Minutes of the 2012

Meeting of the Board of Governors

Monday, January 23, 2012
Washington, DC


I. Introduction


A. Welcome and Roll Call

Present: Bonnie L. Bassler (Chair), Edward F. DeLong, Gerald R. Fink, Susan Gottesman, Diane E. Griffin, Steven E. Lindow, Louis H. Miller, Edward G. Ruby, David Hooper (ex-officio, President, American Society for Microbiology), Joseph Campos (ex-officio, Secretary, American Society for Microbiology), Michael Goldberg (ex-officio, Executive Director, American Society for Microbiology), Nancy Sansalone (ex-officio, Deputy Director), Ann Reid (ex-officio, Director, American Academy of Microbiology), Michael Ingerson-Mahar (Colloquium Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology), Leah Gibbons (Program Assistant), and Katie Lucas (Coordinator, American Academy of Microbiology).

Absent: Peter K. Vogt and Christopher T. Walsh.

The meeting was called to order by Dr. Bassler at 8:30 a.m.


B. Approval of Agenda

The agenda was approved without edits.


II. Old Business


A. Approval of Minutes of February 1, 2011

The 2011 minutes were approved without edits.

B. Update on the State of the Academy

Ms. Reid updated the Board on the activities of the Academy over the past year.

This year, a few new processes were initiated to solicit nominations for Fellowship.  The AAM Nominating Committee was re-constituted as an ad hoc committee with members selected by its chair, Dr. DeLong, Dr. Bassler and Ms. Reid to help identify possible nominees from scientific areas that are underrepresented in the Academy.  A committee conference call solicited 40 potential nominees and nominators, 19 of which resulted in complete nominations for Fellowship.  Membership in this committee will change each year in an effort to increase the scientific diversity of the Academy. An email from Dr. Bassler soliciting nominations was also sent to ASM division chairs.  Many followed up with an email to the Fellows within their divisions.

In a follow-up to the previous year’s discussion of the ASM membership status of AAM fellows, Ms. Reid reported on the membership status of 2012 nominees. Similar to the membership breakdown from past years, of 114 nominations, 82 are current ASM members, 16 have been members at some point in the past, and 16 have never been members.  The Finance Committee agreed to allow the Academy to give a one-year membership to any non-member who is elected to the Academy, with the hope that they will then become long-term ASM members. Staff will provide the Board with follow-up information as it becomes available.

Ms. Reid also reported that submissions to the on-line, open-access journal, mBio, continue to rise, with submissions from Academy Fellows still constituting a significant proportion of submissions and highly-cited papers.

The Academy currently has its first Colloquium Fellow, Michael Ingerson-Mahar.  He has planned and managed two FAQ colloquia including writing and managing the publication of the reports.  There are currently several full-length colloquia and FAQ programs in the planning stages.  The fellowship program has been a great success. The Academy is about to begin looking for its next fellow and will be putting out a call for applications soon.

Ms. Reid shared a letter from Roberto Kolter about confidentiality of fellowship nomination, suggesting that there should be a policy against informing candidates that they have been nominated.  Other honorific organizations, like the Institute of Medicine inform members that it is inappropriate to tell candidates they are being nominated and that they should report to the IOM when it happens. The Board decided that a policy change was unnecessary, but that it would be a good idea to warn nominators that election is not guaranteed and that they should be careful not to raise nominees’ expectations.  Staff will add a sentence to the AAM webpage detailing the average election rate—a statement that is encouraging but shows that all nominations are not successful.


C. Awards Program Update

Ms. Lucas gave an update from the Committee on Awards.  The Academy administered the nomination and selection process for 25 awards in 2011 (for a total of 31 laureates).   The 2011 awards marked the first year that the Academy took over administration of the Moselio Schaechter Distinguished Service Award, which honors leadership and commitment toward furthering microbiology in the developing world.  This award was created by the International Board in 2009 in time for the 2010 General Meeting, and was administered by the International Department for its first year.

After the 2010 GM, the GMPC requested that the names of award winners be available at their meeting in August.  This would allow them to place laureates into appropriate scientific sessions, which should result in higher attendance for laureate lectures.  Meeting the new target date required moving the awards deadline to July 1.  This year’s awards (for the 2012 GM) were the first under the new deadline.  The number of new nominations declined slightly, but the total number reviewed is still above our average of the past five years.

At its 2011 meeting, the Committee on Awards reviewed prize amounts and travel funds for award laureates, as neither had changed for at least twenty years.  The Committee requested $500 more for cash prize and travel amounts for the awards funded directly by ASM, allowing ASM to lead the corporate sponsors by example.  Increased amounts will be requested as awards are re-negotiated over the next few years.  In the meantime, travel funds were increased out of the administrative fees for the awards that had a slight surplus.

