AEJMC Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk Interest Group Constitution and Bylaws
Amended and Ratified at the Annual Meeting 2016


Article I: Name

The Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk Interest Group (“ComSHER”) is organized under the authority of and in conformity with Article V of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (“AEJMC”) Constitution and Bylaws. The name serves to represent the core foci of the group.

Article II: Purpose

Consistent with Article I, Section 2 of the AEJMC Constitution and Bylaws, the purpose of ComSHER is to foster the following related to mass communication more generally, and to science, health, environment and risk communication more specifically: a) high academic and professional standards for education, b) high quality research and scholarship, c) mentoring of junior scholars who are pursuing the study of ComSHER’s core foci, d) relationship building with other AEJMC divisions and interest groups, professionals and practitioners to enhance the inherently interdisciplinary foci of ComSHER, e) and ideals consistent with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Article III: Membership

Regular membership in ComSHER is restricted to AEJMC members in good standing who are also dues- paying members of ComSHER. ComSHER is committed to inclusiveness related to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, physical ability and sexual orientation. All ComSHER members, including faculty, staff, students and professionals, are considered regular, voting members. Membership is ComSHER does not carry with it membership in AEJMC (Article 2, Section 3 of AEJMC Bylaws).

Article IV: Officers and Executive Committee

The officers of ComSHER are as follows: Head, Vice Head/Program Chair, Vice Head Elect, and Research Chair. Duties of each are summarized in the ComSHER Bylaws. These four officers, along with the immediate past head of the Division, shall comprise the Executive Committee of the Division. Nominations (including self-nominations) to stand for election to one of the officer positions must be received by the Executive Committee no later than two days (48 hours) prior the annual meeting. Anyone wishing to run must have completed one year of service for the Division in a leadership position and two years of paper reviews for Division paper competition. These officers will be elected at the annual meeting by a majority of those in attendance. Their terms shall be from October 1 through September 30. To maintain consistency, the following succession should be maintained whenever possible: vice head/program chair should become head, the vice head elect should become vice head/program chair, and research chair should become vice head elect. Should any officer be unable to complete his/her duties, the head may appoint another member in good standing as a replacement. If the Head is unable to complete his/her duties, the Vice Head will assume the responsibilities of the Head.

Article V: Appointed Leadership Positions

The Executive Committee of ComSHER shall each year appoint officers to fill the following positions: Professional Freedom and Responsibility Chair, Teaching Chair, Student Liaison, Secretary, Newsletter Editor, Website Editor and Social Media Editor. Up to two people can be appointed to each of these positions to facilitate transitions to new chairs and involve more people in Division activities. All ComSHER members are eligible to serve in appointed leadership positions; however students may only serve in the capacity of Student Liaison, Secretary, Newsletter Editor, Website Editor and Social Media Editor. Duties for each position are summarized in the ComSHER Bylaws. If at all possible, indications of interest to serve in appointed positions should be communicated to the Head two days (48 hours) prior the annual meeting. Their terms shall be from October 1 through September 30. The Head shall reserve the right to fill mid-year vacancies in Appointed Positions with qualified volunteer members of ComSHER. Furthermore, in consultation with the Executive Committee, the Head may appoint ad hoc committees as needed to pursue the work of ComSHER.

Article VI: Dues

Officers shall have the right to appraise the need for operating funds (“Dues”), and to make recommendations about raising or lowering the dues. Any recommendation related to dues can be ratified by a simple majority of the membership present at the annual business meeting.

Article VII: Meetings

The ComSHER annual business meeting will be held concurrently with the annual convention of AEJMC. Officers and executive committee members are expected to attend the annual convention of AEJMC and the ComSHER annual business meeting, however the annual business meeting is open to all dues-paying members, other members of AEJMC, and any other interested parties. Business matters to be taken up at this meeting include electing new officers, receiving officer and committee reports, holding discussions related to business, and responding to queries from members. A quorum at the annual meeting shall consist of those dues-paying members who are physically present and decisions shall be made by majority vote of these dues-paying members present and voting.

Throughout the rest of the year, the head may present business to the executive committee via mail, phone or email and may query the larger membership likewise.

Article VIII: Treasury

Funds of ComSHER shall be deposited with the AEJMC treasurer (Article 2, Section 7, AEJMC Bylaws). Funds will be accounted for and disbursed according to the procedures mandated by AEJMC general requirements. Responsibility for expenditure of funds shall rest with the ComSHER head, with approval of the vice head and executive committee. ComSHER is required to carry forward a positive balance each October 1.

