Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference – Ecosystem Science Council

These terms of reference form the basis for the establishment of the Ecosystem Science Council. At a minimum, they will be reviewed by the Council every four years from January 2016, but may also be reviewed at any time should circumstances require it. The terms of reference may be amended by agreement of the full Council following review. Outcomes of any review of the Terms and any amendments made will be communicated and explained openly to the ecosystem science community.

In the absence of a review or amendments to these Terms of Reference, they remain in place.

The Ecosystem Science Council works with all individuals, groups and organisations within the ecosystem science and management communities to advance the goals of Foundations for the Future: a long-­‐term plan for Australian ecosystem science.

Foundations for the Future outlines six key directions, each with a focus, for building the future of Australian ecosystem science:

  • Delivering maximum impact for Australia: enhancing relationships between scientists and end Priority: Improved communication and collaboration between ecosystem scientists, and the people who can use the knowledge and other outputs generated by ecosystem science.
  • Supporting long-­‐term research. Priority: Dedicated funding for long-­‐term (a decade or longer) ecosystem research, complementing existing support for short-­‐term research.
  • Enabling ecosystem surveillance. Priority: Development of systematic, continental-­‐scale monitoring of essential ecosystem variables that reflect the health of our ecosystems.
  • Making the most of data resources. Priority: Sustained infrastructure and capacity for consistent collection, publication and archiving of ecosystem science data sets and meta-­‐data in standard, easily accessible formats in publicly accessible websites.
  • Inspiring a generation: empowering the public with knowledge and Priority: A general public that is inspired, informed and empowered with knowledge and understanding of Australian ecosystems.
  • Facilitating coordination, collaboration and leadership. Priority: A more collaborative and coordinated ecosystem science community including the formation of an ‘Ecosystem Science Council’ to offer leadership to implement the Plan, working with all relevant discipline areas, organisations, societies and professions.

The Council has four main responsibilities:

  • facilitating communication and coordination across the ecosystem science community
  • coordinating the delivery of activities outlined in Foundations for the Future
  • seeking resources to support the delivery of activities outlined in Foundations for the future, including the activities of the Council itself and other working groups
  • reviewing and evaluating progress towards the goals of Foundations for the Future.

The Council complements the roles of existing leadership groups, societies, organisations etc. in ecosystem science, acting as a vehicle for collaboration and coordinated action across the community. The Council will coordinate and be involved with a number of working groups to enable progress towards each of the six key directions of Foundations for the Future.

The Council is responsible for leading the progression towards the vision outlined in Foundations for the future: ‘that by 2035, the status of Australian ecosystems and how they change will be widely reported and understood, and the prosperity and wellbeing they provide will be secure. To enable this, Australia’s national ecosystem science capability will be coordinated, collaborative, and connected. Knowledge from ecosystem science will be available and essential to government, industry, the general public, and for research and educational institutions.

To support the achievement of this vision, the Council will apply the following guiding principles throughout its activities:

  • Working to our shared vision: All efforts are in support of the shared vision articulated in the Foundations for the Future. This shared purpose remains the primary focus and driver of individual and collective efforts.
  • Strength in diversity: A diversity of disciplines and approaches are required to enhance our understanding of ecosystems, and the contributions of all are appreciated and valued.
  • Positive and innovative: A proactive approach is vital, to look for new opportunities to advance towards our shared vision and to seek solutions to challenges that arise.
  • Effective communication: All activities are grounded in openness and transparency, with respectful expression of ideas and opinions, and active listening to the perspectives of others.
  • Reliable and trustworthy: Everyone takes individual responsibility for their roles, ownership of problems, and pride in the quality of activities and work carried out in support of the Foundations for the Future.
  • Collaborative and supportive: In working to a shared vision with a diverse community, it is important to actively seek opportunities to share ideas, connect, and collaborate across discipline and institutional boundaries.
  • Accountability: Each individual holds themselves and others accountable to these principles.

The Council recognises that ecosystem science draws on a large number of disciplines that contribute to our understanding of the biosphere through the study of the environment and the interactions within and between organisms from all kingdoms with their environments. It spans terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, marine and atmospheric ecosystems and informs policy and management.

Membership of the Council will comprise:

  • 11 people
  • Members who are experienced, influential, skilled and have the commitment to facilitate implementation of the six key directions of the Foundations for the future;
  • As far as possible, membership from a cross-­‐section of the sectors and ecosystem science-­‐related disciplines described in Foundations for the Future;
  • Aim to include least one early-­‐mid career scientist, and aim for gender balance.

The roles and responsibilities of the Council are:

1.To oversee the implementation of Foundations for the Future (the Plan) and coordinate periodic revisions of the Plan in collaboration with the ecosystem science community. To that end, the Council will:

    1. Develop an implementation strategy for the Plan, including clear targets for progress
    2. Seek funding where necessary to develop and implement the Plan
    3. Create working groups to implement the Plan. Each of these groups will be responsible for developing and implementing work plans for deliverables under the implementation strategy and reporting on progress to the Council. The Council is responsible for ensuring communication and coordination across working groups is maintained.

