May C. Chu
Chair, International Board
Working as a collective of all ASM departments, the International Board (IB) made significant strides toward the strategic imperatives of ASM this year by increasing international membership to an all-time high, securing a record level of external grant support, and increasing the value proposition of the Society for all members with the launch of new programs and initiatives. Most notable perhaps is the launch of Cultures magazine, which advances ASM’s narrative, particularly for young microbiologists, by highlighting ASM’s global mission of knowledge sharing, advocacy, education, and outreach in an entirely new way. The first edition of Cultures was mailed to 36,948 members in more than 150 countries; the magazine has been read online more than 2,300 times in over 75 countries.
International Affairs generated an all-time record for international membership this year with 15,399 members. This is an increase of 23% from last year, or 2,159 more members than ever before. This is a result of new initiatives, which are aimed at increasing ASM’s interaction with, and value to scientists, particularly young scientists around the globe.
Young Ambassadors: March 2014 marks one year since ASM appointed the inaugural group of Young Ambassadors for Science. Young Ambassadors (YAs) have had a profound impact on ASM’s presence abroad and have helped to update ASM’s narrative and value proposition to their local networks. In the last year, the YAs have brought in over 500 new members, hosted over 70 meetings and events in over 20 countries, served as ASM representatives at countless sister-society functions, and generated significant social media presence.
International Student Chapters: This year, International Affairs put in place a mechanism for International Student Chapters to form for the first time, allowing students around the globe to convene the same way students do in the U.S. Since August 2013, seven ISCs have formed in Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Nigeria, Paraguay and the Philippines.
Bio-Resource Centers: International Affairs has built a network of 20+ “Bio-Resource Centers” around the globe. These Centers not only provide a place to tap into ASM resources, but also serve as a platform for virtual education and scientific exchange. In addition, BRCs support membership, journal, and textbook sales. International Affairs sold more than $125,000 in textbooks alone via the BRC network this year.
External Grant Support: Based continually positive results, International Affairs as applied for and been awarded substantial increases in external grants from philanthropic foundations and U.S. government agencies. From sustainable development of clinical capacities to engaging isolated communities of scientists in collaborative research programs, external grant support has allowed ASM’s international presence to expand significantly in 2013-2014. The “LabCap” program alone has trained 545 individuals from 359 different health institutions across 18 countries.
Taken together, this has been a remarkable year for ASM’s International Affairs, reflecting the increasingly global nature of Society and of science itself.
Advancing ASM’s Narrative around the Globe
ASM Cultures: A Small Magazine Tackling Big Issues
On January 9, 2014, ASM International launched Cultures magazine, a quarterly publication which explores the intersection of science, policy, and the global challenges we all share by bringing diverse voices to a common platform. Central to IB’s renewed vision was the creation of a dynamic forum that could bring together the breadth of members we represent, particularly early-career scientists around the globe. In realizing that vision, Cultures was born: a small magazine tackling big issues. The print copies of the first issue were mailed to 36,948 ASM members in 150+ countries around the world. In addition, since its release, the issue has been read online more than 2,300 times in over 75 countries through our web-based, interactive platform.
On January 23, 2014, Cultures contributors and special guests celebrated the launch of the magazine at ASM Headquarters. A group of over 100 distinguished guests, including several ASM Young Ambassadors, the Academy Board of Governors, embassy officials (specifically Indonesia, Mongolia, Cameroon, and Sweden), and other VIPs, gathered to mark the occasion. The IB Chair May Chu, International Affairs Director Jason Rao, and contributing authors Bruce Alberts and Gebisa Ejeta commemorated the event with remarks regarding the release of the publication and their respective roles. Three more issues of Cultures are slated for this year.
