ASM and FABBS Highlight the Role of Scientific Societies in Research

Sept. 30, 2020

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) submitted the following letter to the National Science Foundation highlighting the role of scientific societies alongside universities in the research ecosystem.

Dear Dr. Feldman, Dr. James and Dr. Meacham:

As leaders of the nation’s scientific societies, we stand ready to work with the National Science Foundation to address and surmount the challenges that COVID-19 poses to the research enterprise. We urge your continued support for the valuable programming we provide and encourage you to foster a culture of innovation in order to meet the short- and long-term needs of the scientific community.

Our societies engage in an array of activities, consistent with the goals laid out in the National Science Board’s Vision 2030. As a key component of the science and engineering ecosystem, we are in a position to provide our expertise and efforts to reach broad segments of the scientific community in ways that other institutions cannot.

Scientists may move between institutions and between the academic and commercial sectors; professional societies connect with scientists throughout their careers. Regardless of their career stage or employment or geographic location, societies remain scientists’ professional homes. This begins with K-12 educational programs and extends to engagement throughout their career.

As institutions adapt to new ways of conducting research, scientific societies are adapting to meet the needs of today’s scientific community. For example, the growing role of interdisciplinary “team science” is fueling a revolution in scientific discovery. Yet individuals often find themselves as the only one in a particular discipline within their institution. Scientific societies are the conduit to bring scientists with shared interests together.

Societies provide unrivaled venues for sharing scientific discoveries. While this has traditionally happened through journals and in-person meetings, while facing the COVID-19 pandemic, our societies are developing new and innovative ways to connect scientists together, and we encourage NSF to embrace and support the unique ways in which scientific societies can do that. As reflected in the attached list of examples of activities, scientific societies reflect NSF’s mission within their respective disciplines through:
  • Publishing and disseminating peer-reviewed science
  • Creating venues for the sharing of scientific information
  • Providing professional development to train the next generation of scientists, as well as for scientists at every career stage, without regard to specific institution
  • Educating the public about the fundamental role of science
With the proliferation of online meetings necessitated by the pandemic, we encourage NSF to seize this opportunity to support new forms of innovation in this space. Traditional success metrics for meetings will change, and NSF has a role to play in helping the larger scientific enterprise understand what works in this new environment. Additionally, NSF can support our efforts to promote new ways for scientists to connect across disciplines. Whereas it has traditionally been uncommon for scientists to travel to an in-person meeting outside of their discipline, the relatively low-cost investment of attending online meetings allows scientists to explore new topics and opportunities. Online meetings have the potential meetings allows scientists to explore new topics and opportunities. Online meetings have the potential to broaden participation in the sciences, as meetings are now more easily accessible to those without funding or who face other barriers to travel.

Finally, as acknowledged in Vision 2030, we need to encourage research as a global endeavor. Our societies bring scientists together, regardless of location. We all know that discovery knows no boundaries. Our members are at the forefront of demonstrating that. With NSF’s support we can look for new ways to foster and advance that spirit. We look forward to working with you as you lead NSF during these challenging times. Together we can find the exciting and innovative opportunities presented by this unusual situation.

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.