Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum Update: the first two years of the ECM Forum

Issue: Oceans

05 February 2019 article


This ECM Forum update is a special one. We have now celebrated over two years since the inaugural Committee members took office. A huge amount has been achieved since January 2017, and I wanted to use this column as an opportunity to reflect on this.

From its earliest stages, the Forum has been influenced heavily by the key aims of the Chair, Helen Brown. Helen applied for the position because she wanted to help early career researchers to have a voice in Society decisions, as well as to develop her own microbiology network. She was clear that she wanted to integrate the Forum within the Society during her term, ensuring it would become a staple that continued beyond the scope of her two years.

The Committee has grown considerably under Helen’s guidance. It was composed initially of five early career members who represented the Forum on the Publishing, Policy, Communications and Conferences Committees, as well as an International representative. Keen to increase our relevance to undergraduates, we soon added another committee member, tasked with improving our engagement with this career group.

The Committee expanded further in the following year, with the introduction of representatives for the Finance and Operations Committee, as well as one for each of the four Divisions. The Division representatives were recruited to ensure that the viewpoint of early career researchers was heard across all areas of the Society, as well as bringing their personal expertise to the planning of the ECM Forum Summer Conference.

The Summer Conference, spearheaded by Amy Richards, was covered in November’s issue of Microbiology Today, but suffice to say it has been one of the major achievements of the ECM Forum to date. It gave early career members the chance to deliver presentations in a relaxed environment, while also building and strengthening their networks. Helen says the Summer Conference is the one part of her term as Chair of which she is most proud, especially as it demonstrated just how engaged and active ECM Forum members are within the Society.

The Forum has also cemented its presence at the Society’s flagship Annual Conference, with a poster prize exclusively for ECM Forum members and taking charge of running the pre-Conference networking event. A number of members also participated in the Conference co-chairing scheme, enabling them to experience chairing a session under the guidance of the organisers. This is an incentive available only to ECM Forum members and is gaining momentum year on year.

Helen’s aim of integrating the ECM Forum within all parts of the Society has without doubt been achieved. ECM Forum members have conducted interviews with Society Prize winners, participated in focus groups and produced articles for the Society’s blog, Microbe Post. In the future, Helen hopes that there will be even more engagement with early career researchers, emphasising that the Society is acutely interested in what we have to say. She is confident that the incoming Chair, Amy Richards, will steer the Forum in the right direction, continuing to build on these successful foundations.

Rebecca Hall

Communications Representative, ECM Forum Executive Committee

ECM Forum members have the opportunity to experience chairing a session under the guidance of the organisers through the Annual Conference Co-chairing Scheme.