Charting ASM’s New Strategic Course

Jan. 22, 2024

As the field of microbial sciences rapidly expands and we witness life-changing innovations, science needs more from ASM. ASM can no longer simply react to the changes around us, but we must own our role as the platform that empowers the community of microbial scientists and all stakeholders to shape the future of the field. We must harness the transformative power of microbes to address humanity’s most pressing challenges.

ASM embraces the responsibility to support scientists and stakeholders globally, leveraging fundamental and applied science to create a positive impact for life on and sustainability of our planet.

ASM’s new Strategic Framework is a declaration of the organization’s intent to steer ASM’s journey toward the most promising horizons and shield against the most formidable challenges, as envisioned by ASM’s Board of Directors in early 2022.

This framework marks the start of a transformation of ASM to a generative, science-centric, globally focused organization whose vision, mission and values are connected to the world around us. It is a natural evolution from ASM’s tradition as a service-centric, U.S.-focused Society, similar to most professional scientific associations today.

An infographic of the vision, mission, values, goals of ASM's strategic framework
Source: American Society for Microbiology
A chart of ASM's goals as outcome statements
Source: American Society for Microbiology

Defining ASM’s Scientific Units

To create a successful mechanism for gathering collegial input and developing a set of scientific priorities, ASM will establish 3 scientific units with the goal of integrating diverse and dynamic perspectives. ASM's Scientific Units Taskforce, chaired by ASM President Virginia Miller, drew from their vast expertise across disciplines to envision the framework for these units.

The 3 scientific units—ASM Mechanism Discovery, ASM Applied and Environmental Microbiology and ASM Health—will each have their own infrastructure, led by a volunteer Scientific Chair and a full-time staff Scientific Director. Supported by expert Advisory Councils, and additional support staff, these leaders will guide the units with technical prowess and represent what will be the natural evolution of our current Council on Microbial Sciences (COMS). 

These units will not function in isolation; they will collaborate, recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of microbial sciences and avoiding the pitfalls of scientific siloes. The objective is to integrate and coordinate efforts, creating a harmonious symphony of scientific excellence.

An infographic defining ASM's new scientific units
Source: American Society for Microbiology

These units will draw in and integrate areas of the microbial sciences and those scientists who may not see themselves as “classic microbiologists.”

At the heart of this transformation is a profound understanding that our community is diverse and dynamic. ASM recognizes and supports that diversity at all levels. ASM strives to provide a clear home for every microbial scientist, be it a microbial ecologist, molecular biologist, clinical microbiologist, educator or an industrial microbiologist, while enhancing and promoting their identities and communities, and facilitating interactions where beneficial.

This transformative journey is not a mere addition to ASM’s current structure; it is a profound reimagining of ASM’s foundation, governance and operations. Simultaneously, we recognize that securing the long-term sustainability of this bold initiative and its implementation is critically important and will require the development of a supporting financial model.

Setting Strategic Outcomes

At the December 2023 Board of Directors meeting, the board endorsed the proof-of-concept ASM Strategic Framework and supporting Scientific Units. Over the course of 2023, we sought input from ASM membership, in multiple settings.

We anticipate the board will give its approval of the strategy in March 2024. In the interim, we are preparing for implementation. A set of ASM 2024 Organizational Priorities is taking shape, each priority a stepping stone toward our collective vision.

A chart of ASM's strategic framework goals
Source: American Society for Microbiology

Throughout its centennial history, ASM has been a driving force in advancing microbial sciences. Today, as scientific boundaries blur and research accelerates, ASM feels an even greater responsibility. We foresee ASM as the unifying global force that holds the space for the future, bringing together scientists and stakeholders worldwide to harness the incredible power of microbes. The time for a strategic pivot is now. ASM will not only shape its own destiny but also ambitiously contribute to shaping the future of global microbial sciences and redefining what it means to be a professional scientific society. Together, let us embark on this inspiring journey.

Enlisting Our Community

Crucial to bringing ASM’s new strategic plan to life is ensuring that our society represents all areas of the microbial sciences, and to do this, we need feedback from ASM’s members. To learn more about the strategic plan, listen to ASM President Virginia Miller and ASM CEO Stefano Bertuzzi discuss the need for change and how ASM’s vast community of members and stakeholders fit into the new strategy.

Hearing from all our members will help us get a comprehensive picture of our Society so that we can structure ASM in the best way to address the challenges and opportunities ahead. We encourage you to send us your feedback on how we can build a forward-looking strategic plan that serves both members and the public.