ASM Young Ambassadors of Science
March 2014 marks one-year since ASM appointed the inaugural group of Young Ambassadors for Science. Young Ambassadors (YA) have had a profound impact on ASM’s presence abroad, and helping to update ASM’s narrative and value proposition to their local networks. In the last year, the YA’s have brought in over 500 new members, hosted over 70 meetings and events in over 20 countries, served as ASM representatives at countless sister-society functions, and generated significant social media presence. Notable activities include a Scientific Career Development workshop organization by the YA to Poland, the inauguration of the very first International Student Chapter at the University of São Paulo, Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture by YA to Brazil, and a weekly microbiology group led by YA to Paraguay with fellow students of Universidad Nacional de Asuncion to listen and discuss ASM’s weekly Spanish podcast “Mundo de los Microbios”.
ASM Country Ambassadors
ASM’s global network of 76 Country Ambassadors provides the Society with the local representation to advance its global mission. In 2013 alone, Ambassadors:
- Represented ASM at over 250 scientific events
- Visited 185 universities on behalf of ASM
- Implemented 44 professional development workshops on Scientific Writing and Publishing, the Art of Science Communication, the Culture of Responsibility and others
- Coordinated onsite registration for over 2,500 ASM members
- Dozens of new or enriched partnerships with sister societies.
International Student Chapters
In July 2013, ASM International unrolled the International Student Chapter (ISC) program. The International Student Chapter program mirrors ASM's domestic student chapter model and aims to support the interests of the international science youth community. With nearly 50 active student chapters located within the continental United States, the expansion to the international sphere offers opportunities for global partnership and collaboration. Since August 2013, seven ISCs have formed in Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Nigeria, Paraguay and the Philippines respectively. Each chapter has submitted a unique constitution, letter of intent, letters of approval from a faculty advisor and an ASM Ambassador, and contact information for the Executive Board members. Each chapter has over 20 members, and meet regularly to promote ASM and microbiology in their communities.
Supporting Sister Societies
The International Board continued to foster partnerships with a wide range of sister societies this year; a few highlights from 2013 include:
- African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM): ASM continues to partner with the ASLM to support the Second ASLM Conference, December 2014, in Cape Town, South Africa. ASM staff are lending assistance to organizational committees and planning a joint satellite session during the conference. Earlier in October 2013, ASM supported the First ASLM Francophone Conference in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
- Extensive programmatic collaboration with the Yemen Society for Microbiology, Malaysian Society for Microbiology and Pakistan Society for Microbiology, including sister biosafety associations and clinical partners.
- Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS): ASM and FEMS partnered to launch the Mäkelä - Cassell Travel Grant for Early Career Scientists during the 5th Congress of European Microbiologists in Leipzig, Germany.
- Association of Microbiologists of India: After years of successful collaborations, ASM and AMI signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding.
- Chinese Society for Microbial Ecology: ASM and CSME coordinated a Joint special session and ASM Workshop on Scientific Writing and Publishing during the Chinese Society for Microbial Ecology Annual Meeting in Chengdu, China.
ASM began a new initiative to leverage ASM resources, virtually, through workshops and lectures around the world, allowing real time engagement with nearly any community of scientists. Existing ASM products have been well-received, including a Molecular Diagnostics Webinar developed by the PPC, a series of ICAAC symposia recorded by ASM Meetings, and the virtual Scientific Writing and Publishing workshop previously developed in partnership with ASM Education. In addition, two new training modules, Culture of Responsibility (on the principles of biosafety, biosecurity, and responsible conduct of research) and Art of Science Communication have been rolled out to hundreds of scientists around the world, as virtual courses with an onsite moderator, and often an expert speaker participating in real-time via video-conference. Looking ahead, the IB is partnering with the American Academy for Microbiology (AAM) to build a Virtual Speaker Program, that brings the vast expertise of the 2500+ AAM Fellows to ASM affiliated meetings and events across the globe.
ASM’s International Membership Surpasses All-Time Record
After successfully reversing the 4-year decline in international membership in 2012 with a 15% increase, the IB set its sights on an even more ambitious goal: to surpass the all-time record for ASM international membership set in 2004. Through a concerted effort to leverage all international programs and resources, ASM’s international membership grew another 23% to 15,399 members or 2,159 more than ever before.