Article IX: Publications

The ComSHER newsletter is Sciphers, which shall be overseen by the Newsletter Editor and published regularly with input from ComSHER members and officers. The newsletter must be sent to members at least twice a year.

The ComSHER Website shall publish and archive all news related to the group and its business, including past issues of the newsletter. The Website shall be overseen by the Website Editor.

Article X: Amendments

The ComSHER Constitution and Bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the membership present at the annual business meeting, or by electronic/online voting. For electronic/online votes, ballots (or links to ballots) will be distributed via email to the Division’s membership list. Except in extraordinary cases, members will be provided at least two weeks to cast their votes. Electronic/online votes on amendments to the Constitution/Bylaws will be passed/approved by a majority of votes cast (not a majority of the full membership).

Article I: Duties of Officers

The head of ComSHER shall be the executive officer of the group, and shall supervise its business, lead the annual ComSHER business meeting and communicate regularly with the executive committee of ComSHER and with the administrators of AEJMC. More specifically, the Head is responsible for a) attending the AEJMC Council of Divisions meetings, b) ensuring that all deadlines are met concerning the annual convention program, and c) the ComSHER annual report due to AEJMC central office by June 15 and a supplemental report due in early September.

The vice head/programming chair shall assist the head with the above duties. As program chair, the vice head must ensure that ComSHER is appropriately represented in the programming of the annual conference. The vice head must prepare for these programming duties by meeting all deadlines put forth by AEJMC central office. The vice head/programming chair is also responsible for distributing the call for proposals for PF&R and Teaching panels each fall. The vice head is responsible for promoting and coordinating the Article of the Year Award. The vice head should request complimentary non-member speaker registrations and order plaques for paper winners.

The vice head elect will observe and assist the vice head/programming chair in order to learn and understand those leadership functions and responsibilities. The vice head elect will also assist and advise the research chair. The precise nature of the duties shared by the vice head elect and the research chair when it comes to recruiting reviewers, administering the paper competition, programming the research, and assigning moderators and discussants, will be worked out between the two officers based on their personal strengths and preferences. The vice head elect is responsible for promoting and coordinating the poster competition at the conference.

The Research Chair shall oversee the annual call for research papers, the online submission of research papers, the recruitment of paper reviewers, the assignment of reviewers to papers received, the acceptance and rejection of papers and all communication with authors and reviewers regarding this process. The research chair shall also oversee the student paper competition and work with the head and vice head in selecting the winner of the annual Eason award. To ensure that this process goes smoothly, the research chair must be in contact with the AEJMC central office to ensure he/she is properly trained on the electronic submission and review system and that he/she meets all related deadlines.

Incoming heads and the research chair who are voted in at the annual business meeting are required to attend or send a representative to a training session usually held on the last days of the annual conference preceding his/her year in office.

Article II: Duties of Appointed Leadership

The Professional Freedom and Responsibility Chair reports to the vice head and is responsible for soliciting and planning PF&R panel sessions for the annual conference. Those sessions should be focused on freedom of expression legally and intellectually, ethical issues among media educators and practitioners, media criticism and accountability, minority affairs, and liaisons between educators and professionals. The proposed panels should be shared with the Vice Head and Head well before the Winter meeting to assist with decisions that will be made at the Council of Divisions programming meeting and the related AEJMC central office deadlines that precede that meeting. For panels that are ultimately programmed, the PF&R chair must follow-up with invited panelists and moderators, and oversee those panels at the annual convention.

The Teaching Chair reports to the vice head is responsible for soliciting and planning teaching sessions for the annual conference. Those sessions should be focused on issues related to teaching science, health, environment or risk communication. The proposed panels should be shared with the Vice Head and Head well before the Winter meeting to assist with decisions that will be made at the Council of Divisions programming meeting and the related AEJMC central office deadlines that precede that meeting. For panels that are ultimately programmed, the teaching chair must follow-up with invited panelists and moderators, and oversee the panels at the annual convention.

The Student Liaison works to recruit new student members and otherwise offers support to the student members of ComSHER.

The Secretary takes notes at the annual ComSHER business meeting and provides an electronic copy of those notes to the executive committee within 3 days of the meeting. The Secretary is also in charge of planning and executing the annual ComSHER field trip and ComSHER social at the convention.

The Newsletter, Website and Social Media editors oversee the solicitation of content for, editing of, and delivery or maintenance of their publications/media.

Article III: ComSHER Article of the Year Award Introduction

The purpose of this award is to honor the year’s best science, health, environment and/or risk article by an Association for Education and Journalism and Mass Communication member and thereby enhance the quality of scholarship within the sub-field and within the association.


