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Published: 9 November 2015

Jonathan Iredell

President of ASM

Increasing diversity in the general area of Microbiology is welcome and inevitable. The modern microbiologist is a mathematician or an experimentalist, an ecologist or a cell biologist, a geneticist or a population biologist. Rather than concern ourselves with a narrowing definition, we must aim for inclusiveness and opportunity. Maree Overall in the National Office and Cheryl Power, our Vice President (Corporate affairs), have undertaken an analysis of the declared interests of the members of the Society (many Society members listing more than one interest, of course), and there are obvious groupings of several hundred each.

We have long used a Divisional structure to bring cohesion and improve representation of the special interests within the Society, and these have included the relatively cohesive Division Four (Molecular Microbiology) and Division Two (Virology) and the highly diverse Divisions Three and One. Division Three has included eight special interest groups and Division One has included nine. The breakdown of members’ interests is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.
Click to zoom

Some interest groups are naturally linked and align within existing Divisions but it may be that new areas need to be freed of traditional divisional links. As a common example, bioinformatics and genomics includes everything from traditional whole genome sequencing of pathogens of public health/agricultural importance through to metagenomics of large systems and what some might call ‘systems biology’, and is increasingly integrating both new analytical approaches and new data types well beyond representational/descriptive analyses of nucleic acid and protein sequences. Some with special interest in the microbiology of the gut microbiome, for example, might have more in common with colleagues who work in ocean systems than they do with traditional alignments inside Divisions One or even Four.

We once more call all teachers, scientists and researchers in the general field of Microbiology to consider what grouping are appropriate to better represent and serve your needs and to make representations to either your State Branch Chairs or Divisional Chair, or direct to the national office simply entitled ‘ASM review submission’. All these will be considered over the next several months and brought for discussion to national Council and to the Annual General Meetings. What new meetings do you need ASM to support? What issues do you want to discuss?

The American Society of Microbiology President has expressed sentiments I think we all share and I would urge MA readers to look at her essay in mBIO (http://mbio.asm.org/content/6/5/e01573-15) and at Vertical Transmissions in previous editions of this publication (March and September 2015).

One possibility to consider is that we look at (say) an increased number of divisions, perhaps including groupings such as those tabulated above. We welcome submissions to the national office (admin@theasm.com.au) and these will be considered in the larger review. Each division would look toward meetings and visiting speakers as the initial concrete expression of their common interests.

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