Message to Members From Victor DiRita, ASM President

Dear Valued ASM Members,

The final days of 2020 are time for reflection on this remarkable year. While this year has challenged all of us, the commitment of ASM to our mission — to advance the microbial sciences — has been front and center in addressing the challenges.  Our work has never been  more urgent and visible. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions of our daily lives, including how we go about work as microbial scientists, ASM and its members quickly adjusted and found new ways to stay connected, share scientific discoveries and move us all forward in the effort to solve the most pressing global health crisis in a century.

On behalf of ASM leadership, thank you for your support during this unprecedented year. Your membership enabled ASM to provide much-needed support to scientists around the world. With your help, we advocated, educated and created new ways to bring our community together.

Reflecting on the difficulties of 2020 would be incomplete without recognizing — with immense gratitude from all of us — the heroes of the past year.  At the top of that list are our clinical laboratory scientists and public health professionals who are working on the front lines during the pandemic. Your tireless service to fighting COVID-19 is saving lives and mitigating the spread of the virus.

Here are just some of the highlights of what we accomplished together in 2020:

  • Keeping you and the public informed about COVID-19. In January, ASM launched a comprehensive COVID-19 resource page, providing rigorously developed, up-to-date information about SARS-COV-2. In late March, the ASM Council on Microbial Sciences convened nearly 100 experts from around the world to discuss questions surrounding diagnostics, vaccines and treat­ments for SARS-CoV-2. Just a few days following the summit, ASM leaders published a paper in mBio summarizing diagnostics for COVID-19. 
    Building on recom­men­dations from the summit, we launched the ASM COV­ID-19 Research Registry to bring researchers top-ranked, expert-curated COVID-19 research articles. This registry is a must-visit site to keep abreast of the rapidly-emerging data on all aspects of COVID-19, from the basic science to the newest treatments. We also host in-depth monthly, virtual journal clubs to give you an opportunity to participate in expert-led discussions of recent articles published in the COVID-19 Research Registry. The registry continues to grow, with new articles added as soon as they are available, and has become an invaluable and trusted resource for the global scientific community 
    • Standing up for science when it mattered most. ASM worked closely with policymakers, the Food and Drug Administration, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advocate for approaches grounded in rigorous science to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We educated and advocated to increase access to testing and PPE, increase transparency around allocation and availability of COVID-19 lab testing supplies and ensure equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines. We also urged appropriate oversight and enforcement of diagnostic and antibody tests that come to market. Additionally, ASM members had an opportunity to meet directly with congressional lawmakers and provide expert testimonies on the need for scientific funding and research during the ASM Hill Day.
    • Ensuring that concerns of clinical microbiologists are heard. Clinical microbiologists have been on the front lines since the start of the pandemic and we made it our priority to identify the roadblocks impeding their work with testing. In May, ASM hosted a Serology Testing Webinar for COVID-19 attended by nearly 800 experts from around the world: clearly, the demand for knowledge about this topic is high. We provided an in-depth look at the principles of serology testing: protocols, platforms, authorization guidelines, interpretation of results, accuracy concerns and overcoming roadblocks to success. 
        ASM also worked with the Infectious Diseases Society of America to develop guidelines for RNA testing for SARS-CoV-2, followed by a second set of guidelines on serologic testing. Most recently, we developed a data collection tool to identify the status of supplies for COVID-19 tests, as well as other microbiological tests, to highlight and help alleviate the debilitating supply chain issues the U.S. has been facing.
        • Making high-impact, peer-reviewed research available — fast. In 2020, ASM journals received a record numbers of submissions.  Towards the goal of sharing rapidly-evolving science with the community, we expedited the review and publishing process. Additionally, we opened access to hundreds of COVID-19-related articles published in ASM journals. This special collection continues to include new articles, making it possible for researchers around the world to freely and quickly access the latest in COVID-19 research.
        • Connecting the ASM community — virtually. Despite the cancellation of the in-person 2020 ASM Microbe meeting, we brought the ASM community together in virtual space with Microbe Online —  Summer of Science. And here, special recognition goes to our colleagues in the ASM Meetings Department who flipped the switch from an in-person meeting to an exceptional digital meeting very nearly overnight. Over the course of 3 months, we presented 49 scientific sessions, thousands of ePosters, a Virtual Showcase and Industry and Science Symposia. Thanks to this innovative format, thousands of ASM members from around the world were able to participate, including many first-time attendees from resource-restricted countries. All ASM Microbe Online scientific content continues to be available to members in on-demand format.

        With your support, we will continue to build on these achievements in 2021. On behalf of ASM leadership, I wish you a happy and safe holiday season, and look forward to working together in the New Year, which we might all wish will be somewhat less remarkable! 



        Victor DiRita
        American Society for Microbiology