November 4, 2015

My Manifesto

Why I agreed to run for the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee
by Liz Haswell

The NAASC is holding its annual election of two new members, and the list of people who were nominated and agreed to run for election was sent out yesterday. The vigor of the Arabidopsis research community is obvious from the large number of names on the list—about 20, including my own. However, voters were not provided with any criteria one might use to select a candidate other than name recognition.

Since I think it’s important for us to make deliberate decisions as a community about our future and our annual meeting, here is a quick post on what I would like to accomplish if I were elected. Before I agreed to the nomination, I spoke with some close friends, and pretty quickly came up with a list of ways we might improve an already great meeting. Some of them are already under way:

  • Invite a wide range of speakers. I’d especially like to target pre-tenure faculty members, female and minority speakers, and folks working on new or under-appreciated questions.
  • Establish the meeting as family-friendly, with child-care and other supportive policies and events
  • Adopt a formal anti-harassment policy.
  • Collect and subsequently publicize a number of metrics including gender, race, age, and geographical location of speakers, poster-presenters and attendees.
  • Establish pre-meeting activities for students and postdocs. Plans to hold pre-meeting workshops in the summer of 2017 are already in place, and I’m in full support. The pre-meeting activities for graduate poster presenters that are run by the Gordon Conferences Research Serminars allow young people to meet their peers and talk science before the meeting gets into full swing.
  • Engage in communication and outreach through a variety of social media channels.

I love Arabidopsis and the Arabidopsis research community. I see serving on the NAASC as an opportunity to actively advocate for basic plant research, a field that I believe needs and deserves championing among scientists, funding agencies, and the public.

Arabidopsis people, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the annual meetings, so please put them in the comments. Elected or not, I will pass them on to the NAASC!


If you did not receive an email with the survey, you can still vote. Email with subject 'Add me to NAASC list'!

For North American meetings, we (NAASC) are working on most of these (minus the anti-harassment statement, and we do acknowledge the need to strengthen our childcare efforts.) NAASC has intentionally focused on minority, and especially early-career speakers and awardees for the last few conferences we’ve organized, and for 2014 we focused specifically on inviting early and later career speakers that had never, or not recently, spoken at an ICAR. We have more work to do- in particular on diversity of groups under-represented in US science- and I am happy to see that people like you are supportive. One place we might work on is influencing the international organizers to expand diversity by being explicit about the benefits of diversity in science- and of course there may be local differences for some things (e.g. different groups or topics that are less represented.) I also conduct surveys of ICAR attendees after each one that NAASC. This provides great input. I think doing a broader survey (beyond ICAR attendees) is probably due and could give us some ideas for ICAR 2017, the next one that NAASC will organize in the US.
I welcome community input and feedback to make the meetings valuable to those that attend- especially the early career researchers who are working in a changing environment. I'm particularly excited about the new NAASC NSF grant on 'Arabidopsis Research and Training for 21st Century Biology' which will allow us to convene new and diverse voices on several important topics including inter-disciplinary training for academia and beyond, quantitative biology, computational and modeling work, and increasing diversity in science.
PS- I have tracked invited speaker gender since 2004 (not updated for 2015 yet)- The results comparing North American vs Non-North American ICARs are, from 2004-2014:
North America: average 42% female invited speakers (range 24-50%) By year % F (50, 37, 24, 45, 48)
Non-North America: average 19% female invited speakers (range 14-29%) By year % F (29, 15, 23, 14, 21, 20)

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