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Science Iowa minutes

September 26, 2021

6 p.m. 


Present: President Dan Chibnall, Treasurer Ruth Henderson, Secretary Tom O’Donnell; Cornelia Flora from Ames and Diane Jones from West Des Moines.


Dan called the meeting to order at 6:01. 


Officers introduced themselves.


Members introduced themselves: Cornelia Flora is a distinguished professor emeritus in sociology and agriculture at Iowa State University.


Diane Jones, retired engineer.


Discussion: Science Iowa member-suggested topics


Dan outlined the purpose of the meeting and opened the floor.


Diane Jones said she is interested in Science Iowa because she’s at a loss about how to combat science ignorance and anti-science sentiment. During the pandemic she attended a couple of meetings but now she’s trying to catch up with what’s going on. She’s particularly concerned with getting people to listen to science regarding climate change. Diane said she’s trying to fight inertia, but it seems daunting and she’s struggling for ideas.


Dan agreed that it’s difficult. It’s been hard for us as a small organization because we just recently applied to become a nonprofit. We’re still in this phase of planning what we’ll do while the pandemic is ongoing.


Tom O’Donnell outlined the Iowa Science Foundation grant and its status and some of our past activities, particularly the science voter guide.


Cornelia discussed her concern about the public’s refusal to accept science, particularly in rural areas. She thought it might be that science is not taught well, but after discussing the situation with others concluded that it had more to do with ideology.


Diane mentioned that there could be a disconnect between rural students and their parents because surveys usually don’t reach students.


Dan said it’s a good point – that in some rural areas ideological and religious connections may hold sway over science. He noted that Science Iowa would like to build deeper relationships with students in classrooms and mentioned a program he had developed at Drake to put graduate students into classrooms. One of Science Iowa’s goals is to build such a program with the help of members who are teachers.


Ruth noted that Science Iowa wants to spread out beyond Central Iowa, perhaps by working with other educators. 


Cornelia suggested ISU extension and 4-H as a good way to connect with people.


Flora is there an organization of science teachers in Iowa?


Tom reported there is, the science teaching section at the Iowa Academy of Science.


Dan knows science professor Jesse Wilcox who is connected to the IAS at the University of Northern Iowa. He will contact Wilcox about possible collaboration.


Ruth also knows Jay Staker, one of the science education coordinators at ISU Extension. 


Dan said we’d like to grow Science Iowa enough to have interested people in many parts of Iowa. They would be able to tell us of issues and concerns in their areas and we could disseminate information to them, creating a two-way network to advance and inform people about science.


Ruth also could contact Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek about working with their network of teachers.


Diane asked about associations professional societies in engineering, chemistry, biology or other professions. Dan said that’s possible. Diane has worked with and belongs to chemical engineering and mechanical engineering societies but doesn’t have many local connections.


Diane asked if there is a social media presence for Science Iowa. She suggested using social media to connect with other groups. Tom noted that, because of our nonprofit status, we can announce our views but not tell others what to say.


Tom added that we’ve been focused on getting organized.


Cornelia said she is on the Sierra Club board for Iowa, which is focusing on water and air quality. She would be interested in forging closer ties between our organizations. She also is interested in seeing the voter guide information from last fall. Tom passed on the URL.


Tom outlined the candidate questionnaire process and how that involves other organizations. Cornelia noted that the Sierra Club would be delighted to join with us on that and other efforts. She noted that simply asking the questions brings issues to candidates’ attention. “Every act of research also is an act of social change,” she noted. Asking and making people think about them is moving them forward.


Jones asked if we would do the questionnaire again. Tom said it’s likely, but we’re likely to get better responses if more organizations are involved.


Cornelia asked to be included on future emails and invitations and offered to pass on the 

information to the Sierra Club and her informal environmental group.


Business meeting:


Approve the minutes of the August 4, 2021 meeting. See:


Ruth moved to approve. Dan seconded. Approved unanimously.


Old business:


Membership ideas: Dan said he articulated some of those tonight. He wants to try expanding the network of people interested in what we’re doing and using them locally to learn what’s happening in their parts of the state. That could start with reaching out to people like Wilcox or Beranek. Action item: contact those folks and communicate with them. 


Articles of incorporation amendment: Tom reported that the Iowa Secretary of State accepted our amendments.  The IRS is considering our application for nonprofit status.


Bank account status: Ruth Henderson and Dan Chibnall have opened our account with Green States Credit Union. Ruth Reports that our balance is $1, 550.85. There is one outstanding check of $275 to Tom for the IRS 1023 application fee. 


Ruth asked about how to include donation buttons on our website and social media pages. Tom noted that we can’t yet accept tax-deductible donations until we get nonprofit status.


Ruth will do some research, including asking the credit union. Dianne said another organization she works with uses Paypal. Venmo also is available but it requires a unique phone number which could be a problem.


Board resignation and replacement: Ruth Henderson and Dan Chibnall


Ruth talked with Jordan Wilmes, who previously expressed an interest in serving but now wants to remain in the background as he copes with his mother’s death and his school-teaching duties.


Dan suggested we each make a short list of people we think may be board candidates, then set a time to meet via Slack to hash them out and issue invitations. Each of us will do so. 


Iowa Science Foundation grant: No news


New business:


Email list: Tom O’Donnell


Tom expressed concern about members unsubscribing from our list after every email appeal. He suggested putting a notice on our social media telling people they can get on our mailing list to be the first to learn about our meetings and activities. Dan will draft something. Tom will ask Kaitlin Higgins if we can track the order in which email addresses arrive so we can possibly offer prizes.


Using the email list of volunteers from 2017: Tom O’Donnell. 


Tom suggested that we contact people on our Mailchimp volunteer mailing list and ask them to get more involved, perhaps even serving on the board. He isn’t sure if they’ve received our latest emails; he assumed they were also on the general email list, but he’ll have to check on whether they overlap.


Ruth said since they volunteered in the past, they may be interested in becoming active with us. Dan suggested we could take a few people each and contact them. Tom will compare the lists and compile potential contacts. 


Seeking board members from outside the Des Moines area: Tom O’Donnell.


Tom suggested contacting Iowa science museums like those in Cherokee, Davenport and elsewhere to see if their board members would be interested in working with us and perhaps serving on the board. Ruth suggested the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque as an additional option. Dan suggested gathering names into a document and deciding what the best approach is, including language to sell it to them. Tom will get specifics on the museums.


Next meeting: Dan will send a poll out.


Adjourned at 7:09 p.m.

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