In 1936, the Society of American Bacteriologists, the precursor to the American Society for Microbiology, began publishing a newsletter to inform members about Society affairs. The newsletter evolved, over time, to include feature articles and book reviews. After the name change to the American Society for Microbiology in 1960, the membership newsletter transitioned into the monthly ASM News magazine.
ASM News served as the ASM membership magazine for many years. It included information about board activities and branch meetings; membership updates, including letters, book reviews and obituaries; and short articles on new discoveries and the history of microbiology.
I’ve enjoyed our membership magazine from the time I was a student. Autobiographical stories like Stanley Falkow’s “I’ll Have the Chopped Liver Please, or How I Learned to Love the Clone,” Amy Vollmer’s “In Love With My Job,” and Jon Beckwith’s “Genetics at the Institute Pasteur: Substance and Style,” provided fun insights into a wide variety of scientific journeys. Historical perspectives, like Lynn Margulis and Betsy Palmer Eldridge’s “What a Revelation Any Science Is!,” and descriptions of ASM Milestones in Microbiology sites, provided broad insights into the development of our discipline. As a bibliophile, I always consumed the book reviews, admiring those that provided interesting insights rather than a pedantic book report. And the letters, often written in response to a particular peeve about nomenclature, were great fodder for conversations with lab mates.
Important, but less enticing, were the descriptions of Society business, which were about as exciting as reading the tax code. Likewise, many of the feature articles seemed like dehydrated versions of a review article, like early astronaut food that provided essential nutrients, but wasn’t very satisfying.
In response to feedback from readers, ASM News was reinvented as the magazine ASM Microbe in 2006. Like its predecessor, ASM Microbe was published monthly and included ASM leadership and membership news and articles about microbiology topics. Taking over from my good friend Elio Schaechter, I began as chair of the editorial advisory board of ASM Microbe in 2012. As ASM Microbe continued to evolve, we sought to focus on feature articles that had broader appeal, and in 2016, we began regular editorials to provide thought-provoking perspectives about microbiology.
The ASM General Meeting was renamed ASM Microbe in 2016, and ASM Microbe, the magazine, was reinvented as Microcosm the following year. I followed the transition from Microbe to Microcosm and have had the pleasure of serving as editor in chief since then.
Along with the change in name, we reimagined the style and substance of our membership magazine. Microcosm was redesigned from bottom to top, and its content became focused on advances in microbiology and inspirational stories about members that reflect the “big tent” of microbiology. The news sections shifted to the ASM website, allowing Society news to be updated as it happens. These changes were made in response to feedback from the ASM membership, and implemented by the creative, collaborative efforts of the ASM communications staff.
The first issue of Microcosm was focused on transformations, reflecting both the changes in ASM Microbe, as well as the many other transformational shifts at ASM. Each of the following issues has focused on a particular concept, like picturing the diversity of the giants of microbiology in Fall 2017, the intersection of science and technology in Spring 2019, the beneficial roles of microbes in Spring 2020, the ins and outs of vaccines in Fall 2020, One Health in fall 2021 and the microbiology of water in this issue. Now published biannually, each issue includes interesting reads that are timely, succinct and integrate multiple aspects of microbiology. And, like ASM Journals, Microcosm has shifted to an online format to allow for direct links to other resources and increased member access.
Your input and suggestions will ensure that Microcosm continues to evolve as a membership magazine that engages new and long-time ASM members from the many subdisciplines of microbiology. Please give us your feedback in-person at ASM Microbe in Washington D.C., send an email or connect via social media. I look forward to hearing from you!
Editor in Chief, Microcosm