The entire council of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) has resigned after its recommendation to dissolve the organization failed to win sufficient support from members.
Membership of the 109-year-old ANZAAS numbered thousands in the 1980s but is now down to about 400. Annual congresses, once its main source of revenue, have attracted few paying delegates in recent years (see Nature 389, 532; 1997).
But a move to wind up the organization was opposed at a heavily attended special meeting, held in eight main Australian cities before Christmas and linked by phone.
Motions presented by the state divisions of New South Wales and Tasmania that ANZAAS should continue, but with its focus shifting from national to regional activities, were supported by simple majorities. The votes, however, were not binding on council members, who argued that there was no alternative to winding up the association.
Bruce McKellar, who chairs the association, then put two resolutions legally required to wind up the organization. One was to approve dissolution, the other to transfer assets of A$100,000 (US$65,000) and some functions to a foundation run by the Australian Academy of Science.
This move was supported by ANZAAS president Sir Gustav Nossal, the former director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. But although both motions secured simple majorities, each failed to achieve the three-quarters of the votes required under ANZAAS's constitution.
The departure of council members means a reshaping of ANZAAS may now take place. But some state divisions which voted against carrying on are likely to drop out. These include Victoria where McKellar, a theoretical physicist, resigned as dean of science in the University of Melbourne after a recent external review was highly critical of his administration.