Building on Success: Global Engagement
ASM: New Frontiers
In 2013-2014, ASM’s work on engaging scientists around the globe was strengthened through ongoing programs in Yemen, Pakistan, and Malaysia and expanded to include activities in Algeria, India, and Indonesia. These efforts aim to address a range of shared global health challenges and were supported in part by increased funding from the U.S. Department of State. Though these programs vary widely in geographic location and partners, they all leverage the Society’s vast network of volunteer experts and ASM resources to foster indigenous capability in microbiology.
Country Program Highlights
Algeria: ASM launched activities in Algeria to foster new institutional collaborations and engage life scientists through value-added activities of the ASM member network. Specifically, ASM and the Center for Biotechnology Research in Constantine are partnering to implement a disease-specific biorisk management workshop and identify a location for the first ASM Bio-Resource Center in the country.
India: ASM’s efforts in India demonstrated broad impact in strengthening science and encouraging institutional capacity-building by building new linkages with Indian sister societies such as the Society for Biosafety, Association of Microbiologists of India, and Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists. Additionally, ASM formalized its partnership with AMI through the signing of an MOU, established ASM’s first International Student Chapter at the University of Delhi, held a session on biosafety at the AMI Annual Conference in Rohtak, India in collaboration with SBS, and hosted a pre-conference workshop at IAMM’s annual MICROCON conference in Hyderabad, India.
Indonesia: ASM is working closely with sister societies in Indonesia, including the Indonesian Society for Microbiology, Indonesian Biorisk Association, and Indonesian Society for Clinical Microbiology to collaboratively advance life science best practices in Indonesia. Activities include the development of two Bio-Resource Centers and an Indonesian module of the ASM Microbiology Mentoring Program.
Malaysia: ASM, the Malaysia Society for Microbiology (MSM), and the Malaysian Biosafety & Biosecurity Association (MBBA) strengthened and expanded longstanding partnerships. MSM-ASM pilot activities provided low-cost, high-impact ASM expert virtual presentations for university courses and professional development workshops. More traditional activities took place at both the MSM annual meeting in Langawki, Malayasia and the ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Washington D.C., including travel grants, sponsorship of expert speakers, professional development workshops, and joint-society membership promotions. In addition, ASM is in the process of developing a virtual lecture series for first responders on basic microbiology and biosafety in collaboration MBBA.
Pakistan: Since July 2013, over 400 Pakistani members joined ASM, totaling to 955 Pakistani ASM members which continues to grow, largely due to the efforts of ASM Young Ambassador Samreen Sarwar and Ambassador Shahana Kazmi. Notably, ASM formed a partnership with the National Academy of Young Scientists and jointly delivered workshops in Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Multan that reached over 100 young scientists. Further, the third Bio-Resource Center in Pakistan was launched at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan to serve the newly-established and under-resourced microbiology program at the University. In addition, the ASM Microbiology Mentoring Program was launched in Pakistan in January 2014, during which sixteen clinical microbiologists from around the country received intensive training in technical laboratory skills and quality management to bring back to their home laboratories.
Yemen: Over the past year, ASM expanded both its membership and its institutional partnerships in Yemen, broadening the Society’s network and knowledge base by engaging life scientists in an otherwise isolated nation. ASM Ambassador to Yemen, Nagi Al Haj, was instrumental in fostering new collaborations and implementing the resulting activities. Since July 2013, three ASM professional development workshops have engaged nearly 700 participants, as well as established relationships with the institutional hosts. Further, two new Bio-Resource Centers (BRC) were established at the Universities of Taiz and Thamar, and the existing BRC at University of Sana’a was expanded due to the positive response to the Center. ASM also provided stewardship to the burgeoning Yemeni Society for Microbiology as it develops.
