Not the end, but a beginning

Published July 01 2018

I write my final president’s message with some thoughts about the state of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and goals for our future.

First, congratulations again to our next president, Gerald Hart. Throughout his career, Jerry has been a dedicated contributor to the ASBMB with his service in many groups, including Council, and current work as associate editor for both the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. Jerry is an inspirational leader, and with his wisdom and devotion, our society is in good hands.

The ASBMB is in excellent financial shape. And we see other upward trends:

Our three journals continue to publish high-quality molecular life science research. Under the stewardship of Lila Gierasch, the Journal of Biological Chemistry has implemented many changes to enhance transparency, rigor and the speed of reviews. The publishing experience for authors has improved, and this has led to an upturn in manuscript submissions this year. The best practices learned now are being adopted by Molecular & Cellular Proteomics and the Journal of Lipid Research; both remain the highest impact journals in their fields.

Attendance at the annual meeting has grown steadily by an average of 8 to 9 percent each year, thanks to the work of the Meetings Committee. We have heard tremendous enthusiasm for their revamp of the meeting into a more vibrant format, with symposia topics on the latest discoveries and more opportunities for participants to present their work. Discussions are ongoing with other Experimental Biology societies to coordinate parts of our programs to offer attendees a more integrated meeting experience. We welcome your feedback as we work to build fresh, interdisciplinary perspectives through collaborations among our societies.

The Educational and Professional Development and Student Chapters committees have created resources to empower the next generation and support the careers of scientists at every stage. They are developing new workshops and webinars on how to prepare for, enter, advance and succeed in diverse science careers. The ASBMB biochemistry accreditation program is expanding nationally to provide students with degree certification and the means for departments to adopt innovative concepts-based teaching methods and assess student mastery of core concepts in the molecular life sciences.

The Minority Affairs Committee works to ensure a diverse science workforce at all levels. At the annual meeting, MAC members organize the Issues in Depth Symposia, covering recent scientific advances and their societal implications, especially for minority populations. Members also organize instructive, hands-on mentoring for young scientists, including the yearly Interactive Mentoring Activities for Grantsmanship Enhancement, or IMAGE, workshop, one of the best grant writing workshops around. Open to early-career investigators, the IMAGE mentorship lifts participants’ confidence in grant writing, resulting in a phenomenal success rate; 80 percent of attendees receive funding within two years.

These days, every scientist must be an effective communicator. The Public Outreach Committee creates effective tools to teach scientists how to tell the public what we do and why it’s important. You can learn these skills by enrolling in the Art of Science Communication online course and workshops at the annual meeting. The upcoming ASBMB special symposium on science outreach in October will foster peer connections and education in the growing field of science outreach. Not only will outreach training help you promote science in society, it teaches you skills for more effectively conveying ideas in grant applications and job interviews.

Members of the Public Affairs Advisory Committee are on the front lines, advocating for the needs of the ASBMB membership. They keep us up to date on science policy and disseminate information to legislative leaders and federal agencies on issues that impact us all. At the annual ASBMB Capitol Hill Day, the PAAC provides an opportunity for scientists to meet their congressional representatives, one of the most effective actions that we as individuals can take in advocating for sustainable, predictable investments in science; enhancing STEM education; and strengthening America’s scientific workforce through immigration reform.

Looking forward, the most important challenge for the ASBMB is to grow our membership, especially among young scientists entering our field. The newly formed Membership Committee has taken on this important task and soon will reach out to members like you for assistance. Now more than ever, we need your help to keep our society strong.

I hope I’ve conveyed the many ways in which the ASBMB directly benefits you, the scientists and educators in our field of molecular life sciences. Our society is a resource for you and stands up for you at every stage of your career. In return, please stand with the ASBMB. If you’re not an ASBMB member, it’s time to join. If you’re already a member, please invite a colleague or student to join. Help us amplify our message about the value of your work and ensure a sustainable future for science discovery and education.

Natalie Ahn Natalie Ahn a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is president of the ASBMB.