When I first met my husband, he saw on the top of my pile of mail a magazine for the “Protein Society“. He proceeded to ask me about the secret handshake and our underground rituals. And what about the outfits? Are there robes? There must be robes! That’s when I realized that most people know nothing about professional scientific societies. Since I’m spending this entire week at a scientific meeting for the International Society for Biological and Environmental Research (or ISBER – pronouced “is-burr” – for short), my blog posts this week are going to be all about scientific societies and scientific meetings.
In science there may be hundreds (thousands?) of professional societies. They can have membership based in the United State or can be international. They can have a broad focus like the Protein Society or a very specific focus, like ISBER. They can have hundreds of members or thousands. The American Association for the Advancement of Science boasts over 120,000 global members! There are many purposes for these societies. They bring scientists with similar interests together so that they can share ideas. As a group, the society can also have a single voice to collectively educate the public to explain certain controversial pieces of research or to advocate the government to attempt to change laws, policy or funding affecting scientists. Many societies have their own journals and provide a forum to publish articles of particular interest to that group of people. For example, the official ISBER journal is Biopreservation and Biobanking. Depending on the society, they could be managed by hired staff, a subcontracted management group, or exclusively by the member volunteers. For example, ISBER is managed by Malachite Management Inc., and I volunteer on the Membership and Marketing Committee (to help recruit new members) and the Programming Committee (to help plan the annual meeting). Societies also provide support for young researchers through networking, mentoring, education and career opportunities. And this brings us to the annual meeting, which most societies also have, in various locations around the country or around the world to bring researchers together to talk about their research, network and learn.
To give you an example of different kinds of scientific societies, I have listed below the societies that I have either been a member of or attended a meeting (and presented in one form or another) for.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS – or as most people say “triple A, S): a general scientific society that focuses on public communication and outreach to government
- American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) the preeminent cancer research society
- American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB): As stated, a society focused on the cell, what’s in a cell and how it works, but not so intuitively, an international society.
- American Crystallography Association: For people who work on understanding the 3D structure of proteins using X-Ray crystallography or other methods.
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Focusing on how proteins interact and make signals inside and between cells.
- Biophysical Society: Biophysics is the study of the physics behind biological activities – for example, how proteins work
- International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories: A global society that focuses on all types of biobanking activities. More on biobanking in a later post.
- Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS): All about the machines that we use in the lab to automate tedious tasks.
- Protein Society: an international society interested in understanding everything there is to know about proteins
- Public Population Project in Genomics: An international society for people who do health and social sciences research.
Because I’m trained as a cell and molecular biologist, most of my society affiliations are related to that, however there are scientific societies for Neuroscientists (people who study the brain), Microbiologists (scientists who study bacteria and other microbes), Physicists, Mathematicians, Physicians, and on and on.
Since I’m at the ISBER Annual Meeting this week, my next blog post will be all about meetings and what exactly we do at them (besides drink cocktails).