PDF file Download PDF Article

Published: 6 March 2015

Jon Iredell

President of ASM

Along with all the sciences, our discipline is evolving quickly in all areas from pure research to applied and professional. The ASM was formed more than half a century ago to promote the discipline of microbiology and its role is now more important than ever. The national leadership is conscious of the need to adapt and change and has been moving in the past few years to do so, with gathering momentum. One of our most important platforms is our national meeting, developed to promote the exchange of ideas. The membership of the society is increasingly drawn to other conferences to meet their needs and this must be recognised and accommodated. Our approach to meetings including our national scientific meeting must evolve with it, as in comparable societies.

We now see increased centralisation and automation and much greater incorporation of molecular diagnostics and other aspects of biotechnology in industry, environmental and diagnostic microbiology. Accordingly, a national meeting under the auspices of the ASM to give a platform to discuss research and development in these fast-moving areas and to provide workshops for skill development is being explored, initially focusing on clinical diagnostic microbiology. This follows the development of an additional ASM Travel award for clinical microbiologists (http://www.theasm.org.au/awards/asm-clinical-microbiology-travel-award/) and the Lyn Gilbert Award (http://www.theasm.org.au/awards/asm-lyn-gilbert-award/) for contributions in clinical microbiology, awarded for the first time in 2014.

Highly specialised meetings are important and essential for career development and networking and for exchange of the latest information between experts in fast-moving and competitive areas of endeavour. Deep and narrow in scope by definition, attendance at these to the exclusion of broader conversations may not meet the complete needs of early career microbiologists. We must therefore not only embrace and nurture new directions in microbiology but be open to ideas coming from outside that which we have long regarded as conventional or traditional microbiology. We can look to the annual scientific meeting as a venue for transdisciplinary microbiology that is difficult to manage in highly specialised meetings. This shift will be seen at the integrated symposia in Canberra (ASM 2015), in the themed meeting in Perth (ASM 2016) and in the planning of ASM 2017 in Hobart.

A link to state branches and the Visiting Speaker program and other well-established infrastructure is another easy route that ASM provides for members to work through new proposals, and give early career researchers and professional microbiologists a taste of conference organising and a chance to test ideas. This is managed easily through state branches and can be easily progressed to a national meeting if the idea demands it. The relationships between states and the utility of the Visiting Speaker Program has been enhanced by a clearer pathway for VSP engagement, available on the website (http://www.theasm.org.au/events/visiting-speakers-program/) and by more formal networking between the state branches, beginning in 2015.

A key part of our renaissance is a review of governance and organisational structure, which also begins in 2015, and the realignment of Divisional Chair responsibilities. Nominations for new Chairs for 2017 are actively sought and will be a key part of the repositioning of ASM. The revised Constitution is due to be released to all members shortly and to be voted on in the July 2015 AGM at the Canberra meeting.

How can we participate in this rebirth and strengthen microbiology as a discipline in a competitive environment? Read widely, talk freely with your colleagues inside and outside microbiology, and promote the community by supporting ASM: join state branches and national council, apply for membership, including professional membership and Fellowship, develop new ideas for meetings with your branch or national office, and honour your colleagues by commending them for awards and honorary memberships.

The discipline of microbiology is somewhat different to what it was when the Society began in 1959 and the Society must keep pace with it. ASM must better support progressive specialisation of the entire membership by supporting specialised meetings, some now long-established and completely autonomous and others that are yet be conceived. We must at the same time enrich this with wider engagement and bring into our community those who do not see themselves as Microbiologists and yet work with us. The role of the ASM is not to push back against this natural evolution but to foster it.

RSS Free subscription to our email Contents Alert. Or register for the free RSS feed.