#ASPBForward: Where We Are Going
Rob Last's first president's letter published in the November/December 2018 issue of ASPB News
Over the past year, ASPB continued a history of nearly 100 years of growth and change, and I have learned much about this great organization of people. The size and scope of activities and diverse passions of members, staff, and affiliates made it difficult to choose one topic for this first letter, so I highlight ways that ASPB is working and planning efforts to serve members. First, some context. It is exciting to make the transition from president-elect to president. My president- elect year provided opportunities to learn about the organization through service on the meeting-organizing Program Committee, as well as the Council and the Board of Directors. There also were opportunities to get involved in other activities near to my heart.
One example is interacting with the Publications Committee, on which I served in the 1990s. Making appointments to the governance and awards committees allowed me to work with committee chairs, and it was gratifying to experience the enthusiastic responses from those invited to participate. More than a year of intensive exposure to the inner workings of ASPB revealed changes that are propelling organizational evolution, and this letter highlights two areas: the annual Plant Biology meetings and the Society’s electronic media presence.
Plant Biology Meetings
The annual Plant Biology conference is a wonderful example of how a long-lived science society has evolved to meet the needs of community members while promoting scientific excellence, education, and sound policy. Attendees experience a tremendous breadth of poster topics from presenters ranging in age from their late teens to their 90s. There are inspiring talks from speakers selected for major and concurrent symposia. It is noteworthy that the majority of talks are selected from submitted abstracts covering the full range of scientific and educational topics pursued by attendees. A bit of advice: if you’d like the chance for a speaking opportunity at Plant Biology 2019, be sure to submit your abstract before the first deadline. Oh, and by the way, there were more than 1,600 attendees at Plant Biology 2018 in Montreal!
The research described at our annual meetings has always been a prime motivator for me to attend; however, the most noticeable changes since I attended my first American Society of Plant Physiologists annual meeting in the early 1990s are the activities that promote professional development and networking across disciplines, geographies, and career paths. Indeed, the Program Committee, staff, and leadership have a satisfying challenge in accommodating the demand for satellite meetings, workshops, networking events, and one-on one mentoring activities at the annual meetings. This is an area in which the staff and volunteers provide great leadership.
In Montreal, the Plantae Pavilion and ASPB booth served as venues for dozens of roundtable discussions, networking events, and social media–oriented activities. In addition to serving the needs of attendees, these happenings are testing grounds for events that could grow into new ASPB activities, committees, collaborations, and—most exciting of all—events that help early career participants find niches and grow into long-term members.
Electronic Media Presence
Although conferences, newsletters, Signal emails, and the ASPB website continue as mainstream ways to engage the community, the value of the Plantae digital ecosystem (https://plantae.org/) and social media has been increasing exponentially. The 2017–2018 academic year saw a step-change increase in Plantae content: it now serves as a gathering place for the digital output of the Conviron Scholars and Plantae Fellows programs, as well as hosting the What We’re Reading blogs, employment opportunities, and a portal to the TapRoot podcast. If you have not looked at Plantae in recent months, I urge you to do so soon and regularly. You can access on-demand video content on topics of broad appeal, learn about data management and analysis, tune up your communication approaches, and find out about phenomics and space biology. Looking for a topic for a journal club or ideas to modernize an upcoming lecture? What We’re Reading (https://plantae.org/research/wwrtw/) and Plant
Physiology News and Views (formerly Commentaries; http:// www.plantphysiol.org/content/b...
section/News and Views) provide digestible summaries of diverse papers in our disciplines. This content educates us and provides scholars at all career stages with chances to hone their communication craft and be recognized by others in the community. Our substantial investment in Plantae is yielding interest and creating buzz.
After learning of my impending term in ASPB leadership, I dusted off a moribund Twitter account (@biokid001) to discover how this platform is used by our community of members, authors, and conference attendees. This continues to be an eye-opening— and time-consuming—avocation. ASPB staff and community members promote educational and career development activities, advertise our journals’ content, and let the community know about the efforts and broad recognition of our members.
The Twitter community at the Montreal conference was remarkably active (#plantbio18; for stats and some tweets, see https://tinyurl.com/ybuffon5), and this activity allowed a broad group of scientists and citizens across the world to know what they were missing and why they should come to Plant Biology 2019 in San Jose, California. Other Efforts Toward the Future ASPB needs to strengthen our impact for a broad group of people, including early career and private-sector members, and there are plenty of changes afoot this year. For example, the Conviron Corporation increased support for the Conviron Scholars program, and the next class will grow from 20 in 2017–2018 to 43 in 2018–2019. Leadership responded to a recent Membership Committee recommendation to double the size and increase the activities of the 12-year-old Ambassador Program. The details for 2019 can be found on page 1 and at bit.ly/ASPBAmbassador2018. Discussion at the ASPB Town Hall on the last afternoon of Plant Biology 2018 and social media discussion before and after the meeting provided ideas for how to make the Society more inclusive and responsive. We are developing mechanisms for including early career scientists as members of the committees at the heart of our Society.
Finally, we will work to be an increasingly welcoming place for all community members, regardless of age, career path, ethnicity, gender identification, or sexual orientation; this is inherently the right thing to do and a path to a healthy future for our community.
If you have suggestions, tag tweets #aspbforward (and tag@biokid001 to get my attention), send an email, volunteer to write a blog, do a training video, apply to be an ambassador, and encourage your friends to join and participate in ASPB (https://aspb.org/membership/).