ASHG’s Membership Engagement Committee (MEC) met this February to discuss how the Society can bring the most benefit and increase engagement among its members. Based on its Strategic Plan, ASHG will focus on increasing resources for members and offering a more personalized touch for different segments of the community, while still representing the breadth of the human genetics and genomics research field. As a major goal, MEC will work to ensure that members at all career stages consider ASHG their home society. Year-round member-centric offerings will help to increase the value of becoming an ASHG member, outside of just registration benefits for the Annual Meeting each year.
MEC laid out key items in a new Action Plan that will both increase member value, while creating an inclusive home for all geneticists. The Board of Directors reviewed MEC’s recommendations in April 2020 and approved the following Action Items for the committee to begin this year:
Building Community Among Special Interests: ASHG is home to a wide variety of expertise, since it hosts over 8,000 members with specialties across human genetics and genomics subtopics. ASHG will be creating shared interest groups (SIG) to align like-minded members by area of interest. These groups will have the opportunity to network among each other engage online and host professional education within their areas of interest. Beginning incrementally, the MEC will likely launch a few SIGs initially, starting with topics identified by the committee and overtime, based on feedback, resources and opportunity, ASHG will hope to expand their range of topics, reach and impact.
Attracting Diverse Talent: While ASHG has diverse interests in its member body, MEC also felt strongly that it was important to recruit and retain members from diverse audiences to further enrich the ASHG community. An important part of this effort is continued participation in other societies and meetings geared toward early scholars from underrepresented minorities, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
Highlight and showcase members of diverse backgrounds: ASHG will continue to ensure all Society communications and imagery highlight and showcase members from a variety of backgrounds, with particular emphasis on better inclusion of those underrepresented in the field (e.g., geographic, ancestral, sector, etc.)
In the coming years, the MEC will focus on further efforts, including curating member content on ASHG.org, and helping to connect members looking for a mentor or a collaborator through the creation of a forum or database. ASHG’s Career Center already offers members a way to find new positions through the academic and industry worlds, but can be upgraded to allow for mentor/mentee matchmaking. ASHG will also begin to focus more on undergraduates, developing strategies for building awareness and excitement about genetics as a research career path as well as engaging undergraduates more effectively.
Since April, MEC has started to prioritize and plan the programs approved by the Board of Directors for implementation. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the scientific workplace around the world, ASHG remains firm in its goals to provide the resources, opportunities, and community that will ensure the success of its members. With the right tools, each member can act as a liaison for the latest and greatest research in genetics and genomics. By sharing these advances through members, ASHG can fulfill its mission to ensure people everywhere realize the benefits of genetics and genomics research.