ESPGHAN Member Consultation - Liaison Officer and Paid Roles
Liaison Officer and Paid roles for Members
Dear ESPGHAN Members, friends and colleagues,
To address concerns raised by some members at our last AGM, we recently provided an overview of the timeline and processes involved in creation of the ESPGHAN Liaison Officer post, with an overview of the justification and specifications for the post*. We also expressed our intention of consulting further with members on this role and on the more general principle of paid roles for ESPGHAN members.
* Available in the members area of the ESPGHAN website – AGM 2023.
Following discussion, Council has agreed a 3-stage process:
- Online consultation with members (this consultation)
- Discussion as a topic at the 2024 strategy day, including the consultation responses
- Preparation of a summary of the conclusions from stage 1 and 2, with discussion and voting at the 2024 AGM
Before providing your opinions in a survey link, we invite you to read the briefing information below.
- ESPGHAN Liaison Officer
Need for the role
ESPGHAN continues to change. Our Society has evolved from a closed circle of scientists with membership by invitation to a large professional body with global reach, encompassing and representing the diverse spectrum of the field of PGHAN. With this development, we as a Society must respond to new opportunities and challenges. To achieve our Society’s vision to reduce the burden of digestive and nutritional diseases and to improve and promote the digestive and nutritional health in paediatric age groups, we have developed and nurtured communication and interaction on many levels with sister societies, European and intergovernmental institutions, legislators, policy making bodies, patient and parent groups and many other impactful associations.
Our enormous success has led to novel challenges. ESPGHAN is asked to be present at many formal and informal discussions to drive progress in the wide European field of PGHAN. Increasingly these areas are underserved which include gaps on the political and public agenda map where ESPGHAN could be the competent voice in the interest of our patients and families.
To address these needs in the public domain, we must find novel ways of advocacy and accurate communication. A post is needed to provide focus, continuity and professionalism.
Examples of 2023 projects being undertaken by the LO:
1. Addressing the impact of the new EU legislation on the supply of paediatric medical devices
2. Lobbying for improvement in the availability of paediatric medicines
3. Increasing the visibility of PGHAN topics in general paediatrics
Example activities of the LO to achieve this:
1. Setting up ESPGHAN at the EU parliament level as an approved lobbying organisation
2. Forging and strengthening alliances with other national and international paediatric societies with common aims
3. Facilitating strategic action groups with the additional stakeholders to address the individual initiatives
The need for a senior ESPGHAN member in this role
The new Liaison Officer post requires an ESPGHAN colleague with in depth knowledge of the Society, who has worked to the highest clinical and scientific standards and is capable of providing continuity and perseverance combined with professionalism and focus. An external consultant would not meet these criteria.
Why should the postholder be paid?
The task to be addressed is different from the voluntary positions that already exist within ESPGHAN. The new Liaison Officer position is intended to strengthen and facilitate, not to replace, the work of our members. It is a service position that provides limited personal profile, with applications invited via an open call to members. The post needs continuity and perseverance in topics outside the usual interests of a clinician scientist. The postholder must have a high degree of flexibility to meet the needs of a pan-European commitment and travel. Payment (currently 0.3 FTE) is further justified by the requirement that the postholder must forego any paid work for Industry to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest (including but not limited to honoraria for lectures and reimbursement for travel or accommodation).
Evaluation of the role
The activities undertaken by the Liaison Officer will be presented at the AGM. The impact and outcome for the Society of the post will be reviewed by the Council after 2 years to determine whether it has met objectives.
- General principle of paid roles for ESPGHAN members
Throughout the history of ESPGHAN, its Officers and representatives have been volunteers, and members are proud of the spirit of the Society where contributions have been rewarded by recognition, a sense of achievement and qualities such as friendship and trust. There is concern that payment may change the character of ESPGHAN. However, in recent years our Societal life has seen changes in the perception of financial compensation. Reimbursement for member contribution to the Annual meeting was introduced only 7 years ago following requests by many members. Still today the Office receives requests to increase this compensation. ESPGHAN members working for our Journal JPGN and JPGN Reports receive an honorarium. Some endoscopy training centres are reimbursed by our Society for taking on trainees. Whilst these examples are not directly comparable to a paid service position in our Society, they illustrate the changing world we live in, indicating the need to reimburse significant costs. We are not advocating to introduce more paid roles for members in the foreseeable future, but we are encouraging an open and honest discussion on the potential need for conscious and careful change in the medium-term.
The rationale for the specific ESPGHAN Liaison Officer role is described above.
What are the potential concerns and risks associated with paid member roles?
An issue of significant concern to some colleagues is that establishing the precedent of paying ESPGHAN members to undertake certain duties will change the ethos of the Society and may lead to unintended consequences in future. An alternative perspective is that in future, with increasing demands of ESPGHAN roles, difficulties in taking time away from clinical or academic duties and changing perspectives on work-life balance, it is conceivable that paid roles may become more necessary to ensure efficient functioning and achieve the objectives of our Society. However, payment for specific roles does not and must not question the general principle of voluntary work. There are currently no plans to extend paid roles beyond the Liaison Officer post.
Can these risks and concerns be mitigated?
Currently our Constitution, which can only be changed with the approval of members at the AGM, does not mention payment of members**. Financial compensation of members is governed by the Rules & Regulations which is a living document that is frequently altered by Council. A potential solution to mitigate concerns about the precedent of paid roles for ESPGHAN members would be to add a clause to the Constitution so that payment of members for specific roles is permitted but each role must be agreed by members via a vote at the AGM.
**The Constitution currently permits appropriate compensation of Council members for activities beyond the usual function.
Please use the following link for your opinions and comments on the above information: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NF2HQTX
We would kindly ask for your feedback before 17:00 CEST on the 31st of August 2023.