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 > BLOG > October 2015

ASIP Pathogenesis Blog, october 2015

President's Perspective. . .Engaging the Membership
William B. Coleman, PhD, ASIP President

Sitting on an airplane at Logan Airport waiting to take off on my way home from Experimental Biology 2015, I was contemplating the major challenges that face the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and how we might begin to address them in the near-term. The two greatest challenges that came to mind were membership and membership engagement. The ASIP leadership often discusses sagging senior scientist membership numbers, the need for new members, and the various factors that influence decisions to join a professional society. The desire to belong to a professional society seems to have lost some of its luster in recent years, particularly among the younger generation. This is probably a reflection of the lack of appreciation (by some) of the value of society membership. Given the abundance of opportunities currently available to individual scientists for interactions with the larger scientific community or subspecialty groups through professional media (LinkedIn and others) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, and others), the intrinsic value of becoming known to others in one's field through person-to-person contacts has declined. However, for many of us, these person-to-person contacts continue to be very important and represent one of the greatest benefits of ASIP membership. While increasing membership numbers (to sustain the ASIP far into the future) is a priority, the greater membership need is to cultivate engagement among the general membership and to nurture a critical mass of people that are active in ASIP leadership, committees, activities, and events. A large but inactive membership will generate revenue from dues, but does not represent a society (an organization formed for a particular purpose). For many decades the ASIP has offered its members numerous opportunities for professional engagement that will benefit not only the Society itself, but also the individual members and the larger scientific community.

Membership Engagement Through Scientific Meetings
Scientific meetings are designed to promote the interaction of individual scientists and the exchange of information, most often in the form of research data. Some of the exchange of information that occurs at scientific meetings is passive (the speaker presents a talk and the audience listens) with little time for interaction (through question/answer sessions). These platform sessions are important for meetings and meeting attendees as they provide the opportunity for us to hear about ongoing work (often unpublished) from the people that are doing the work. These sessions should and do catalyze discussions related to the implications of the presented work and how the results obtained will shape future work. Some of these discussions are among research groups or collaborators, while others occur among different groups of people, sometimes nucleating new collaborative efforts among colleagues. Clearly, the person-to-person interactions that occur in the context of a scientific meeting are essential to the initiation of new projects and new collaborations. Poster sessions are also extremely important for the exchange of information at scientific meetings. Poster sessions are highly interactive and enable the presenting scientist to discuss work done and results obtained with groups of people. During these exchanges, extra time can be spent on points of interest to the poster viewers, and questions can be posed and answered in real time. Very often in the context of poster sessions, a group of people will attend several posters in succession and larger discussions emerge as studies conveyed on various posters are compared and contrasted. Once again the person-to-person interactions that occur in the context of the poster session might form the basis for development of new projects and initiation of new collaborations.

The ASIP hosts two meetings annually - the Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology, and Pathobiology for Investigators, Students, and Academicians (PISA). The scientific programs for these meetings are developed by the Program Committee for the Annual Meeting, and a Steering Committee for PISA. These meetings feature cutting-edge science from the leaders of various scientific disciplines. Both of these meetings offer exceptional opportunities for ASIP members to present their work in various sessions formats (oral, poster, poster discussion), and to network and interact with one another. The ASIP membership is invited to propose session topics for the Annual Meeting each year, and session chairs are identified from abstracts programmed into each session. Chairs of ASIP's 16 Scientific Interest Groups (SIGs) have been invited to suggest topics for both the Annual Meeting and PISA. Presentations frequently feature graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and other trainees, as well as young investigators. At both ASIP meetings, time is devoted to poster viewing, poster presentations, and poster discussions, which enable robust interaction among members. The ASIP leadership encourages all our members to consider the value of our scientific meetings and the benefits of attending. It is one of our goals to increase the numbers of members that attend the meetings on a regular basis and participate in the opportunities provided at the meetings. Attending the ASIP Annual Meeting or PISA represents a major opportunity for membership engagement that can significantly benefit the member and advance their science through presentation and collaboration. We hope to see you at one of these meetings in the near future.