2.To act as an advocacy group for ecosystem science. In that role, they will:

    1. Engage with the ecosystem science community to increase participation in the Plan
    2. Maintain regular communication with the community about completed, ongoing, and planned activities and ensure participation is open to all
    3. Build strong relationships with end-­‐users of ecosystem science, in the public and private sectors, so that: (1) end user needs are better represented to the research community, and (2) needs of the ecosystem science community are advocated in the public and private sector.

In undertaking its role, the Council will provide an annual report to the ecosystem science community in September each year, beginning in 2015 that includes:

A.  A summary of This might refer to more detailed reports about particular working plans that have been made public during the year.

B.  Membership of the Council and any changes during the year.

C.  An annual financial report.

D.  Evaluation of the success of its activities in achieving Council goals.

  • At a minimum, the Council will meet monthly via teleconference
  • There will be at least one annual face-­‐to-­‐face meeting of the Council.

  • Over half of Council members are required for quorum
  • Decisions should be made by consensus
  • If consensus cannot be reached, decisions will be made by a majority vote of the full Council, which may occur out of session.

Membership of the Ecosystem Science Council is a working role, and members of the Council are expected to actively engage in the activities of the Council, including but not limited to:

  • Attending meetings of the Council
  • Engagement with stakeholder groups and funding organisations
  • Active input to development and implementation of strategic plans
  • Coordination of and participation in working groups to achieve desired outcomes
  • Preparation of reports and grants
  • Promoting the Plan
  • Encouraging involvement across the ecosystem science and management communities

Officers of the Council (chair, deputy-­‐chair, secretary, treasurer) will have additional responsibilities as required by these roles.

It is expected that at a minimum, resourcing will enable basic secretariat support to be provided to the Council.

It is estimated that the time commitment required of Council members may be approximately 10 weeks per year.

  • Member terms will follow calendar years and finish in December
  • Standard member terms will last for 4 years; members can, however, resign at any time. If a member resigns the Council will select a replacement member to complete that term of service.
  • Half of founding members will serve a 4-­‐year term, and half of founding members will serve a 2-­‐ year term. This will ensure overlap between members sitting on the Council.

In addition, it is preferred that:

  • New members of the Council should be, in order of preference: (1) new councillors who have never served on the Council before, (2) former members of Council who are nominating for a non-consecutive term, (3) current members of the Council who are nominating to renew for a second term of service on Council.
  • At a maximum, no more than 25% of sitting members may nominate for renewal of a term on the Council. No member may serve more than two consecutive 4-year terms.
  • Officers of the Council will be experienced members that have already served at least two years on the Council, and therefore, they will serve a maximum of two years as an Officer.
  • Officers of the Council do not renew their role as an Officer.

An open and transparent election for members of the Ecosystem Science Council is the chosen method with a view to ensuring that the Council has the support and mandate of the wider ecosystem science community. The process should also aim for a Council that has diverse and balanced composition as outlined in these Terms of Reference.

To these ends the Council will be selected through a two­‐part process:

  • an open vote for nominated candidates by registered people throughout the Australian ecosystem science community, which will identify the first half of the required members of the Council;
  • selection of the remaining candidates, from amongst the existing nominees, by the previous Council with a view to the next Council meeting desiderata for diverse composition of In the case of the inaugural Council, this selection will be completed by the existing Steering Committee for the Plan.

Details for this process are as follows:

Council will make an open call for nominations to fill vacant places every 2 years. Council will commence the election process by at least September of the year preceding positions falling vacant.


  • The call for nominations will be open for at least 1 month, and may close at least 1 month prior to the election. This call will be spread widely throughout the ecosystem science and management communities through existing communication channels, networks through professionals societies, key organisations, emails to previous registrants for voting and on the ESLTP
  • People may self-nominate
  • Nominations will include: (1) a one-page summary of the candidate’s CV, (2) a statement of their motivation for serving on the Council and capacity for the role (no more than 2 pages); and (3) a signed statement indicating that the candidate subscribes to the principles and ideals outlined for the Council, and that they are willing to commit the required time and energy to undertake the Council’s work.
  • Council may circulate the list of nominees confidentially to representatives of discipline societies and other stakeholder groups inviting their comment especially on overall mix of the Council’s membership, and to elicit further nominees after close of nominations where representation is not balanced or if there are too few suitable nominees. If necessary the Council will postpone the timeline of vote as needed.
  • Council reserves the right to declare a nomination ineligible if the nominee’s statement of motivation and capacity is not aligned with one or more of the first five key directions in Foundations for the Future (see “Purpose of the Council” in these Terms of Reference). Decision of Council in this matter will be final and not subject to challenge or review.

Registration for voting:

  • Any person who identifies themselves as a member of the Australian ecosystem science community is eligible to vote.
  • An online registration process will be open for at least one month prior to the vote taking place.
  • Registering voters will need to provide basic contact information including an institutional email address (e.g. University, employer), State, category of work, and primary affiliation. Where an institutional email cannot be provided, a brief description of the voter’s connection with Australian ecosystem science will be requested.
  • Council may rule a registrant ineligible if they are not Australian citizens or residents, or if they have reason to believe one individual is registering from more than one email address, or if they do not identify themselves as a member of the Australian ecosystem science community, but not for any other reason.

