AIBS hosted a first-of-its-kind event in June 2012, exploring key topics affecting the field and profession with a cross-generational group of invited individuals. To learn more about what we did, watch the slide show below. The findings are presented by the table hosts in the sections below.
Through these conversations, I aimed to learn more about the personal stories behind what I was seeing in our survey data, to explore how students make decisions about joining societies, and what motivates late career professionals to retain memberships throughout their careers. I was curious to learn how people perceive metasocieties, their relationships with them, and the role of the metasociety (e.g., the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], AIBS, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [FASEB]). I have also heard that with all the technological alternatives to the services they offer today, scientific societies are becoming obsolete. I wondered whether that were true. The conversations were informative, and there was one completely surprising and informative nugget that emerged. The key points that emerged from my discussions were the following:
By the end of my four sessions, I looked down at the surface of the table, draped with white butcher paper covered with hand-written notes, comments, doodles, and bits of eloquent prose here and there, and I really had to smile at the warm memories it evoked of problem solving at my family table as a child. In my childhood household, the dinner table was a place for solving great mathematical problems, and my father and I would solve equations and factor polynomials on the backs of paper napkins at every meal! The doodles on this table, however, examined a much more abstract kind of problem: the career pathways of professionals in biological fields. Four major themes emerged from our conversations:
I have a strong interest in public perceptions of science and strategies for engaging with the public associated with my day job. As a result, I was looking forward to conversations with our guests about their interactions with the public. I was curious to see whether their responses would be similar to those I have received from the faculty and graduate students with whom I interact at the University of California, Berkeley, and at professional meetings that I attend. I found (perhaps unsurprisingly) a strong similarity along three primary messages; only the supporting details varied, and those primarily with personality and experience. The highlights from these conversations were the following:
As the editor in chief for BioScience magazine, I often ponder how all the rapidly changing technology is changing the way we communicate our research as professionals. I wonder about the role of social media, whether annual meetings are becoming an outdated mode of getting the job done, and how to respond to the desire of so many to see our scholarly material become open access to the public. This conversation was a great opportunity to ask some of these questions and to learn more about how a range of biologists think about the issues that challenge the scholarly publishing and research communication industry. What I took home was the following:
To read more about AIBS activities that promote the understanding of the forces affecting scholarly societies and the field, we recommend the following:
Still want more? This is an evolving program of AIBS. If your organization would like to get involved, learn more, or see how to participate, contact Sheri Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org.