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Published: 3 September 2015

Jonathan Iredell

President of ASM

Constitutional reform was on the agenda again at the Annual General Meeting in Canberra, as it will be for the next several AGMs I think, as there is clear recognition from the membership that the Society is facing change. The roles of the Divisional chairs and State chairs and the nature of the general meeting were discussed in the light of overall structure. The Council is the principal decision-making body but because the Council only meets twice-yearly, interactions inside the Executive form the operational and strategic engine of ASM. The current Executive includes the incumbent President, with either the incoming (President-Elect) or outgoing (Immediate Past President), the Vice-President Scientific Affairs, Vice-President Corporate Affairs and Vice-President Communications. The Chair roles have long been tasked with national leadership but without a role in Executive they have been preoccupied almost exclusively with the national meeting and speak only at the National Scientific Advisory Committee, which has an enormous operational role managing the bulk of the scientific awards and meetings. The recent move of the Division Chairs into Council as invitees over the last year or two has worked well and the increased involvement of State Chairs similarly. We will be now ratifying these arrangements by seeking formal endorsement at an extraordinary general meeting of the membership to bring the Constitution into line with these arrangements.

We will also be seeking formal ratification at the EGM (probably at the coming BacPath meeting) of the shift in the membership renewal data to better synchronise with the auditing and end of financial year, as discussed at previous AGM. Formal notice of these minor adjustments will come out to members soon. The next Council meeting will be In February at which next executive positions will be finalised and the agenda for the next AGM discussed. This is likely to include significant constitutional change and we will be inviting the entire membership to engage in discussions about the future of Microbiology and the ASM in this country.

Data from ASN and our VP Corporate Affairs, Cheryl Power, tell us that membership continues to rise with >2100 financial members as of mid-2015, the distribution by state roughly equating to that of the general population. Approximately 5% of our members are Fellows and as the Society undergoes the natural evolution that is occurring in all general societies, we will be looking to our senior members including the Divisional and State Chairs and the Fellowship as a whole for guidance. Among the key issues on which advice will be sought before being put to Council and ultimately the entire membership at the AGMs are the review of Society structure and governance and the ongoing review of meetings.

Fellowship is achieved by examination or by submitting relevant evidence of a members seniority and excellence within their discipline and we would encourage all those who would be eligible to apply. While we will be looking to increased consultation of the Fellowship and the Divisions in advising Council, the State branches will always be the main drivers of society business outside the national meetings, delivering content for members by members, hosting VSP participants from overseas and interstate, and mentoring the Microbiologists of tomorrow. Recent rises in capitation and regular contact between State branch representatives and national office by teleconference have been successful in increasing cohesion and communication, and the reform of the VSP process that has just been completed by Peter Traynor is expected to increase the utility of this mechanism.

I would urge society members to suggest new meetings, new themes, even new Divisions. Ask yourselves if the current structure with multiple special interest groupings is the right one for you? If you’re thinking about new meetings, how can the Society help you do it? The ASM is an easy way for a good idea to become a regular conference, by providing infrastructure and corporate protection. Your state branch or Division chairs are easy points of contact and are listed on the website. The Society is here to serve us all and so must we all aim to constantly improve its capacity to do so.

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