Membership Engagement Through Scientific Interest Groups
The ASIP has established Scientific Interest Groups (SIGs) on a number of topics that are of interest to subsets of our membership. These include Biobanking, Breast Cancer, Cell Injury, Digital and Computational Pathology, Environmental and Toxicologic Pathology, Gene Expression, Immunohistochemistry and Microscopy, Inflammation/Immunopathology, Liver Pathobiology, Molecular Diagnostic Pathology, Neoplasia/Growth Regulation, Neuropathology, Pulmonary Pathobiology, Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells, Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis, Vascular and Mucosal Pathobiology, and Veterinary and Comparative Pathology. The SIGs provide members with the culture and experience of a small subspecialty society within the larger research-orientated membership of the ASIP. SIGs contribute to the scientific program at the Annual Meeting by organizing workshops and symposia, and abstract submissions related to these areas of interest are grouped into minisymposia and poster sessions. Hence, SIG members benefit from opportunities at the scientific meetings to exchange information, discuss research, and network. Beyond the scientific meetings, SIG members have the opportunity to interact throughout the year using MemberClicks e-communities and listservs, facilitating communications among the smaller groups for discussions or sharing new developments. In addition, each SIG has a webpage on the ASIP website with information about the group and its leadership. In the coming months, the SIG webpages will begin to archive relevant literature that is of interest to the groups. The ASIP leadership encourages all our members to join one or more SIGs (as many as you have interests) at the time of their membership renewal later this year. Contact the leadership of your SIG if you want to get more involved in the activities and events that the SIG organizes. Active participation in a SIG represents a major opportunity for membership engagement that can significantly benefit the member and advance their research through discussion and collaboration.

Membership Engagement Through Committees
The “work” of the ASIP is managed by our professional staff, often in conjunction with the efforts of individual members and/or committees. The ASIP has a number of standing committees that perform specific duties during the course of the year. The Program Committee develops and implements the scientific program at our Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology, including all invited presentations, abstract-driven sessions, award lectures, and special sessions. The Education Committee develops educational programs that contribute to the session offerings at the Annual Meeting with specific focus on the needs of trainees, high school teachers, directors of graduate studies, and others. Likewise, the Committee for Career Development and Diversity develops programs to enhance career development for ASIP members and promote diversity in science, with a particular focus on under-represented groups. The Research and Science Policy Committee stays up-to-date on issues related to regulation and government oversight of research issues, including human subjects and animal research, and contributes to discussion of these issues with regulatory bodies. The ASIP has committees that are dedicated to very specific tasks that affect individual members, including the Nominating Committee and the Meritorious Awards Committee. There are committees to oversee the publications of the society, including the Publications Committee and the Joint Journal Oversight Committee for The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. Other committees are dedicated to society business functions, including the Membership Committee and the Finance Committee. Descriptions of all these committees can be found on the ASIP website. The ASIP leadership encourages all our members to learn about the various ASIP committees and to identify those that might be of interest. Individual members can contact ASIP staff members to express interest in serving on a committee. Active participation in on one of the major ASIP Committees represents an opportunity for membership engagement that can significantly benefit the member as they contribute to the regular functions of the ASIP.

Engagement Through Scientific Publication
The ASIP publishes The American Journal of Pathology (AJP) and co-publishes The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics (JMD) with the Association of Molecular Pathology). These journals are high quality and highly cited with excellent impact factors (which are increasing year to year). It is notable that a fairly small percentage of papers published in AJP originate from ASIP members. This suggests that many/most of our members are publishing their research in other journals, some of which may be subspecialty journals. The ASIP leadership strongly encourages all ASIP members to consider publishing their work in AJP. Manuscript submission fees to AJP have been waived and author charges for both AJP and JMD are discounted for Regular ASIP members who are the corresponding author at the time of submission. In addition, ASIP members should participate in journal activities by serving as expert reviewers for submitted manuscripts when invited. Over time, efficient and effective manuscript reviewers for AJP are often invited to serve on the Editorial Board. AJP is a valuable resource for the larger scientific community, and participation in journal activities (as an author and/or reviewer) represents an opportunity for engagement for ASIP members.

