Council Discusses Governance Recommendations, Strategic Plan Progress, More

Several members of Council participated in Hill Day.
Several members of Council participated in Hill Day.

ASCB’s Council had a busy agenda this June when they met for two days at the Society’s headquarters in Bethesda, MD. Important topics discussed included Society governance, strategic plan progress, publishing, regional meetings, the budget and recent audit, membership goals, future white papers, and changes to the format of the 2020 annual meeting.

Governance, Publishing, Membership
On June 17, the Council heard and approved recommendations on ways to modernize and improve the Society’s bylaws and policies and procedures, based on the work of the Governance Task Force. Some of these recommendations included increasing the number of times Council meets per year, making the Council nomination process more inclusive and transparent, and developing and implementing leadership training for Council and committee members.

Council discussed the future of publishing and changes that may happen to the business model of the Society’s science research journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), in this rapidly changing scholarly publishing landscape. Council approved the 2020 library subscription rates and considered ways to make MBoC sustainable other than by charging for subscriptions. Ideas included partnering with a larger commercial publisher and participating in an independent peer-review service. No single roadmap for the future of publishing was chosen.

The Council approved the financial and audit report; they approved a new white paper topic on career trajectories for senior scientists; and they agreed on changes to the governance structure to the Declaration on Research Assessment initiative. ASCB’s Director of Membership Brian Thiel gave a report from the Regional Small Unit Task Force, which is looking at ways to engage members at the regional and local level. The Council agreed that the task force’s idea to provide “logistical in-kind support to existing regional scientific meetings” could be a way to raise awareness of the Society and open a pipeline for new members. ASCB would offer services such as online registration and payment processing for established meetings that ASCB members are already organizing across the country.

The Council provided input on new scheduling for the 2020 annual meeting presented by ASCB Director of Meetings Alison Harris. They were also introduced to some of ASCB’s new digital properties, including the updated website and the members-only online community. Day one of the meeting concluded with a presentation from the director of the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review, Noni Byers.

Strategic Plan
The Council met for a half day on June 18 to review progress made on the Society’s strategic plan, now in its second year. After ASCB CEO Erika Shugart discussed each of the six strategic priorities, the Council broke into small groups to edit, revise, and add to the plan. Some of the outcomes of the discussion included the following:

Centrality of Cell Biology. The Council agreed that developing new and expanding on existing collaborations with other organizations and scientific entities (such as the National Cancer Institute or the 4D Nucleome Group) could help bring in new members and provide new opportunities for current members.

Promotion of Inclusiveness and Transparency. The Council will seek ways to expand membership engagement by offering leadership training, creating subcommittees to enable more members to volunteer, and obtaining feedback through membership surveys.

Leadership in Science Outreach. The Council noted strong progress in this area, including the new digital properties, online community, social media, and ASCB Newsbrief. A new goal will be to employ more evidence-based science communication tactics.

Career Development and Enhancement. ASCB accomplished much in this strategic priority over the last year, including adding online webinars, creating regional meetings, and expanding offerings at the annual meeting. The Society will focus now on improving cohesion within professional development opportunities and providing resources for members at every career stage.

Financial Stability. The focus here will be on identifying new membership pipelines, increasing marketing efforts, and working directly with university contacts to promote membership by advertising ASCB awards.

Organizational Support. There was a discussion on recasting the committee budgets and on involving the Council more in the budgeting process.

Many councilors stayed in the Washington, DC, area on June 19 to participate in a Hill Day, where they met with members of Congress and their staffers (see related article on page 32). Bob Goldstein (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Gary Gorbsky (Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation) also stayed another day to present demonstrations at the Council for the Life Sciences Science Fair held June 20 on Capitol Hill.

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.