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Dear ASM members,

I have always been proud of the work ASM does to promote and advance the microbial sciences. Everything we do is for our members, and we have been working especially hard in recent months to ensure ASM’s excellence for the 21st century and beyond as we, like many other societies, face changing times. 

Over the past few years, ASM has been engaged in an effort to modernize our organization, update our governance, and streamline our operations in response to the significant economic challenges we face as a scientific society. Decreasing operating revenues, due primarily to declines in scientific publishing and event participation over the past decade, have led to substantial operating deficits. This situation is not unique to the ASM; many other professional organizations like ours are facing the same challenges.

To get ASM on track financially and to meet the organization’s fiscal policies, the Council Policy Committee (ASM’s prior governing body) expected the Finance Committee to develop a strategy to balance the operating budget in 2018 and beyond. As a result, ASM leadership has undertaken a comprehensive examination of our programs and activities to determine the core areas where we need to invest, and areas where we can achieve efficiencies in order to accomplish the ASM mission in a more effective way.  We considered the input of numerous sources including program board/committee chairs, membership leadership, ASM officers, the Finance Committee, staff directors and others in making these decisions. Foremost in our thinking was the importance of focusing on areas that set up ASM for long term stability and provide the best returns on our investments, in both monetary and non-monetary ways, so we can continue to provide outstanding programs and services to our members. 

After considering all of the information and the viewpoints of all involved, the Board of Directors (ASM’s new governing body) unanimously approved a plan to update ASM’s programmatic offerings when it met on June 6th. Making the decision to adopt the plan was difficult. The plan includes reducing our investment in several programs, some of which are near and dear to, or even had been initiated by, Board members. Unfortunately, our current operating resources are simply insufficient to continue funding all of the programs in the same manner as we have in the past.  

The following are changes you can expect to see: 

  • ASM will reduce publishing expenses across all journals, and Clinical and Vaccine Immunology® will merge with the new ASM open access journal mSphere® in January 2018.
  • Changes to ASM Press will not be immediately apparent as the Press is going through an independent review, the results of which will be shared when available. We will explore investments in new digital product lines, which allow frequent updates.
  • The American Academy of Microbiology will retain its independent Bylaws and Board of Governors, including the Fellows and Awards. However, the administration of the Board of Governors meetings, the Awards program, and the election of Academy Fellows will now be housed in the Membership Department. Colloquia and other reports will now be produced on an ad hoc basis, rather than their current recurring basis. We will also reduce the number of in-person meetings to conserve budget, and coalitions will be formed in an as-needed manner.
  • Science policy and advocacy is a top priority for our members and fundamental to the organization’s mission, and we want to amplify the effectiveness of our policy work. ASM will undertake a strategic review of the Public and Scientific Affairs Board to make it more efficient and effective. The goal is to become more collaborative, to foster the involvement of a wider and more inclusive number of members, and to tighten partnerships with sister and advocacy organizations, while reducing costs. We will discontinue support for the Forum on Drug Discovery and the Forum on Microbial Threats and will pause our sponsorship of the AAAS Congressional Fellowship for 2018. It’s worth noting that many societies do not support fellows, and we have been one of the few to do so.
  • As the next step in consolidating and streamlining our marketing and communications efforts, we are eliminating the Science Communication Workshop and K-12 Outreach activities and lowering fixed costs.
  • We will eliminate the International Educators Program within ASMCUE, reduce the stipend paid to Watkins Fellows, transition the MicrobeLibrary images to ASM’s website, and eliminate the Turning Your Science into a Company program.
  • We will eliminate the Advance Your Science and the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists programs. In addition, we will continue to have a CHOMA exhibit at ASM Microbe, but will reduce the CHOMA budget.
  • Programs such as funding of the ASM Branches, International Ambassadors, and other disbursements—which allow members to drive their own programs and to fund activities, which could otherwise not happen without ASM support—have largely, if not completely, remained untouched.
  • We will be more selective with our approach to small conferences moving forward. We will undertake fewer conferences each year, with selection being based on the scientific priorities indicated by the Council on Microbial Sciences (COMS) (which includes member scientists from various areas of microbiology), the financial sustainability of the conference, and the ability to leverage outside funds. This restructuring is due, in part, to the fact that some of the conferences have been operating at a significant loss with both reduced attendance and abstract submissions, resulting in substantial annual losses to the program overall.

ASM believes that these actions, while difficult in the short term, will help to right-size our organization and secure our future. We are confident that these steps will position ASM for growth and success and will ensure our financial stability. We thank you for your loyalty and dedication to the microbial sciences and to ASM. We appreciate that change can be difficult, but it is necessary (it is, after all, the basis of evolution!). One thing will never change, however – and that is our steadfast commitment to our mission of promoting and advancing the microbial sciences through scholarship and innovation.

Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have at ASMPresident@asmusa.org


Peggy Cotter