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National PSR Conference - April 2013

PSR National Board of Directors -- Spring 2013 Conference



This was a 3 day conference, and there were many reschedules of speakers and events due to air travel issues. This report is organized by subject matter instead of sequence of events, since several of the items were presented over multiple days.

The optional lobbying events occurred throughout the morning and  afternoon of the first day. Most board members did not participate in the lobbying.  For those board members not lobbying, like me, there was an opportunity to network with other board members. PSR’s values, shown below, were prominently displayed and referred to throughout this conference.


  • That life on Earth is precious, powerful and vulnerable;
  • That human life draws vital sustenance and coherence from the ecological and social systems in which it participates;
  • That the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge imposes the responsibility to protect life, not to endanger or destroy it;
  • That knowledge about global threats results from experience and scientific study including modeling and simulation, which inherently contain uncertainty;
  • That the necessary decisions based on such uncertainties must be evaluated in settings open to public review, so that the best possible approaches can be achieved;
  • That citizens have a right to informed participation in such decision-making processes made by both government and industry which affect their health, welfare and environment; and
  • That our commitment to future generations requires that problems of violence and militarism, global environmental degradation and social and economic inequities be addressed now and not be left as a toxic legacy to be solved by those who follow us.


Major Goals of this Conference:

1) Define and expand knowledge and direction of Radiation Health program
2) Provide skills and understanding for increasing board participation in major donor campaign
3) Build out the humanitarian threats campaign
4) Attain a clear understanding of PSR’s financial status: revenue and membership acquisition

Executive Director’s Report (Thomasson)

1) We will continue to integrate and develop chapter and national collaboration. The highlight of the year so far was the chapter leaders’ meeting in Florida and the incredible spirit of sharing that it engendered. At this FL meeting, the needs for educational materials, presentations and webinars were discussed, and these materials can be obtained from the site.
2) We strive to increase membership and donors at PSR. As an organization we have not progressed membership as we would want. One limiting factor is our database, which is completely inadequate to meet our needs. Toward that end we have developed a task force which includes 2 chapter members to evaluate and  delineate our needs and desires within reasonable cost constraints. 
3) We will continue to recruit, train and activate health professionals, students and concerned citizens as representatives of PSR. As a national office we are just at the outset of developing a more global plan to further implement the recruit-train-activate approach. We are working with PSR chapters and will be reaching out to other organizations to spread the work of the Humanitarian Threats Campaign.
4) We need to markedly increase funding sources, especially donors and increased foundation support, for the Environment & Health committee and the Radiation Health committee.

Finances / Management (Kerwin, Fox, Golbart, Thomasson)

Our statement of financial position shows us in a safe position with the ratio of total assets to total  liabilities at more than 5:1. Our stable financial position gives us a little leeway to improve our tools, namely a new database, and begin a new strategy for increasing our membership. For the next three months, we will bring on a major donor consultant to sharpen our focus and reach out in a systematic way to our current donors. 

Security (includes nuclear weapons reduction (Sinha, Loh, Helfand)

We kicked off a national education campaign on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons while remaining engaged on moments of opportunity on the federal budget.  Our strategy with this campaign is to develop current and topical resources that can be used by
chapters and activist leaders to take PSR’s core message on nuclear weapons out into local communities. We believe our best opportunity for growth is to initially target audiences that are likely to be  ideologically supportive of arms control and peace. Over the last four months, PSR has revamped the Security Program site, developed resources for the campaign, launched a petition campaign, and we have developed a campaign memo to outline the overall effort. In addition, Dr. Ira Helfand developed a professional video presentation on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and members of PSR’s Security Committee participated in the Oslo Conference on the “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons.” In addition, PSR’s recent revamp of the Security Program site has already increased engagement of visitors on our web pages. 

The Oslo Conference, by all accounts, was a success in engaging participant countries in this alternative path towards nuclear abolition. Based on our ongoing relationship with the State Department, we did have Acting Under-Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller participate on a PSR-hosted conference call with key leaders in the nuclear disarmament community. We plan to build on that conversation to engage productively with their office while pressuring them to engage with an international discussion that we view as essential. We are in the process of following up on the Oslo Conference and are recruiting PSR and IPPNW leaders for a joint webinar.

The publication of the Nuclear Famine Report, a video presentation by Dr. Ira Helfand, and international momentum building from ICAN, ICRC, the Medical/Public Health Deans’ Letter, and the Oslo Conference provide an opportunity to launch a campaign to engage prospective activists on this important health message.  

