Bob Coward Asks ANS to Refocus and Achieve

By Will Davis; written at the 2018 ANS Annual Meeting


ANS President Bob Coward

If you walked around the palatial Philadelphia venue of the 2018 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting and bumped into outgoing ANS President Bob Coward or, for that matter, attended one of a number of sessions there, you might have heard him quote exactly, to the hour, how much time he had left as the ANS President.  Not that he was eager to leave – in fact, it seemed as if Coward was marking how much time he had left to continue to make an impact.

“I’d like to think I had a part in redirecting ANS,” Coward told a combined Communications and Membership committee meeting – itself a development in part based on Coward’s forward thinking.  Coward noted that every ANS leader wonders what his legacy will be and tries to create one, and said that a great start has been made on moving ANS where it needs to go under his leadership and, very importantly, with the help of a great many other people inside the organization.

What Coward was talking about is the need for ANS as a professional society to, putting it bluntly, “get with the times.”  In fact Coward said as much during the Opening Plenary when he essentially described the ANS of the future as not looking a great deal like the ANS of today.  And that sentiment is not just Coward’s; it echoed along the halls more than once, and those echoes are simply echoes of past discussions at past meetings running back some years.  The 1ANS initiative being promoted by the Young Members Group is another facet of the broad movement to update ANS – that is to say, make it more cohesive, yet more flexible; more responsive, and more modern in every sense so as to increase value to members everywhere.

The Plan

Attendees of the annual meeting were as always each given an ANS logo carryall bag, in which were the usual meeting program and other items.  However, a unique and new item in every bag this time was a card-sized folder which details what Coward calls a sort of rough draft of how ANS needs to change, to refocus, and better itself.  Coward told the combined Communications / Membership committee meeting that the folder’s content “wasn’t yet an official strategic vision” or anything of that sort but definitely instead a step along the way, floated to see what the response to it is.

The statements of the “Strategic Direction for 2018 and Beyond” document are simple, yet bold.  Under “Vision,” we find the statement “Nuclear science, engineering, and technology are embraced by society for their critical contributions to improving lives while preserving our planet’s vital resources.”  This is a vision for an idealized future set of perceptions of nuclear energy and technology, hopefully widely embraced.  That goal will take a considerable amount of work, which is tasked under “Mission:  Advance and promote the application of nuclear science, engineering and technology to benefit society.”

(Aside:  During a panel session at the meeting, GAIN Director Rita Baranwal asked a large assembled audience to raise hands if those assembled felt each had a responsibility to advocate for nuclear energy.  Not all hands went up; she said “I will say a few things and the next time I ask, I’d hope that everyone here would raise their hands when asked that same question.”  This is the sort of level of dedication she, and Bob Coward, envision as necessary for nuclear power to not just survive but hopefully advance and again become vibrant.)

One of the four priorities presented on this new Strategic Vision “draft document” has been mentioned – the idea of 1ANS, or a unitary, collaborative society that benefits all of its members.  Another priority is to make members “be sought after” – which is to say that every member should strive to deliver value to all ANS members, and to stakeholders.  Members are asked to be forward-looking and anticipate what members and the society needs and, perhaps more difficult, to both influence and evolve with society lest it be left standing.  Finally, the new strategy asks members to become influential voices and tasks the society to increase effectiveness of all of its advocacy efforts, no matter what they may be.

It’s true that Bob Coward as of now holds the esteemed position of “ANS Past President,” but it’s clear that he got everything he could out of his time – even in the last few hours.


Will DavisWill Davis is a member of the Board of Directors for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. He is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and used to write his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is also a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, and serves on the ANS Communications Committee and is incoming Vice Chair of the Book Publishing Committee. He is a former U.S. Navy reactor operator and served on SSBN-641, USS Simon Bolivar.  His popular Twitter account, @atomicnews is mostly devoted to nuclear energy, its technology and its history.

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