Council Focuses on the Value Proposition for ASCB Members


The 2015 ASCB Council and Executive Committee. (back) President-Elect Peter Walter, Ruth Lehmann, Ira Mellman, Denise Montell, Jodi Nunnari, Secretary Kathleen Green, Dan Kiehart, Claire Walczak, President Shirley Tilghman; (front) Past President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Executive Director Stefano Bertuzzi, Laura Machesky, Treasurer Gary Gorbsky, Ian Macara, Samara Reck-Peterson, Tom Misteli

At its December meeting, the ASCB Council, together with committee chairs, journal editors, and staff, focused on how the Society can thrive in turbulent times. Shirley Tilghman, 2015 ASCB President, began the conversation by noting some of the highlights of the previous year, including what promised to be a hugely successful Annual Meeting in San Diego and the release of the ASCB’s white paper on reproducibility of scientific data.

One of the challenges facing the ASCB has been a decline in the number of regular members over the last few years. The Council was pleased to hear from then ASCB Executive Director Stefano Bertuzzi and Membership Committee Chair Kathy Green that the decline has apparently plateaued. At the same time, postdoc and graduate student membership has been climbing, due in part to the strong focus on programs for those groups. But Council recognizes that the Society must continue to enhance the value proposition for members at all stages of their careers.

There is strong support among members for smaller, more focused meetings, and the discussion turned to how ASCB may be able to meet that need. A subgroup of Council will examine various proposals. A “doorstep” meeting on the Cell Biology of Cancer will be held immediately before the 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The Council approved the 2016 ASCB budget presented by Treasurer Gary Gorbsky. Faced with dwindling grant support for its programs and challenges to its business model, the Society will again be operating under a deficit budget. The 2016 budget has a projected deficit of $804,000, but this is based on conservative estimates of revenue, and ASCB Senior Director for Finance and Administration and Interim Executive Director Cynthia Godes noted that the 2015 deficit will be significantly lower than budgeted. She pointed out that because of the ASCB’s large reserves, a budget deficit is not an immediate problem. Nevertheless, identifying new revenue models and setting priorities that allow the ASCB to stay focused on providing value to its members will be important tasks confronting the new Executive Director.

Bertuzzi presented data about the high cost of printing the ASCB Newsletter. A new online version of the Newsletter has been launched, but Council was hesitant to eliminate the print version because many members report that they value it. But to cut costs, Council voted to reduce the frequency of the Newsletter from 11 issues per year to 8.

Also at its meeting, Council received updates on the efforts of the Education, International Affairs, and Public Policy Committees and pondered the future of journals and scientific communications. It approved the 2016 Annual Meeting program presented by Program Committee Chair Jonathan Weissman and approved Pinar Gurel to be co-chair of the Committee for Postdocs and Students. Conversations about membership, publishing, small meetings, and funding of the Society’s many important initiatives will continue at the spring Council meeting.

About the Author:

Mark Leader is ASCB's Director of Publications.

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