Environment & Health (Gottlieb)

Assert a strong medical voice to slow, stop and reverse global warming, and toxic degradation of the environment.  Environment and Health pursues this goal through a variety of programs – coal, fracking, clean energy, climate education, clean air, and toxics. Much of the recent activity has been providing support to PSR chapters that align with these objectives, and many examples were shared at this conference. 

Website & Communications (Kerwin, Morgan, Sinha)

The PSR web site “rotating stories” is the most clicked item on the homepage, so we make a special effort to update those stories on a regular basis. They feature breaking news, PSR events, updates on issues, and PSR resources. The Western NC chapter has been offered the opportunity to provide a story and hopes to have something before our next conference.

Governance & Leadership Committee

The number of board seats was reduced from 22 to 21. Because of the arithmetic of 22 Board members vs. three-year terms, having a number divisible by three will simply require seven board seats to be renewed each year.

ONE PSR (Thomasson, Plumb, McCue)

The Feb. 2013 Tampa Chapter Leaders meeting was well attended: 44 representing 16 chapters, students, and national. Best practices for recruiting, events, actions, social media, website and programs were discussed along with administrative essentials such as fundraising, IRS rules, and best board policies. Many action items emerged. After the meeting, the chapter leaders organizing group created a list of prioritized actions and follow-up to be discussed at the next ONE PSR call and beyond. The list restates several items already included in the ONE PSR goal and objectives indicating ongoing communication challenges.

Development & Membership

From 2009 to 2012, we have relied on the recommendations developed in late 2009 by the adhoc finance subcommittee to drive our fundraising activities. Those recommendations, which were created in the wake of the economic downturn, called for cutting back on mailings, bringing more functions in-house, and focusing on current donors, all of which were necessary to stabilize the organization’s income and expenses. At this point, we feel those recommendations have outlived their usefulness, so we have begun to work on a new long-term plan for the development function. We have met internally and with several consultants and former board members to discuss various scenarios. Based on that feedback, we have identified some obvious areas to focus our efforts upon: online giving, major donors and direct mail. Finally, we are working with our direct mail consultants to revamp the mail program.

Safe Energy (Mark & Pinnell)

Goal: Assert a strong medical voice in a campaign opposing the construction of new nuclear reactors in the United States. Two examples this year:

1) Stop additional funding for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), the nuclear industry’s “new shiny object” being promoted and used to distract from dwindling support for existing reactors. It is our goal to expose the myth of SMRs and dry up taxpayer funding and subsidies for any new demonstration projects. To this end we are working with Taxpayers for Common Sense, who recently awarded the SMR program the annual Golden Fleece Award for taxpayer ripoffs. 

2) Block further development of the Vogtle reactors being built in Georgia. These reactors, planned and being built, are subsided by rate-payers in Georgia and soon to be subsidized by all taxpayers via a pending federal loan guarantee. The Vogtle reactors are already being called the next “Solyndra” thanks to our media efforts and reports, for their cost overruns, shoddy construction, delays, political interference and increasing risk to rate-payers. We’ll continue to keep it there with the goal of making it the most egregious example of taxpayer subsidies for expensive, dangerous, unnecessary nuclear reactors.

Student PSR (Pollock)

Recommendations for future student program direction were provided.
1) Expand to 12-15 active student chapters. Focus less on founding new chapters and more on nurturing existing ones. We received $35,000 from Macy’s Foundation to develop eight interactive training modules and pilot four within the year. Steps have been made to begin compiling a database of PSR university contacts.
2) Student PSR focus should be on providing inspirational experiences.
3) There needs to be either a stronger financial commitment to the student program or a reevaluation of program goals.

Social Justice Committee (Ringler, Gould)

This committee worked with the Security Committee to promote public education and contacts with representatives by chapters and activists concerning the Sequester. In particular we wanted to send the message that the military budget, and specifically the nuclear weapons budget, needed to be cut even more than Sequestration will do.

With our lobbying efforts, the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted April 2, 2013, at the UN General Assembly. The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all global transfers of weapons and ammunitions.

Firearm injury prevention: After much consultation within the board, it seemed best to make the Social Justice (SJ) Committee the interim “home” for continuing the discussion of the scope of this work, especially given its organic connection to other issues (ie., poverty, healthcare, budget cuts, global militarism/arms trade, etc.). To this end, it was proposed to create a Working Group consisting of interested SJ committee members and chapter leaders and activists wanting to work on this issue, who will report back to the SJ Committee on their activities.

The remaining presentations focused on fundraising and internal business.

Next national Board of Directors meeting is tentatively planned for November 7 – 9 (2013).