Reproducibility has long been a cornerstone of the scientific enterprise. In recent years, however, there has been growing concern over the lack of reproducibility of many published scientific studies. Systemic problems in the funding and culture of research likely contribute to the reproducibility crisis. Competition for scarce resources may pressure scientists to cut corners, introduce bias and, in extreme cases, falsify or manipulate data, resulting in published studies that cannot be reproduced. The Academy convened a colloquium in October 2015 to discuss the causes, outcomes and possible solutions to this reproducibility problem. The resulting recommendations provide actionable steps that can be taken to improve the reproducibility of published research.
Microbes can be highly efficient, versatile and sophisticated manufacturing tools, and have the potential to form the basis of a vibrant economic sector. In order to take full advantage of the opportunity microbial-based industry can offer, though, educators need to rethink how future microbiologists are trained, according to a report by the American Academy of Microbiology. The report, "Microbe-Powered Jobs: How Microbiologists Can Help Build the Bioeconomy," was based on a colloquium held by the American Academy of Microbiology in February 2013 in Dallas, Texas.
The human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes living in and on the human body, is not random, and scientists believe that it plays a role in many basic life processes. As science continues to explore and better understand the identities and activities of the microbial species comprising the human microbiome, microbiologists hope to draw connections between microbiome composition, host genetics, and human health. FAQ: Human Microbiome addresses this growing area of research.
Easy-to-use, inexpensive point-of-care tests (POCTs) to diagnose infectious diseases are urgently needed in resource-limited settings where laboratory capacity is limited. Development and implementation of new POCTs requires coordinated efforts among the scientists and engineers designing the tests and the health care workers deploying them. Recognizing the need to connect these groups, the American Academy of Microbiology convened a colloquium in September 2011 to discuss how to develop POCTs that can be effectively integrated into resource limited settings. Based on that colloquium, this report identifies the POCTs that would make the biggest impact on health and the qualities they need to be effective in resource limited settings. The report also discusses systemic barriers to POCT deployment and recommends addressing these barriers in order to foster a more conducive environment for POCT development. The report is an example of the benefit of improved communication among the many groups that must work together to bring POCTs to the people that need them the most.
News headlines often paint E. coli as a vicious bacterium, capable of causing disease and death to those unfortunate enough to ingest it. But that is only a tiny minority of E. coli, and a very small part of the story of this remarkable bacterium; its relationship to human health and the food we eat is much more complex. Not all E. coli are bad - in fact most are not - and some are even beneficial. On September 1st 2011, the American Academy of Microbiology convened an expert panel of microbiologists, food safety experts, and bacteriologists to develop a more accurate picture of this often maligned bacterium. This report, the product of that meeting, tells the larger story of E. coli: its role in human health, in food, and even in our understanding of our own biology.
In a rapidly evolving field, recruitment and education is critical, and microbiology is no exception. Intensive summer courses staffed by some of the most brilliant minds in microbiology, have proven to be a popular and effective way to hone early and mid-career microbiologist’s skills. The courses are particularly successful at equipping researchers for careers in emerging fields at the intersection of existing disciplines. Based on a colloquium held in January 2011, this report details the contribution of full immersion summer courses to the education of the microbiologists of the future. The report describes the broad and lasting impact of the current courses and defines common challenges that they all face. The recommendations in the report suggest ways to leverage the value and increase the impact of these courses, and propose developing a framework to allow course directors to communicate best practices and develop shared approaches to common challenges. The report affirms the value of these courses in developing the next generation of outstanding microbiologists.
The microbial world represents the last truly unexplored frontier in the diversity of life on Earth. New environmental sampling technologies have revealed a wealth of rare microbial species in the soil, ocean, even our own bodies that were effectively cloaked from previous sampling methods by more abundant species. Dubbed the rare biosphere, these microbial species, while individually rare, collectively account for more than 75% of the biomass of some microbial communities, yet little is known about them. This rare biosphere represents a treasure trove of genetic novelty that may possess numerous unique bioprocesses and biomaterials. These rare species may play keystone roles in microbial communities and act as a reservoir of genetic diversity. But how can scientists effectively study the rare biosphere? In April 2009 the American Academy of Microbiology convened a colloquium to explore this question. Based on that colloquium, this report analyzes the current state of study of the rare biosphere and identifies where gaps in knowledge exist. The report concludes that the Herculean task of studying the rare biosphere requires an international collaborative effort and additional environmental sampling, coupled with a focus on advancing sequencing and data analysis technologies. With less than 1% of microbial species able to be grown in the laboratory, the prospects of new discoveries in the rare biosphere seem as vast as microbial diversity itself.
Prepared by W. Jack Payne, Ph.D.
Identifies promising research areas in microbiology, particularly those that offer the greatest potential for long-term benefits and opportunities.
According to the report, it is possible to co-exist with resistance by- developing new strategies to prevent resistance from spreading and, where it already exists, identify the strains we need to protect against; find new ways to treat resistance infections effectively in patients; and manage reservoirs of antibiotic strains in the environment. The report summarizes the current scientific understanding of antibiotic resistance, the scope of the problem, and methods at our disposal for detecting emergence and preventing spread. The knowledge gaps about the prevalence of resistant strains and resistant infections are highlighted as are the unique problems and challenges in developing countries.
Prepared by Merry Buckley, Thomas Slezak, and Thomas Brettin.