ASHG: A Welcoming Community

Executive Update: Mona Miller, Executive Director
September 2019

One essential role of professional scientific societies is to build and foster community – communities that advance scientific knowledge, health, and society. ASHG has been a leader in service to the genetics and genomics community for more than 70 years. To thrive, healthy communities are also ever evolving – they welcome the evolution of science, people, needs, and ideas that advance their mission. In this issue of The Messenger, we’re pleased to be announcing several activities that advance ASHG’s commitment to be a welcoming community.

Diversity and Inclusion

The ASHG Board of Directors’ new Strategic Plan prioritizes diversity – increasing diversity and inclusion among genetics and genomics researchers, promoting research participation among diverse communities, and celebrating human genetic diversity as a foundational good. To help guide these efforts in the short and long term, the Board has created a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which in the next two years will help inform the Society’s goals and actions in this area. These steps will build on recent important actions: in 2018 and 2019, ASHG has been working to pursue greater participation in the life of the Society through committees and the Board and has launched a new initiative to foster workforce diversity, the Human Genetics Scholars Initiative.

The Society is also working to increase attention to diversity in its Annual Meeting scientific sessions and panels, and will add several events in Houston to promote and discuss diversity and inclusion in research.

Professional Conduct Expectations

The Society also recognizes that a welcoming community is one that values participation from all and sets expectations for conduct. As another article in this issue of The Messenger highlights, the Society is introducing an expanded Code of Ethics that integrates professional conduct standards. It makes clear, unequivocally, that harassment—sexual or otherwise—is antithetical to a healthy scientific enterprise and that the Society will be addressing it consistently in years to come.

Expanding Our Global Community

Finally, the Society values the global nature of genetics and genomics and is announcing a new membership dues structure for researchers living and working in developing countries. This step recognizes the tremendous research underway worldwide and helps address financial barriers to ASHG membership for those in low- and middle-income countries. It will provide global members access to The American Journal of Human Genetics; enable greater participation in activities like the trainee forum and newsletter; and provide access to content captured from the Annual Meeting.

Over time, as the Society works to expand its year-round member programs and engagement, we will engage the ASHG community in more virtual dialogue about important issues for genetics and genomics. The Society sees this new dues structure as a complement to the important work of others. For instance, ASHG will continue to highlight and value the initiatives of other international groups like the International Congress of Human Genetics planned for 2021 – see the recent spring article about the ICHG and the Congress’s recent call for proposals in this issue of the newsletter.

See You in Houston!

There is no better opportunity to highlight a welcoming community than the ASHG Annual Meeting, which will feature emerging findings across a spectrum of foundational, translational, and clinical research, as well as topics across dozens of research subspecialties. It also features events on advocacy, education, and ethical implications of research, which are vital components of the Society’s mission. We look forward to welcoming you to Houston October 15-19 for the world’s largest genetics and genomics meeting. See you in Houston!

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