Board Roundup: ASHG’s Board Looks to Expand Programs, Consider Future Direction of Society

The ASHG Board of Directors met in Washington, DC, October 31—November 1 to review ASHG’s finances, obtain key program updates, and discuss the future direction of the Society. During its annual fall meeting, ASHG’s Board focused primarily on strategic planning for the organization as well as emerging trends and challenges within the organization. It also reviewed ongoing activities related to many facets of the Society’s work, including the 2023 annual meeting, ASHG’s scientific publications, technology and information management, advocacy, and public engagement.

Chief among the topics at the meeting included a discussion on refreshing and adapting a new strategic plan that would be a focal point for the Society for the next three-to-five-years. In the plan, the Board affirmed ASHG’s primary focus on science – the research that drives it, the advocacy that supports it, and the education necessary to advance it. It also included some important tenets of focus, including the health applications of research and advocacy that informs society, with an emphasis on speaking out against social harms and speaking up for societal appropriate uses.

After receiving an update on the Society’s financial portfolio, the Board reviewed and approved the audited financial statements and considered ways to further diversify revenue. The Board meeting also featured a discussion focusing on ASHG’s future in a post-pandemic world. Staff presented operational metrics and their demonstrated impact on membership and annual meeting attendance. Following a discussion on needed improvements to internal technology platforms to enhance efficiencies and customer experiences, the Board approved an investment to consolidate ASHG’s platforms for a more centralized experience using Salesforce.

The Board also discussed the opportunities to further strengthen affinity among regular and early career researchers and ways they can engage with ASHG on an annual basis. Two significant outcomes of the discussion included the Board endorsing a recommendation that the Society raise ASHG 2024 Annual Meeting registration rates 4% over the 2023 meeting rates and approve a $50,000 FY24 Strategic Investment Fund investment for discovery and design of future technology enhancement.

ASHG continues to identify and research opportunities to diversify revenue in the upcoming years including more focus on two distinct areas, digital programming, and career programming. Digitally, there is an opportunity for multi-module online workshops to build on the success of ASHG’s popular webinar series. In career programs, ASHG is planning to host a spring meeting, expand its career fair, and host ‘training days.’ These additional professional education programs will provide new ways for members to build and manage their careers for maximum potential for success.

Supporting Scientific Publishing

Michael Bamshad, MD
Michael Bamshad, MD

The Editors-in Chief of AJHG and HGG Advances reported that both journals are performing well and receiving high-quality submissions reflecting the breadth and depth of the field. As it approaches its 75th anniversary, AJHG remains one of the most highly cited journals in human genetics and genomics. Now in its fourth year, HGG Advances received its first impact factor (4.4) in 2023. In recognition of the outstanding science being presented at the annual meeting, both journals have agreed to send for peer review any manuscripts (from members) that stem from platform and plenary talks. Throughout the year, the journals continued to host a series of webinars featuring the authors of selected papers in conversation with editors from AJHG and HGG Advances. This series aims to highlight papers with strong readership and a diverse slate of authors. The events are well attended and will continue in 2024. The Board commended the editorial teams for their continued leadership.

Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee Cluster Chairs Present Action Plans

The chairs of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee Clusters joined the Board meeting to present recent Public Education and Awareness Committee (PEAC) and Government and Political Advocacy Committee (GPAC) work on action plans. One large area of focus of PEAC’s work was on communications to underserved audiences, providing, and serving as educational resources for the press and science educators. The chairs of GPAC discussed some of the recent Perspectives released along with statements and the Economic Impact Report. Additionally, they also presented what appeared to be on the horizon, including a need for sustained engagement on NIH advocacy and promoting benefits of human genetics and genomics research.

NIH Directors Meeting

NIH LogoOn October 30, the Board met with the directors of NIH genetics and genomics institutes to review updates from, and discuss opportunities to align efforts in support of, the global human genetics field. This was the first meeting between the Board and NIH, a testament to the value NIH places in the Society’s perspective of how to best serve the scientific community. Topics discussed included the funding outlook for the agency in the incoming fiscal year, ways to bolster international collaboration in mutually beneficial programs, opportunities to increase programming on scientific rigor, and more.

CEO Transition

The Board thanked departing ASHG CEO Mona Miller for her hard work and support of the Society over the six years she served in her position. Miller said it had been a pleasure to lead and support the organization, and that the organization was in strong shape and was excited for a new leader to move ASHG forward. She thanked the officers, directors, and staff for their exemplary work. ASHG’s Chief Operating Officer Marie Ternieden will serve for the time being as Interim CEO until a new leader is selected. The Board indicated that the search firm believes a new CEO will be in place by April 2024.

ASHG Launches New Strategic Plan

As we conclude what has been a momentous year of celebrating 75 years of discoveries in human genetics and genomics, we reflect on ASHG’s mission to advance human genetics and genomics in science, health, and society through excellence in research, education, and advocacy.

In service to that mission, the Society’s new Strategic Plan establishes as one of several goals increasing awareness and appreciation of genetics and genomics research among the public and policymakers. Indeed, the plan’s core vision seeks a world where people everywhere realize the benefits of genetics and genomics research. This further highlights the field’s role in translating science into beneficial application, communicating with the public and policymakers about the value and responsible use of genetic and genomic knowledge and fostering diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive environments and scientific priorities within the Society and across the research community.

With genetic and genomic advances occurring at a breathtaking pace, ASHG’s Board of Directors decided to launch a new round of strategic planning that will further assist in supporting the most exciting opportunities for genomics research and its application to human health and disease. The strategic plan is a crucial component for organizational functioning as it establishes the Board’s desired direction and priorities. Then, through ongoing work, the broader organization seeks to implement the plan.

The current round of ASHG strategic planning officially began in February 2023 with a two-day retreat, where the Board affirmed ASHG’s primary focus on science – the research that drives it, the advocacy that supports it, and the education necessary to advance it. The process culminated in the publication of the new strategic plan earlier this month.

In order to organize ASHG’s conversations with scientific and other communities, the Society initially plans to explore opportunities in the four areas listed below. While new and cross-cutting areas will almost certainly emerge following the launch of this new plan, ASHG believes these four areas will provide an effective framework that can be executed upon in the next 3-4 years:

  • Promote Research Excellence
  • Advance Policy and Advocacy
  • Cultivate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Ensure Organizational Strength and Sustainability

Over the next few months, the Society will work to tap the capacity and energy of its members to help advance the mission through committees and working groups. And as always, staff, with expertise in a variety of implementation areas will continue to play a vital role in driving the organization’s work.

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