Measurable Impact towards Sustainable Development
The Committee on Sustainable Development supports the delivery of the Global Laboratory Capacity Strengthening (LabCap) Program in resource-limited countries towards advancing the IB’s broader vision of promoting science diplomacy and sustainability. The program is funded through a Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as a contract through the USAID to support the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The LabCap program received $7.0M for the program year starting in October 2013.
In the past grant year, the LabCap program trained 545 individuals from 359 different health institutions across 18 countries, as disaggregated below:
- Workshops: 385 participants from 267 institutions across 15 countries have benefited from 2,354 person-days of ASM workshops in a range of competency areas, including bacteriology and mycology, TB microscopy, culture & DST, QMS and SLIPTA, EQA systems, biosafety and infection control, among others.
- Mentoring: 105 individuals from 32 institutions across 11 countries have benefited from 2,118 person-days of general microbiology and TB-related in-lab mentoring activities.
- Technical Assistance: 55 individuals from 60 institutions across 9 countries have received 3,089 person-days of technical assistance for targeted diagnostic capacity strengthening and cross cutting areas for laboratory systems.
LabCap: Advancing ASM-Wide Collaboration for Impact
• ASM’s Microbiology Mentoring Package for resource-limited countries has been peer-reviewed in collaboration with the following ASM Committees – Professional Practices Committee, Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Committee and the Committee on Laboratory Practice. ASM has provided this important tool to ASM consultants and local mentors in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania to support CDC cooperative agreement activities. An electronic interface for the package is in development.
• In partnership with LabCap countries, ASM has established 17 new Bio-Resource Centers (BRCs). Featuring ASM print and online resources, the BRC provides a dynamic and sustainable platform for professional development and continuing education. BRCs strengthen fledgling microbiology communities and provide outreach to ASM’s growing international membership.
• The LabCap program launched a successful initiative to increase ASM Global Outreach (GO) membership to provide much-needed ASM resources to microbiology communities in resource-limited settings. In 2013, GO membership doubled from 1,318 to 3,147.
Country Program Highlights
The following success stories are illustrative of ASM efforts to strengthen global laboratory capacity:
Mozambique: ASM spearheaded the development of a National Microbiology Strategic Plan to complement the National Lab Strategic Plan for the next 5 years. ASM is now working with local partners to implement the program to strengthen the microbiology laboratory network.
Nigeria: ASM has supported the efforts of the Nigerian National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Program through a series of activities, including groundbreaking EQA for TB molecular diagnostics, and planning for the next 5-year national TB control plan.
Cote d’Ivoire: ASM has completed renovations at the Centre Antituberculeux (CAT)-Adjamé, the largest of eleven regional TB laboratories in Cote d’Ivoire. This is an important milestone in the larger ASM program to bolster the laboratory network for quality assured diagnostics of tuberculosis in Cote d’Ivoire.
Kenya: Starting in May 2013, ASM has worked with the Kenya Ministry of Health (MOH) to roll out a comprehensive clinical microbiology laboratory-strengthening program in Kenya. To ensure optimum use of resources, the ASM program has leveraged partnerships with the World Bank supported East African Public Health Laboratory Network project, and the NGO, A Global Public Healthcare Foundation.
DRC: ASM’s technical assistance to the DRC’s National HIV/AIDS Reference Laboratory has yielded significant improvements in quality assured diagnostics. ASM activities have improved rapid preparation and distribution of DTS PT panels, guided the collection and analysis of the DTS PT program results, and created a database documenting all corrective actions and follow-up activities. In 2013, the number of sites enrolled in the DTS PT program increased from 9 to 82.
Guinea: ASM is part of a consortium, StopPalu, supporting the control and prevention of malaria in Guinea as part of a multi-million dollar USAID-funded President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) program. ASM has established a Technical Working Group for Malaria Diagnostics and conducted an assessment of the laboratory network. A comprehensive training program is being rolled out to overhaul malaria diagnostics across the PMI zones in the country.