of an interim SIG meeting: invited speakers, submission formats, etc...);
  • The expected number of participants;
  • A preliminary budget (showing the estimated income and expenses of the event);
  • An open call for participation, which will be sent to the ESERA list.

The request should be submitted to the ESERA Board by one of the SIG-coordinators and it should take into account the following rules:

  • Submission of the request at least four months before the event takes place;
  • Funding cannot be provided for the two SIG-coordinators to meet each other or for other informal meetings that cannot be announced openly to the ESERA community;
  • The members meeting taking place during the biennial ESERA conference cannot be considered for funding;
  • In order to receive this amount of 1000 euro for a SIG conference, a reduced registration fee should be granted for all ESERA members. This reduced registration fee should be no more than 70% of the fee that is calculated for non ESERA members;
  • Any financial profit of SIG activities should be reinvested in the organisation of future SIG activities. It is the responsibility of the coordinators to monitor the financial situation and keep the ESERA Treasurer informed on an annual basis. In order to secure the continuity of the SIGs financial situation, ESERA offers the possibility to safeguard this balance;
  • The sponsored SIG activity must take place within Europe;
  • Joint conferences (co-organisation of more than 1 SIG) receive a maximum funding amount of 2000 euro.
  • It is possible to consider activities other than SIG conferences for funding: eg a workshop for preparing a book, an international seminar, a meeting for young researchers or newsletter. Activities that facilitate improved communication among SIG members are encouraged

Besides this support for biennial SIG activities, the SIG-coordinators are entitled for free registration to the main ESERA biennial conference

 Approved by the ESERA Board

5 January 2009.