The Committee on Awards will be discussing the status of corporate sponsorships at its meeting this spring.  Corporate sponsors have been hesitant to renegotiate contracts, especially for more than one year.  At the suggestion of the Board, the Academy will enlist the help of the Committee on Awards, the Board, and other Fellows,  in identifying individuals in senior management at current and potential sponsor corporations to ensure consistent support for awards. The Board also suggested developing marketing documents that collect testimonies about the impact of winning these awards from past laureates.

Lastly, the ASM sponsors special awards in microbiology each year at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair.  About 80 students present projects in this category.  Historically, the top ten projects have received a cash prize, student membership to ASM, a certificate, and a letter from the ASM President.  One of this year’s judges was very inspired by the amazing work the students were doing, often without much outside help, and requested that all of the microbiology entrants be recognized by ASM.  Additional funding was requested to increase the cash prizes for the top ten students and give all of the microbiology entrants an ASM student membership (including a print subscription to Microbe) and a certificate.  The full list of students competing in the microbiology section will be published in an issue of Microbe.


D. Colloquium Program Update

Dr. Ingerson-Mahar filled the Board in on the various colloquia that are being planned, have a report in progress, or were recently published.  The following reports were published in 2011: Educating the Microbiologist of the Future: The Role of Summer Courses, The Rare Biosphere, Microbial Evolution, Incorporating Microbial Processes into Climate Models, Microbes and Oil Spills (FAQ), and E. Coli: Good, Bad, and Deadly (FAQ).  Two reports are currently in development: “Point of Care Diagnostics” and “Adult Vaccinations” (FAQ).

The FAQ program has been a big success.  There are currently three more in development: “Microbiology of Brewing: Beer,” “The Human Microbiome and Probiotics,” and “The Problem of Antibiotic Resistance.”  There are four regular colloquia in progress: “Microbiology of the Built Water Distribution System” (to take place in April), “Designing Drugs that Last” (to take place in July), “How Microbes Can Help Feed the World,” and “Seeing Inside Cells: Advances in Biological Imaging.” The Board approved the continued development of these projects, but requested that the Human Microbiome FAQ be developed separately from the topic of Probiotics.

Some ideas are in progress to increase the reach of these reports, including developing teaching modules to be used in the classroom, having participants hold science cafes in their hometowns after the reports are published, and developing a central repository of information that better utilizes the reports. An idea for the future is developing some FAQ reports from regular colloquia, as well.  Some ideas that are currently in development are posters or tri-fold brochures from the vaccination FAQ stores for doctors’ offices, drug stores, and grocery stores where flu shots and vaccinations take place.  How titles are created should depend on what audience the report is intended to reach.  The Academy wants to be strategic about reformatting reports for kids, students, Congress, the public, etc.  The goal is to be the “go to” place for an expert opinion on microbiological issues.


III.        New Business


A. Strategic Planning

Dr. Bassler led a discussion with the Board to define the mission of the Academy.  What is the Academy’s strategic advantage; what can it do that nobody else can do?

Dr. Bassler shared with the Board the ASM’s submission to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s request for input on the President’s Bioeconomy Blueprint, the new strategic plans from the Communications Committee and Public and Scientific Affairs Board.  The Board discussed how the Academy can further the goals expressed in the Bioeconomy response, and complement the work of PSAB and Communications to disseminate information to Congress, the public, and other groups.  The group suggested that the unique role of the Academy is as a source of content and expert opinion for all parts of the Society, incuding PSAB and Communications. The Academy should position itself as the group of experts that can provide expert advice and information on any issues or measures of microbiological importance. A suggestion was made that representatives from PSAB and Communications be invited to meet with the Board at next year’s Board meeting.

The group looked at the website for the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges in Engineering, which it decided was a good model.  The NAE website has tabs for 11 grand challenges.  When one is selected, the viewer can see all of the information NAE has on that topic, who the major players are in the field, and what NAE is doing in the field.

If the Academy wants to replicate this model, what is the plan for the next five years?   Fellows could be an army; however they are frequently unfamiliar with the activities of the Academy.  How can the Academy tap into their expertise and get them involved?

The draft mission presented by Dr. Bassler was well received.  Dr. Gottesman said it captured the essence of the Academy, and asked for a description of the ASM’s main boards and volunteers.  The group discussed how the Academy could monitor the field and assess the topics of importance?  The Academy must be fluid enough to able to respond quickly both when there is a catastrophe and when there is an opportunity or breakthrough involving microbes.

