From the Chief Executive

Issue: Arboviruses and their Vectors

06 August 2019 article

I have just celebrated my five-year anniversary at the Microbiology Society, so I have been looking back at what has happened in that time and thinking about what we can achieve in the next five years. There are too many achievements to list them all but we have balanced the Society’s budget to make us sustainable for the future; launched an innovative new journal in Access Microbiology; ensured that Annual Conference is an unmissable experience; embedded the Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum; made some amazing visual, digital, audio and video content; expanded our professional development offering in response to feedback from members; dramatically reduced the time it takes to publish articles at a lower cost and had some of the Society’s first significant policy successes.

Measuring success is not easy when the point of an organisation is to forge connections and build communities, but we must be doing something right because the number of members is rising steadily, as more and more microbiologists recognise the value of being part of the Microbiology Society community.

Looking forward with any certainty is even harder, partly because it’s impossible to predict the things that are outside of our control. How will Brexit affect the research community? Will changes to the way scientific publication is paid for turn out to be a threat or an opportunity for a community publisher like the Microbiology Society? Will the political process take a keener interest in the big challenges where microbiology can make a significant contribution, like food security and climate change?

What I can say with confidence is that the Microbiology Society is well placed both to respond to these developments, but more importantly to play a part in leading and defining them. The work we have done in the last few years has given us renewed confidence in the part that we as a community can take.

The big global challenges are an example. The Microbiology Society’s project about the role of our discipline in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) – A Sustainable Future – is forging a community that links the unique depth and breadth of knowledge that you – as members of the Society – can bring, with the politicians and non-governmental organisations that see themselves as responsible for ensuring the SDGs are delivered. The launch event in Westminster brought together soil microbiologists, medical microbiologists and environmental microbiologists with civil servants, doctors, educators and others as an early step in bringing these communities closer together.

In the world of publishing, which generates most of the Society’s surplus income from which we fund our programmes, we are taking a lead, as the economic model is rapidly changing in response to the needs of funders. The Microbiology Society is at the heart of the process as new deals are structured and new policies developed, so that the public gets a fair deal for the money it invests in science, the research community has a fair choice of where to publish its work so that it reaches the right audience and not-for-profit publishers like the Microbiology Society can serve the needs of our community.

Next month, the Microbiology Society will move its headquarters to new premises. We need more space, and more importantly we need facilities that match our level of ambition. The strategy that the Society’s Council and staff are pursuing begins with the words: ‘microbes are everywhere and affect almost all aspects of our lives’. The transformative potential of microbiology to change people’s lives for the better is almost unlimited, and the members of the Microbiology Society have a unique contribution to make. We have achieved a great deal together in the past five years and I look forward to being ever more ambitious in the next five. Please let me know about the opportunities you see where we can have an impact by ensuring that the science of microbiology provides maximum benefit to society.

Peter Cotgreave

Chief Executive

p.cotgreave@microbiologysociety.org