MTS President’s Column: May 2020

May 26, 2020

The Pandemic We All Feel –

Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., CMarSci,
MTS President

First, let me start by expressing my hopes that all of our MTS community are faring as well as possible during this difficult period.  For those who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic I wish you the best possible outcomes and hope for the health and safety of you, your colleagues and loved ones.  I cannot help but notice that almost every aspect of our society is beginning their messaging with “…in these trying times…”, which is followed with a pitch to sell you a car, or a dishwasher, or a cure for baldness.  At MTS, however, we have made some significant changes to continue supporting our membership while dealing with some grim operational realities.

Starting with the tough parts, let’s talk about how we’re dealing with some of the hits coming our way.  The pandemic has, of course, resulted in the cancellation of a number of key conferences and meetings.  For us, this hit hard with two major events: the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston which was cancelled, and the postponed OCEANS conference in Singapore.  OTC accounts for a large portion of MTS’ annual revenue, and the cancellation meant some serious belt-tightening.  We have laid off 2.25 FTE worth of positions in headquarters and redistributed much of the workload.  It is testimony to our remaining staff that they are so capable and dedicated that we should be able to accommodate the flow of activity very well.  Membership services are the highest priority for staff, but things might take just a little longer with our reduced workforce, so please be patient.  We’ve also had to make some adjustments to our scholarship programs and publications. And, of course, with conferences being cancelled and postponed we were able to cut travel budgets as well.

At the same time, the MTS Board has been thinking about how to bring our members the services that they need in efficient and creative ways.  So you’ll see a lot more virtual conferencing, in the form of webinars and teleconferences.  In June alone, for example, we have 4 webinars coming up, covering critical strategic issues, such as the Seabed 2030 mapping effort, and a very timely discussion for graduate students regarding job opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis.  We’re also putting a special effort into working with partners.  Some of you might have seen our announcement of the Ocean Enterprise study with NOAA, an important effort to give our community more support and visibility.  We’re also continuing our pilot program on professional certification with our colleagues at the Society for Underwater Technology and the Institute for Marine Engineering, Science, and Technology.  And our communications efforts are growing through our new Eddies on line presence.

MTS will weather this crisis well.  We have our finances in decent shape.  Our staff is working effectively.  Our membership continues to grow, and we are implementing valuable new initiatives to support the interests of our members.  “In these trying times …” I am confident MTS will have little problem maintaining course and speed.

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