December council meeting targets bylaw updates, publishing, and meeting programming

Spirited discussions surrounded the topics of bylaw and policy updates, publishing, and meeting programming during the December 6, 2019, meeting of the ASCB Council in Washington, DC. The Council voted to approve the 2020 budget, a slight increase in meeting registration fees, and, with modifications, the Cell Bio 2020 meeting program. (From 2020, the ASCB|EMBO Meeting has been rechristened Cell Bio–An ASCB|EMBO Meeting.)

Gary Gorbsky, who serves as the chair of the Taskforce on Governance, led the conversation about proposed changes to ASCB policies and bylaws, which have been developed in a year-long process. The Council approved the bylaws to move forward to a vote by ASCB membership in spring 2020 (see p. 14).

Director of Meetings Alison Harris reviewed the registration and response to the Doorstep Meeting since its inaugural year in 2016. Due to revenue challenges, Harris recommended that this pre-ASCB|EMBO Meeting event be discontinued after 2020. After discussion, however, the Council chose to delay a vote on discontinuation and ask potential organizers to seek external sponsorship opportunities to support Doorstep events for 2020 and beyond.

The Council had a lengthy discussion about the proposed draft of the program for Cell Bio 2020, with some members remarking that the suggested speaker list lacked racial diversity. The Council voted to approve the program with the proviso that the Program Committee seek ways to include African American scientists in the slate of suggested speakers and on the list of alternates. The Council requested that future Cell Bio meeting proposals be available for review one month before the December Council meeting. Additionally, they asked that the Program Committee should seek co-chairs for the Minisymposia with minority representation that reflects the U.S. population.

ASCB Publications Director Mark Leader led a conversation about the financial future of the Society’s journal Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) in light of the changing nature of scientific publishing including increasing demand for open access, the proliferation of new journals, and new developments like bioRxiv. David Drubin was given an ASCB Distinguished Service Award for his 10 years of service as Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of MBoC, and Matt Welch was introduced as the journal’s incoming EIC. Welch reported that 17 new associate editors have joined the journal’s editorial board. He also described the journal’s partnership with Science Sketches, whereby authors create a short whiteboard animation to accompany their published paper. The Council also discussed Review Commons as a new way of streamlining the peer-review process and offering authors more options in publishing.

Director of Membership Brian Theil reported that from January 1 to September 30, 2019, although overall membership declined, new membership was up 2% over the same period the previous year. Telemarketing efforts to reach lapsed members helped bring some former members back in, and the Member-Get-a-Member and free t-shirt with renewal campaigns were also successful. Looking forward, ASCB will invest in reaching out to groups outside the cell biology community for potential members. Theil also mentioned ASCB’s new Mentor Match program, which will launch through the Online Community platform in early 2020.

The Council heard reports from the Public Policy Committee. Chair Connie Lee reported that the Committee remains focused on advocating for science funding during Hill Day, on concerns about research-related espionage, and on the shifting landscape on federal immigration policies. Lee mentioned that the Committee had formed a taskforce to begin work on a
new white paper on “Second Acts”—or how to transition your career after shutting down a research laboratory. Incoming Chair Holly Goodson reported that Jim Deatherage, retired National Institute of General Medical Sciences branch chief, would receive ASCB’s Public Service Award.

XueBiao Yao, co-chair of the International Affairs Committee (IAC), said IAC had established a joint Special Interest Subgroup with the Chinese Society for Cell Biology and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz. The Committee is also working on a joint session about organoids.

Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) Co-Chair Michael Boyce gave an overview of the programs supported by the MAC, including those funded by the NIH R25 IPERT program grant called Improving Diversity and Career Transitions through Society Support and the MAC’s professional development programming.

Co-chair George Risinger reported on some of the regional meetings that the Education Committee has been planning. Co-chair Erin Dolan said the Committee’s collaborations with MAC and with ASCB’s professional development director to develop a statement on the Declaration on Effective and Inclusive Undergraduate Biology Education should help “move the needle” to maximize effective and inclusive education.

Lee Ligon, co-chair of the Public Information Committee (PIC), noted the success of the Green Fluorescent Protein Image and Video Contest, the online outreach toolkits, and the Elevator Speech Contest. PIC has also created a subcommittee to solicit people to write science outreach blog posts.

Co-Chair Alyssa Lesko reported that this year the Committee on Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) created a special panel on mental health at the annual meeting, and that COMPASS continues its science outreach through ASCB Post blogs and a science storytelling workshop. Co-Chair Scott Wilkinson announced that COMPASS was able to fund 16 different small-scale science outreach projects across the country through its grants program.

Chair Mary Munson shared that the Women in Cell Biology Committee tradition of the mentoring theater continues. This year their panel discussion at the annual meeting was on self-advocacy. They are partnering with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to update and expand the women speakers list.

Ashley Lakoduk stated that the LGBTQ+ Diversity Taskforce completed seven blogs for Pride Month that appeared on the ASCB Post. Lee Ligon noted that some of the efforts of the Taskforce are subtle, such as the gender-neutral bathrooms and the rainbow stickers or preferred pronoun stickers, which were available at meeting registration. Ligon also reported how challenging it is to raise funds for the travel grants that the Taskforce offers each year and asked for ideas for sponsorships.

The Council meeting concluded with a workshop led by Nat Kendall-Taylor from the Frameworks Institute and the presentation of certificates to outgoing Council members and committee chairs.

About the Author:

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