From the Chief Executive

Issue: Natural Products and Drug Discovery

05 November 2019 article

It was a great pleasure at the Microbiology Society’s Annual General Meeting to report to the membership about the range of impressive work in recent months. Those efforts are all about strengthening the networks available to the members of the Society, promoting your work and its contribution to society, and making sure that we have robust plans for the future.

Those future plans are ambitious and exciting, and they draw on the Society’s core strengths – the experience and knowledge of the members and the professional expertise of the staff. It is this knowledge and expertise, applied in innovative ways, that will allow microbiology to make an ever-bigger contribution to the world around us.

To deliver these ambitions, we need to be better at two things. First, we need to build the strongest possible relationship between the staff and the members, and over recent months and years, we have taken a variety of steps in this direction. Some of these are very obvious, like the President’s Roadshow events, where members of the staff team accompany the President around the UK and Ireland to meet directly with members and prospective members. Other initiatives may be less obvious – for example, we have recently brought the administration of the peer review process back in-house for most of our journals. This means that if you need to communicate with someone during that procedure, it will be a member of Microbiology Society staff, who understands the community and the organisation, not someone from an outsourced company.

We are also redoubling our efforts to give a voice to all the different subsets of the microbiology community. The Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum has rapidly become established as a vehicle for its constituency to participate in our decision-making. But there are many other ways in which we are moving to empower sections of the microbiology community. For example, our work to help inform discussions about the future strategy of Science Foundation Ireland is, for the first time, giving Irish-based microbiologists a specific and coherent voice in discussions about their future funding opportunities.

The other thing we need to get better at is closing the gap between the Microbiology Society and other groups and organisations who share some of our aims. Some of these will be scientific in nature, and it has been really valuable to build partnerships and joint activities with the Irish Fungal Society, Protistology-UK and the British Yeast Group. But other important organisations will include public bodies, private companies and charities in other sectors. Our project on ‘A Sustainable Future’ aims to demonstrate the value and raise the profile of microbiology in addressing the world’s greatest challenges. It will be most successful where we are able to build common cause with the government agencies and non-governmental organisations that are closest to the work of delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Microbiology Society has changed a great deal in recent years, and these ambitious aims for the future will mean more change to come. They are not just possible, but also highly successful, because at its core, in its fundamental purpose and its beliefs, the Society has been unwaveringly constant throughout its history. Next year – 2020 – will see our 75th anniversary, and we will collectively celebrate why microbiology matters.

As we do so, it is worth remembering what our far-sighted founders set out to achieve. These were scientific greats like Nobel Laureate Alexander Fleming and Marjory Stephenson, one of the first two women elected to the Royal Society. Time and again, their early meetings stressed the importance of “interconnections” among different microbiologists and the strength that comes from harnessing these links. As we approach our 75th birthday, we live in very different local and global circumstances from those of our founders, but by focusing on the same objectives, the Microbiology Society is well placed not just to celebrate its past but to look forward to an impressive and successful future.

Peter Cotgreave

Chief Executive

[email protected]