The voting process:

  • All information submitted by nominees will be made available to registered voters at least 1 week prior to the vote
  • The vote will be open for at least 1 week
  • Each registered voter may only vote once
  • For each nominated candidate, the voter will judge the level of suitability for the role of Council member, from the following categories: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Poor, Not suitable, or No Opinion*
  • Each candidate will receive a rank corresponding to the category for which they receive the largest number of votes, and a subscript plus or minus according to whether there were more votes above or below the most common category. “No opinion” votes will not be counted during this ranking procedure
  • According to the voting results, the six highest-ranked people will become members of the inaugural Council, and for all subsequent elections the three highest-ranked people will become members of the Council:
Total Council member seats vacant Number of Council members to be identified by vote Number of remaining members selected for diversity complement
Inaugural election (early 2015) 11 6 5
Second election (end of 2016) 5 3 2
Third election (end of 2018) 6 3 3
All further elections will alternate between 5 and 6 member seats vacant, with 3 members to be identified by vote.


* This method of voting meets six essential demands:

  • Elicit honest voting,
  • Be meaningful,
  • Resist manipulation,
  • Heed the majority’s will
  • Avoid Condorcet’s paradox, where in the presence of at least three candidates, A, B, and C, it is entirely possible that in head-­‐ to-­‐head encounters, A defeats B, B defeats C, and C defeats A, so transitivity fails
  • Avoid Arrow’s paradox, where in the presence of at least three candidates, it is entirely possible for A to win, yet with the same voting opinions for B to defeat A when C withdraws

(For more detail see: Michel Balinski, Rida Laraki. Judge:Don’t Vote!. Cahier de recherché 2010-­27. 2010).


Selecting the final complement of Council members:

  • At the completion of the vote, the sitting Council including retiring members will decide the remaining members of the Council from among the existing nominees
  • In selecting the final complement of members, the Council must take into consideration the purpose, guiding principles, roles and responsibilities, and desired diversity of composition of the Council, to ensure that the final Council as a whole group can best meet these requirements.


  • At the completion of the voting and selection process, nominated officers of the Council will contact all nominees to advise of the outcome as soon as After this, an announcement will be made to the wider ecosystem science community
  • If a sitting member cannot complete their term, Council may select someone to fill their place for the remainder of That person need not necessarily have been a previous nominee, but they cannot continue to an additional term without participating in an open nomination and selection process.


  • A vote for officers (chair, deputy-chair, secretary and treasurer) will be conducted by the Council after each election of new members, or as needed if an officer retires their position
  • Each position will be decided by a majority vote of the Council
  • If a standing officer has not fulfilled the requirements of their role for an extended period of time for unaccounted reasons, or has otherwise given rise to dissatisfaction among a majority of the Council, then Council members may move to depose them and appoint an alternative. Such matters will be decided by a two-thirds majority vote of the full Council.

The existing Steering Committee for the Ecosystem Science Long Term Plan is responsible for coordinating the process for the selection of the inaugural Council.

Suggested timeline for the selection process:

Activity Timeline Action
Preparation July to August Council prepares for an election
Nominations and registration for voting September 1 Nomination and registration period opens
September 30 Nominations close (after 1month period)
Review of nominees and registrants October (Week 1) Council reviews nominations and make any exclusions
October (Weeks 2-3) Consult with stakeholders (wide range of discipline societies and institutions)
October (Week 3) Registration closes (after 7 weeks)
Council reviews list of registered voters and makes any exclusions
October (Week 4) Council finalises list of nominees and circulates widely
Election process November (Week 1) Voting open for 1 week
November (Week 2) Results of election compiled
Finalise Council and Officers of Council November (Week 3-­4) Completion of the appointment of remaining Council members, by the sitting Council
Announcement of composition of the new Council
December (Week 1) Appointment of Officers by the new Council
December (Mid) Terms of service for outgoing Council members conclude
January (Meeting 1) Incoming Council members will begin their term


The Council is an unincorporated, not-for-profit scientific association (ABN 14 493 025 515).

The assets and income of the Council shall be applied solely to further its purposes and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the Council except as genuine compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the Council.

Ecological Society of Australia financial hosting arrangement

The Council has a financial hosting agreement with the Ecological Society of Australia Limited, but operates independently. Ecological Society of Australia Ltd is a registered Australian company since 1 July 2000 (ABN 20 571 098 795), governed by a Board of Directors, and with Deductible Gift Recipient Status. The arrangement covers the following in-kind services requested of the Ecological Society of Australia:

  • Financial management of Council funds
  • Administrative hosting to enable employment of staff for the Council, using funding sourced by the Council.


If, upon the winding up or dissolution of the company after the satisfaction of all its debts and liabilities, there remains any property, this property must not be paid to or distributed among the members. Instead, this property must be given or transferred to some other organisation or organisations having:

  • Purpose/objects similar to the purposes of the Council, and
  • Governance rules/a constitution which prohibits the distribution of its income and property among its members to an extent at least as great as is imposed on the Council under these Terms of Reference.