ASHG Board Roundup from Spring 2022

Pen and Paper iconThe ASHG Board of Directors held its first in-person meeting since 2019 on April 21-22 in Rockville, Maryland. During the meeting, chaired by President Charles Rotimi, PhD, the Board discussed plans for the ASHG 2022 annual meeting, reviewed the activities and priorities of the Society’s committees over the previous year, approved the upcoming fiscal year’s budget and strategic investments, approved an initial investment in longer term program and business planning; and reviewed upcoming plans to continue committee programs that advance the Strategic Plan and engage members. Taking a step further back, the Board also assessed progress on its current strategic plan, approved in 2019, and reviewed the process for updating it at a planned Board retreat next winter.

See You in Los Angeles!

ASHG’s Board reviewed programming work to date for the 2022 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on October 25-29, which will bring the ASHG community together in-person for the first time in three years, and reviewed information on the diversity of speakers and moderators of invited sessions. The members of ASHG’s Program Committee are working diligently to prepare a series of activities focused on scientific achievement and forecasting how the field will continue to evolve. The Board continues to focus on events that will connect the many specialties and disciplines within the Society’s membership, support crucial networking, and yield tangible outcomes to advance the field. Make sure to register now to reconnect with the community in October!

Reckoning with historic racism and building a more equitable future

The Board received an update on the Society’s “Facing our History—Building an Equitable Future,” project. As announced last December, this important undertaking is seeking to identify key human genetics actions linked to racism, eugenics, and other systemic forms of racism, focused on documenting roles ASHG contributed to those harms since its founding and identifying places where the Society’s work helped turn toward justice. The report will be presented to the Board next December. The Board believes strongly that this work, and other major sustained activities to advance equity, diversity and inclusion, are critical to move the field forward and will continue to embrace an inclusive vision for profound health benefits of genetic research.

Financial and Organizational Strength

ASHG’s finances continued to remain strong with staff maintaining effective fundraising and financial management, and the Board continues to believe that it is important to invest in strategic priorities to provide members with value during uncertain times. The Board reviewed the FY22 operating budget forecast, which anticipates a significant loss of ($723,000), which is better to budget by about $200,000. However, this is more than offset by the net revenue gain in FY21, which was $1.16 million due to one-time revenue from federal pandemic grants and meeting insurance. The Board is cautiously optimistic about FY23, and it approved an operating budget which still anticipates a loss ($311,000), which reflects improvement with a return to an in-person annual meeting and other consistent revenue. For the meeting, the Board grappled with substantially increased costs that all organizations are facing, and as part of the budget approved rate structures for both the annual meeting and 2023 dues. The Board also approved continued investment from its Strategic Investment Fund for programs that advance advocacy; diversity, equity, and inclusion; select investment in the success of the annual meeting; membership and journal marketing; and other organizational investments. As of March 31, the ASHG reserves totaled $20.5 million; they have borne some brunt from recent market downturns but remain conservatively invested and remain an important source of stability and uncertainty to support the membership now and in the future.

Meeting with NHGRI Leadership, Editors in Chief of ASHG Journals

The Board welcomed NHGRI leadership for a discussion about both organizations’ interests and directions. Guests included NHGRI Director Eric Green, MD, PhD, Acting Deputy Director Vence Bonham, JD, and Policy & Program Analysis Branch Chief Cristina Kapustij, MS, who discussed opportunities to partner on initiatives supporting the human genetics and genomics community. The Board and the NHGRI directors had a productive discussion on a wide range of topics, including equity and education, training programs, and communicating the value of genetics and genomics to the public and policy makers. The group also discussed the growth of funding of research at non-NHGRI institutions.

The Board also discussed scientific publishing accomplishments with Bruce Korf, MD, PhD, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Human Genetics, and Mike Bamshad, MD, editor-in-chief of Human Genetics and Genomics Advances, ASHG’s fully open access journal. Due to the challenges of the pandemic years; the continued rapidly evolving scientific publishing arena; and the editors’ clear dedication to the Society’s publishing mission, the Board warmly agreed that ASHG would like to extend the current terms of both editors by incremental years. Doing so will enable HGGA to continue to build awareness and its reputation for scientific excellence, maintain AJHG’s continued leadership, and continue the capacity to build ASHG’s family of journals.

Business Planning and Strategic Planning

ASHG has been a forward-thinking organization for decades and it continued this work in two ways. First, it reviewed and considered a possible long-term investment to build out its virtual learning through the creation of a certificate granting program, which received very strong and positive feedback in the recent Member Survey. Staff will investigate more fully the costs and potential growth of this work, which will be reviewed and discussed next winter. Additionally, the Board will meet next winter to update the Goals and Objectives section of the Strategic Plan. Over the past three years, ASHG has worked to achieve the goals and objectives set out for the group in 2019. With many of those underway, complete or making good progress, and given the tremendous amount of change and challenge over the last three years, the Society will revisit what it wants to focus on in coming years. As always, there will be many more good ideas than can be accomplished and it will be an important effort to prioritize what ASHG is uniquely positioned to do and how it can continue to advance the field, as it enters its 75th anniversary year. In the coming year, the Board will discuss key outcomes of the member survey and solicit input from key stakeholders and committees. Using these resources to assess the Society’s predicted ecosystem and landscape, the Board will meet in early February 2023 to set course.

The Board adjourned until its next meeting, which will be held via videoconference in June.

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