This is a special edition of The Front Line.

Last evening, SWOG’s board of governors convened for a special, urgent meeting, and it cast a historic vote. In a virtual session, a quorum of the board voted to add a new leadership option to SWOG’s constitution – the option of leadership by two equal group co-chairs.

As you’re probably aware, earlier this year our group chair nominating committee put forward two exceptional candidates for consideration in the coming “standard” group chair election -- Dr. Primo “Lucky” Lara, now deputy chair of SWOG, and Dr. Dawn Hershman, now SWOG vice chair for NCORP research.

Last month these two candidates approached me and expressed a desire to serve SWOG as equal group co-chairs. Under the group constitution at that time, one of the two would have been elected group chair, with the second candidate likely to then be named deputy chair. Drs. Hershman and Lara instead proposed serving as equals.

The idea was reasonable and well thought out (see advantages below), though putting it into effect would require a change to the group’s constitution. SWOG’s executive advisory committee met, discussed the proposal, and agreed to put it before our board of governors.

I drafted proposed changes to the constitution, circulated them to SWOG leaders for commentary, and reached out to the board with the details. Last night, a quorum of the board voted – by significantly more than the required two-thirds majority – to adopt it.

As a result, at the spring group meeting next month, the board of governors will cast an up or down vote on Drs. Lara and Hershman as co-chairs-elect of SWOG.

The co-chair option has many potential advantages. Here are just a few:

  • Two candidates can bring complementary skill sets and experience
  • Leadership by co-chairs demonstrates SWOG’s commitment to team science
  • Each co-chair would have primary responsibility for one of SWOG’s core grants – NCTN and NCORP 
  • The option aligns SWOG with other NCTN groups, which have long used shared leadership models

This change to the constitution does not eliminate the model of a single group chair in the future. It simply adds the option of two candidates presenting themselves to the nominating committee as a team to be considered together in a joint candidacy to be equal co-chairs.

Here’s a summary of the mechanics of the change:

  • Each co-chair will be contact PI for one of SWOG’s two biggest grants. They will serve under a multi-PI model, with both co-chairs being named on both grants.
  • The shared decision-making process will be made crystal-clear in our upcoming grant applications, as will the flow of grant funds.
  • We expect co-chairs will truly co-lead, but each will be the ultimate authority for areas covered by their grant.
  • The board of governors will continue to have recall authority over the co-chairs –separately or together.
  • If one co-chair steps down or is removed, the remaining co-chair assumes all chair duties for the remainder of the six-year term.
  • The board will re-convene to decide how co-chairs might break a rarely seen “tie” regarding an important decision.
  • We will soon have the updated constitution posted to the SWOG website (Policy 2 in the About | Policies and Procedures section).

I’m eager to hear your thoughts, and grateful to the board for convening at an odd time and making a difficult decision. Please feel free to reach out with your questions or suggestions:

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