  1. Any AEJMC member may nominate a journal article by an AEJMC member for consideration for the “ComSHER Article of the Year Award.” Self-nominations are permitted. For multiple- author publications, only one author needs to have been an AEJMC member. Membership is understood to mean membership for some period of time in the year of the paper being considered (i.e., to receive the award for a paper from 2010, the author must have been an AEJMC member during 2010).
  2. Only one first-author journal article per member will be considered in a given year. A scholar may be a non-first author on no more than two articles. In the event that multiple papers from a scholar are nominated, that scholar will select which paper(s) will receive consideration.
  3. Eligible papers will be those published in the year preceding the conference (i.e., papers published in a volume from 2010 would have been eligible for the award in 2011). Papers that appear online as a pre-print are not eligible until they appear in print. Online only journal articles are eligible in the year they first appear online. Any ComSHER focused English-language article by an AEJMC member from a peer-reviewed journal is eligible.
  4. Nominations are due to the Vice Head (by email or some other designated online submission procedure) by 11:59 p.m. on May 1st each year. The Vice Head will also be responsible for publicizing the award in January and February. These dates may be amended in any given year by a majority decision of the ComSHER Head, Vice Head, Vice Head Elect, and Research Chair.


  • A Selection Panel comprised of the Vice Head and two evaluators will rate all submissions and decide on the top six articles that will continue to full consideration by a five to seven member Award Review Panel. In the event that an officer is ineligible because of a nominated article, another member of the ComSHER executive may be selected by the Head to serve in that officer’s place. The lead authors of the six finalist articles will be asked to recommend two possible reviewers each.
  • The Vice Head will recruit both evaluators on the Selection Panel and all judges on the Award Review Panel each year. Those eligible to be on the panel will include past ComSHER/SciGroup heads, peer-reviewed journal editors or associate editors and full professors. Panel members may not review in years for which they have articles nominated for consideration, nor can a panel member be on both the Selection and Award Review panels in the same year. The Vice Head should attempt to ensure an adequate representation of researchers who are knowledgeable in a range of methods and substantive topics and who are representative of AEJMC and ComSHER’s commitment to diversity.
  • Each judge will be asked to review all selected articles. Judges will be asked to recuse themselves from judging any articles authored or co-authored by: 1) current or former student(s)/advisee(s), 2) current or former co-author(s), or 3) close personal friend(s)or other relationship(s) that represent a conflict of interest.
  • Each article must be scored by at least three (3) judges; if recusals result in any paper being scored by fewer than three (3) judges, the Vice Head shall recruit more judges as necessary.
  • Each article will be scored based on the top scores equal to the minimum number of judges,to ensure all articles are evaluated based on the same number of scores.
    1. For example, if one article has only 4 judges due to recusals, and all the other articles are judges by 6 judges (no recusals), then all the articles will be evaluated based on their top 4 scores.
  • Each article will be scored on 2-4 7-point Likert items (1=strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree) measuring article quality and impact, as agreed by the Executive Committee and the contest judges. The scores on these items will be summated for each judge and the article with the highest average score among all judges scoring that article (as described above) will be the winner.


    1. Winners will receive a certificate and be able to indicate on their curriculum vitae and elsewhere that they won the “Science, Health, Environment and Risk Communication Article of the Year Award” in the year in which they win it. Their names will be highlighted on the ComSHER website. If at all possible, they should appear in person to receive the award at the annual ComSHER business meeting. At present, the award does not include a monetary prize.

    Article IV: Failure to Present

    The Executive Committee has the authority to penalize submitters of accepted papers for failure to appear to present the research at the annual conference. For faculty papers, accepted papers must be presented by one of the authors listed on the submission, unless otherwise authorized in advance by the Executive Committee. For student papers, accepted papers should be presented by one of the authors listed on the submission if at all possible, but non-authors may present on their behalf if authorized in advance by the Executive Committee. If no authorized person appears to present an accepted paper, the author(s) should not list the conference paper on their CV(s). In addition, the Executive Committee can penalize the author(s) by barring them from submitting to the Division for one (1) year. All reasonable extenuating circumstances will be considered by the Executive Committee when making penalty decisions. These rules apply to ALL conference research presentation formats. For scholar-to-scholar and poster sessions, this means being on hand for information exchange with the discussant and other conference goers, NOT just putting up and taking down the poster.

    Article V: Maximum Numbers of Submissions

    In any one year, an individual can appear as author or co-author on a maximum of two (2) submitted research papers. If one individual appears as author or co-author on more than two (2) submitted research papers, the Executive Committee will have the right to disqualify some or all of the papers in question from the research competition.