Governance review

It is the Board of Trustees’ (the Board) collective responsibility to set the strategy to deliver The Society’s charitable objects and to ensure the effective governance of the charity. Following the successful adoption of the 2018-2022 Strategy − which provides a five-year framework for activities and a systematic approach to agreeing priorities (but at the same time flexibility and agility in The Society’s focus) − the Board agreed it was an ideal opportunity to bring in an external governance consultant. The consultant came to review both the structure and processes of The Society’s governance to ensure they comply with best practice, as well as serve the interests of The Society and help increase membership participation in Society affairs. We are now in the implementation stage which, as with any complex project, will be via a phased approach to ensure we get it right. The first step is ensuring transparent communications to the membership.

Aims of the review

  • ensure improved inclusion and diversity within the governance structure
  • ensure transparency and accountability in the way decision-making and responsibilities are distributed and information flows across The Society
  • enable efficient and effective decision-making through clear, delegated lines of authority
  • ensure the governance structure supports the delivery of the strategy and provides a balance of agility, expertise and engagement through a series of focused, time-limited groups, allowing the Board to focus on core strategic areas
  • ensure the legitimacy of governing documents of The Society, meaning that the Articles of Association and Regulations reflect best practice

There are three Trustee approved changes to our governance structure and processes which are bulleted below and some of these involve changing elements of our Articles of Association and Regulations.

  • Amendments to the committee structure and the processes through which we form those committees
  • Amendments to the Board structure and composition
  • Updates to The Society Articles of Association (Articles) and Regulations

The changes to the committee structure, explained in more detail below, will take effect from the 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 10 July 2019 at Physiology 2019. Nominations to committees are now open! Click here for further information on the available positions and how to apply!

The changes to the Board composition and the updates to the Articles and Regulations require the voting membership to pass a special resolution which we intend to undertake at a Special General Meeting (SGM) later in the year. Further commentary on this will follow in due course.

Structural changes

The new structure is presented in this diagram and explained below.

Advisory Committees

One of the main goals for the review was to ensure that the committee structure, through which much of our scientific activities of are organised, is the most effective in realising our strategy and to increase opportunities for Member participation and inclusivity. As a result, one of the main changes is the streamlining of our committees and the introduction of a series of focused, time-limited groups. This delegation of projects to smaller groups allows committees broad oversight of topics but also more opportunity to reflect on strategic projects they would like to recommend to the Board. The focused groups are ideal for Members who have more specific and specialist interests.

There will be three Advisory Committees:

  • Conferences Committee
  • Education, Public Engagement and Policy
  • Publications Committee

Our Members are at the heart of The Society and so to fully embed membership engagement across all areas of the strategic activity each Advisory Committee will have:

  • A Membership Champion at established career level
  • An early career Membership Champion
  • A Diversity and Inclusion Champion. This person may also be one of the two Membership Champions.
  • Ability to bring on more externals to diversify skills, experience and perspectives

The Board are unanimous in the value of the Affiliate Working Group and the contribution of early career researchers to The Society’s activities and have embedded their representation across all Committees thought the introduction of an Early Career Membership Champion position on each. The Membership Categories and Journey Task and Finish Group (explained further below) will further consider how best to utilise the wider network of Early Career Physiologists as a consultation tool.

The Meetings Committee has been renamed to “Conferences Committee” to reflect wider use of this word in the science community.

Click here to view all committee Terms of Reference.

All nominations processes to our committees will be GDPR compliant, fair, transparent, skills based and guided by The Society’s aims for equality, diversity and inclusion. Click here for current vacancies and how to apply. Click here to view the full rules and processes.


A Task-Force is a smaller group that focuses on one topic rather than a full strategic strand but which will exist for the longer term. Rather than meet regularly, they may lie dormant for a short period and then come back into action when there is a piece of relevant work or a discrete project.

For example:

  • In vivo Task-Force
  • History and Archives Task-Force

Committees and Task-Forces are set up by the Board of Trustees.

Expert Panels

An Expert Panel is a group which exist for a limited period of time in order to provide advice on a specific topic. Its membership is likely to be predominantly externals.

We currently have one Expert Panel: Life Long Health Expert Panel.

Task-and-Finish groups

A Task and Finish group is a group which exists for a defined period of time to deliver a specified piece of work.

For example:

  • Membership Categories and Journey Review
  • Conferences Strategy
  • Grants Review

Expert Panels and Task-And-Finish groups can be set up by the Board of Trustees or a committee.

Membership to these groups will usually be determined by the body that sets them up and will be via invitation remaining fair, transparent, skills based and guided by The Society’s aims for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Scientific Advisory Board (SAB)

The SAB will be a group of high profile physiology, biomedical and industry leaders that provide external perspective for horizon scanning and advice to the Board on emerging trends in physiology and the wider landscape in which we operate. Importantly the SAB will not have authority to make decisions on Society matters but give input into on topics for the Board to consider which assist The Society in exploring and advancing new directions in physiology.

Such areas might include:

  • horizon scanning: what’s the next hypoxia or microbiome?
  • the impact on physiology of current scientific advances and innovations such as artificial intelligence and big data
  • the relationship between physiology and other scientific disciplines, especially interdisciplinary research that includes physiology
  • the translation of research in basic physiology into clinical practice
  • areas earmarked for funding
  • specific areas of research that would benefit from The Society’s support through conferences, special issues etc.

Scientific Activities Forum (SAF)

The SAF is a co-ordination group which formalises the cross communication of Advisory Committees Chairs. It will help The Society deliver its strategic objectives by discussing topics which cut across the Advisory Committees, providing joined-up working and cross-fertilisation. The SAF will comprise the Chairs of the three Advisory Committees, and an International Representative Trustee.  Two of these members will also act as a Membership Representative Trustee and a Diversity and Inclusion Champion. The President-elect will be invited to chair the SAF.

The International Representative Trustee and the Membership Representative Trustee will suggest ideas for keeping Membership and International Membership at the heart of The Society. The SAF will also discuss and monitor Diversity and Inclusion progress within The Society

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