From the Editor
Science is an international endeavor. We never know where the next great idea or creative method will be developed, so there is a compelling need to meet colleagues at international conferences like the ASM Microbe meeting, and to collaborate with scientists from around the world.
As highlighted in this issue of Microcosm, there is probably no area of microbiology that requires a more obvious need for international cooperation and collaboration than public health. Diseases are rapidly transmitted around the world, both through natural channels and on planes, ships and trains, which are constantly moving people and goods to all corners of the globe. Awareness of where and when disease outbreaks occur enables more accurate predictions of where they might go next, facilitating preventive measures. However, for these public health approaches to work, the free exchange of information between public health agencies in different countries is imperative — but this seemingly simple problem can be thwarted by political agendas. For example, news about an outbreak of influenza, Ebola or a variety of other diseases can quickly reduce tourism, providing a financial incentive to keep this information from the public. The ASM and public health agencies have worked to promote international cooperation that ensures the fast and forthright exchange of public health information, facilitating quick, coordinated responses to outbreaks of disease.
Useful exchange of information between public health agencies and the effective treatment of disease depends upon the quality and reliability of laboratory data, both in regions with advanced clinical capability and in regions with limited laboratory infrastructure. Another way that ASM contributes to global health is by helping to build capacity in clinical laboratories from resource-limited regions. Over 500 ASM members who are subject-matter experts have contributed technical assistance, training and mentoring to these projects. Their efforts focus on helping to establish sustainable, quality-assured diagnostics, quality-management systems, biosafety and biosecurity, strategic planning, outbreak detection and response and workforce development.
Many ASM members from across the globe contribute to public health, clinical microbiology and the basic research that drives important new scientific discoveries. International cooperation requires bringing together people with different experiences, backgrounds and values to achieve common goals. This diversity of knowledge, experience and perspective is crucial to promote public health and to advance science.
The distinctive perspectives of ASM members are essential for stimulating us to consider different ideas and to push science in new directions. Hence, feedback from ASM members is crucial for our society. A recent letter to the editor from Mimi Goldschmidt questioned key conclusions from a Microcosm article about Pat Brown and the Impossible Burger. She pointed out that questions remain about the safety of this meat substitute, noting possible concerns about the health effects of leghemoglobin. Although the Microcosm article was a summary of Brown's talk at the ASM Microbe 2019 meeting, not an assessment of the science behind the Impossible Burger, we appreciate these comments and encourage other readers to provide feedback as well. We are planning a new section on the ASM website that will engage member feedback and discourse.
Whether you are addressing a global health problem, interacting with colleagues from different places, or sharing ideas that stimulate thinking about problems differently, ASM is a wonderful resource for engaging with other scientists and learning new concepts.
Stanley Maloy, Ph.D.