The group discussed whether the Academy should endeavor to identify Grand Challenges in Microbiology. Instead of identifying specific microbiology challenges, the Board decided that it would be better to look at grand challenges facing society in general, and then show how microbiology could contribute to solving those challenges. Starting with the challenges of food, energy, environment and health, the Board approved the formation of task forces around each of these challenges. These task forces should be charged with figuring out what’s out there, and where gaps are.  Who are the Academy fellows currently involved in each of these fields?  What is the layout of the problem area?  If other groups are working on the problem area, have they included microbiologists in their discussions? How could the Academy get involved?  What roadmap would the Academy follow to get involved in these topics? Who are current and potential funders? Are there other societies we should interact with? Action items identified by the task forces could include colloquia or mini colloquia, white papers, placement of microbiologists on committees and Boards, coordination with the Education Board to develop curriculum modules, op-eds, podcasts, or others.  The audiences could range from specific funding agency programs or Congressional committees, to high school teachers, ASM members, and the general public.

A frequent comment was that positive images of microbes should be emphasized—not all issues that come up with regard to microbiology involve pathogenesis.  A major take-home message should be that microbes are a diverse and limitless natural resource; the public impression of microbes should be changed.  The Academy can be an ambassador of the microbial world. The strategic plan task force was asked to develop a short descriptive mission statement similar to that of the National Academies: Where the nation turns for independent, expert advice. The Board felt the Academy should embrace a similar mission, whereby the AAM would serve as the place the nation turns to learn more about and appreciate the potential contributions of microbiology. The task force should also develop a strategic plan for the Academy that would provide the road map for achieving the mission goals. A few goals were identified and discussed at the Board meeting, but the strategic plan task force is encouraged to develop others as needed.

One important goal would be to build a strategic database.  The Academy needs a complete catalogue of Fellows- what they do, what fields they are versed in, who their previous employers are, etc.  A well-planned website that features the grand challenges and identifies AAM experts in each grand challenge area would also be a high priority. The website was identified as a good way to host reports from the Academy, each report could be linked to a specific grand challenge area.

As part of the strategic plan, an important theme is the need to develop a culture within the AAM that election to Fellowship represents an opportunity and a responsibility to participate in AAM activities. For example, Fellows could be asked to sign up for a challenge, and then profiled on the challenge web site pages. This would benefit the individual Fellow, but also provide a source of information for people trying to learn more about what microbiologists can do about different societal issues. The idea was broached of arranging for some kind of “town hall” meeting at the General Meeting to get input from Fellows and other ASM members about the strategic plan. Staff will work on options for such gatherings and solicit input from the Board by email.

The Board discussed the question of whether there are enough members of the Board of Governors to accomplish all of its goals. The increase in the number and diversity of Fellowship nominations is just one example of an area where it is difficult for 10 individuals to cover the breadth of microbiology. The Board voted to ask the Fellows for a change in the bylaws to increase the number of Governors from nine (9) to eleven (11). The Board discussed what areas of expertise would be important to include, given the likelihood of future Academy activities in the areas of food, energy, environment and health. The areas suggested as priorities were: clinical microbiology, pathogenesis (perhaps with animal or plant expertise), biofuel/synthetic biology/applied microbiology , viral evolution/epidemiology. Other potentially important emerging areas of expertise were mentioned: genomics, high-throughput techniques, structural biology/imaging/biophysics. Another change in the bylaws will be needed to formalize the new approach to the AAM nominations process. Instead of a fixed committee of five members, each with 2 3-year terms, the procedure used this year involved an an hoc group of more than a dozen recently elected Fellows who were asked to participate in a single conference call. In order to reconcile this approach with the bylaws, Fellows will be asked to approve the following changes to the description of the AAM Nominations Committee (bold font represents insertions; crossed-out words would be deleted):

AAM Nominations Committee. This committee develops a list of potential nominees for Fellowship, ensuring that underrepresented minority and international scientists are considered ensuring that the full breadth of microbiology, with an emphasis on new and emerging areas, is represented.  The AAM Nominations Committee consists of at least five (5) Fellows of the AAM and all members, including the Chair, are appointed by the Chair of the BOG for a three-year term and are eligible for a second three-year term, and at least five (5) Fellows of the AAM, appointed by the Chair of the BOG on an annual basis according to identified gaps in representation. The Chair of the AAM Committee on Diversity serves as a member of the AAM Nominations Committee.


Action Plan

Strategic Plan Task Force:

Susan Gottesman and Bonnie Bassler will work together to map out a strategy for further developing the Academy’s new strategic plan and mission statement. The entire Board will be invited to join on conference calls and comment on drafts as they are generated.

Grand Challenge task forces:

Board liaisons were named to the four proposed task forces:

Food: Steven Lindow, Louis Miller

Energy: Edward DeLong, Gerald Fink

Environment: Edward DeLong, Edward Ruby

Health: Edward Ruby, Diane Griffin

The role of the Board liaisons will be to help identify additional members to serve on the task forces, most importantly, to find a chair for each task force from within the Academy. The liaisons will then work with the identified chair to find another 4-6 scientists and others to serve on the task forces. The work plan for each task force will be developed by staff and disseminated to the whole Board for comment.


IV.        Adjournment


The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.