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Science Iowa minutes

March 17, 2022

4 p.m.


Call to order


President Dan Chibnall called the meeting to order at 4:01 p.m. Present: Chibnall, Ruth Henderson, Nathan Steimel, Tom O’Donnell, and members Cornelia Flora, Kate Garner and Mary Starry.


Welcome and Introduction of board members – Dan Chibnall and board


The board introduced themselves.


Introduction of members in attendance – Dan Chibnall to call on members in attendance


Flora is a distinguished professor emeritus in rural sociology at Iowa State University. Kate Garner is news director for the Des Moines Radio Group. Mary Starry is a retired pharmacist who has worked as a substitute teacher for high school physics and chemistry.


Approve the minutes of the February 1, 2022 meeting. See:


Ruth moved for approval; Tom seconded. Approved unanimously.


Treasurer’s report – Ruth Henderson


Checking account balance is $1,341.39; savings is $120. Ruth made a $13.72 donation to test the PayPal system. 


Tax return – Ruth Henderson


Ruth filed a form 990 electronic postcard return. It has been accepted.


Old business:


Online donations update (PayPal) – Ruth Henderson


The website now has a working donation button for either PayPal or Venmo. The treasurer must manually transfer money into the Science Iowa bank account, but she tested it and it’s seamless. 

Facebook still will not allow a donation button despite submitting a long list of documents to verify our status, including a bank statement, articles of incorporation, tax return and IRS nonprofit determination letter. She has about given up. We will instead have to direct people to our website to donate.

PayPal sends a receipt. Garner sent a Venmo donation to test that avenue.


2022 candidate survey – Tom O’Donnell


The questionnaire is nearly done and ready to send to signatory organizations for review. Once they sign on, we will issue it to the candidates ahead of the primary election. We’ll need people to send the survey and bird-dog the candidates once we reach that point. We’ll also need help publicizing the site.


Science Festival Trail locations and dates – Ruth Henderson


Ruth has reserved Raccoon River Park shelters for August 7 from noon to 5 p.m., with an hour before and after for setup and cleanup. Unlike 2019, there is a boathouse at one end of the park that may cause problems for the DNR education trailer, which must be parked there. The rental fee was $490 with a nonrefundable $225 fee. Event insurance is $390, up from $327. We can get printing at cost.

Ruth suggested considering things we want to do differently, including what organizations we want to get. We may set up just in the shelters instead of around the trail because organizations found that inconvenient.


New business


Website updates – Ruth Henderson


Ruth added documents to the section on nonprofits so anyone can see our articles of incorporation, tax filing and nonprofit certification. She wants to clean up the look. She removed the pate on Science Iowa leaders because we now have board members. She suggested archiving meeting minutes or at least putting them in a folder structure. We also must do a new scientist spotlight on a Black Iowa subject and Ruth wants a more appealing home page with photos. Tom will seek new subjects for this.

Dan suggested we brainstorm ideas for the website.

Ruth recalled the Iowa high school student we featured and asked if Nathan knew someone another student of color who we could highlight. He will contact the TAG teachers and perhaps consider who did the science fair.


Grant applications – Tom O’Donnell


Tom suggested he, Nathan and Maurine form a subcommittee to seek grants in support of our projects. Nathan said if we want Science Iowa to have an impact, we need to work with community sponsors and raise funds. He knows many community organizations and nonprofits and could investigate science-specific grants from them. He noted that we need to fit our program to match the grants. 

Ruth said we must find or develop a mission statement, which some organizations want to see for a grant. We have a purpose in our bylaws that we can adapt. Tom will find the original one drawn up in 2017 to incorporate with that.

Kate suggested that every grant application should have a specific idea the funding organization will pay for.

Tom will investigate convening a subcommittee.


Quick reaction advocacy – Tom O’Donnell


Tom would like Science Iowa to be nimbler in alerting members to science-related issues, especially in Iowa government. There are bills regarding vaccinations that are going through and we ought to let people know so they can respond. We don’t need to tell them what to say, but just alert them. 

Dan says it’s a matter of tracking bills and paying attention to them, but since we can’t hire a lobbyist, we should piggyback on other organizations that send out alerts. The Iowa Environmental Council covers water quality, etc., but we need public health and education. We’ll investigate membership or alerts from the Iowa Public Health Association.


Next meeting: probably the third week of April. Dan will send a survey.


Member input and comments


Requested discussion items meeting registrants submitted:

  • Funding of STEM education in Iowa

  • Oil pipelines on native land, local watershed and nitrate issues

  • water quality, university funding

  • drought


Cornelia said it’s important to follow the impact of budget cuts on STEM education. Ruth will find out if the ISEA will track things like numbers of STEM teachers, students in courses, and STEM opportunities for students. 

Cornelia noted that university budget cuts are having an effect, with the ISU Sociology Department discussing elimination of its graduate program. History has cut its graduate program and the Agronomy Department has stopped hiring. It may be going on at other universities too. Agronomy researchers study sustainable agriculture. Graduate programs make it easier to get grants that pay for the students and help create new knowledge. If there’s a barrier to graduate programs the university can’t create new knowledge.

Mary said she didn’t submit a discussion topic but they all interest her. She’s concerned about science in Iowa but so much involves science that it’s possible for our group to spread itself too thin. Getting grants would be a way to focus our efforts.

Kate offered her writing services and her experience in politics. She can get us meetings with most Iowa federal-level politicians and help us speak their language. 

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