Engaging Trainee Members
The ASIP is a fantastic society for trainees of all sorts (graduate students, medical students, MSTP students, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, residents, and others). Many years ago, the ASIP recognized that the trainee members represent the future of our field and increased emphasis on trainee-orientated activities. We now have trainee members on all major committees, and these trainees participate on our regular conference calls during the year and at face-to-face meetings at the Annual Meeting and have full voting rights on their committees. Trainee members provide a unique and valuable perspective on topics of importance to the ASIP. Trainee members are frequently invited to speak at the Annual Meeting and/or chair minisymposia sessions. In addition, the Annual Meeting offers career development sessions on a variety of topics, and there is a Graduate Student Highlight session that features presentations by students, many of whom are recipients of travel awards. We have a dedicated ASIP Trainee Newsletter which enables trainees to stay informed on society activities and events, and contains articles of particular relevance to trainees. Trainees also benefit from SIG membership and have the opportunity to network extensively during a dedicated SIG poster discussion session. The ASIP leadership encourages all our trainee members to submit their research and present it at one of our scientific meetings, to join and become involved in the activities and events associated with one or more SIGs, and to seek opportunities to serve on committees or work on the ASIP Trainee Newsletter. Trainees have the opportunity to engage and participate in all ASIP activities, events, and groups, and we hope our trainees will remain ASIP members throughout their careers. Engagement in the various opportunities provided by the ASIP will significantly benefit trainees in their professional advancement and research.

Engaging Regular Members
Regular members of the ASIP represent the strong foundation upon which our society is built. The ASIP benefits on a yearly basis from the time and hard work contributed and exceptional dedication displayed by our regular members. In return, our membership benefits from strong scientific programs at our meetings, opportunities to promote trainees and young investigator colleagues through society activities and events, and a close-knit group of people that share common scientific interests and goals. Very active members of the ASIP recognize the benefits and value of society activities and events, and so we see some of the same people each year at our meetings and serving on our committees. It is always exciting to see trainees, young investigators, and other new members engaging in society activities and events as it is clear that these folks will become leaders of our society in the future. Of course, the very active ASIP members are outnumbered by ASIP members who do not participate in society activities and events on a regular basis. Our goal is to increase the participation by this group, at our meetings, on our committees, and in other ways. Another group of interest are the people who are not members of the ASIP, but should become members because their scientific interests and goals are aligned with ours. ASIP members should encourage their colleagues to consider the benefits of joining the ASIP. Regular members of the ASIP have numerous ways to engage in membership.

Engagement Leads to Growth
The ASIP is a very active organization. Some of our activities are easy to see and provide obvious benefits to members (and others) - for instance the exceptional scientific programs at our scientific meetings. Other activities are less obvious and occur largely out of sight - for instance the activities of our Research and Science Policy Committee. We often discuss doing more for our members and the larger scientific society. However, doing more requires time and effort of more members. Through effective engagement of the membership, all aspects of ASIP activities and events will become enhanced, and eventually we will be able to do more. New activities and initiatives can be pursued with expansion of our total membership and increases in the number of engaged members we have working towards society goals. The ASIP leadership challenges all our members to consider the opportunities for society engagement that are available. Engaged members function in many different ways - as ambassadors for the ASIP at their own institutions, as members of committees, as participants in the scientific meetings (as attendees, presenting work, and/or chairing sessions), and as authors of papers published in our journals. Given this breadth of opportunity, all ASIP members should become engaged in society activities and events - to impact the larger scientific community and the ASIP, and the benefit themselves.

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