Thoughts on the Annual Meeting
The ASCPT is like most scientific organizations in that we exist to support and foster our discipline, but also bring value to our members as individuals. In general, these goals are complimentary and reinforcing. If we do a good job in one of these domains, we typically are serving the other. To drill down a little further, we seek to identify and promote the best science in our sphere, and to communicate it to our members, and the greater scientific community. We have a number of venues to do so, but the most important are our journals and the Annual Meeting. For the Annual Meeting, we employ the valuable time of our loyal volunteers and organizational resources to vet proposals and abstracts.
A subcommittee of the ASCPT Board, along with member-leaders Karthik Venkatakrishnan, Bert Lum, Kellie Schoolar Reynolds and I, recently undertook an exercise of reviewing the structure of our meeting from a high level perspective.
We agreed that the goal of the meeting consists of:
• Serving as a forum for the best science
• Learning opportunity for all stakeholders
• Networking opportunity
• Recruiting opportunity for new members
• Opportunity of junior members
o Education and Mentoring
o Opportunity for trainees to present their work
• Forum to recognize leaders along the continuum (trainees to emeritus leaders and senior scientists)
• Forum for discussions and possibly decisions about public policy which impacts the discipline
• Convenient meeting opportunity for Society members, as well as allied organizations with many members (i.e., FDA advisory meetings, NIH training grant holders)
There are many reasons people attend the Annual Meeting. However, the quality of the content is overarching. Nothing else follows without it. The format of sessions, technology enhancements, and specific hot themes change over time, but the constant is a need to make our meeting the premier space for content in clinical pharmacology. Our discipline is constantly evolving and being reinvented. Our meeting has (and will continue) to do the same. The high and consistent standards we set for our meeting is what draws scientists to our meeting, and to our organization. The notion that the ASCPT meeting is the place to find out about “the next big thing”, or learn about applying lessons from other disciplines to clinical pharmacology is our brand. We know that branding is about trust and delivery, and that it takes effort and attention to keep the quality of our product first rate.
Much has been said about how technology will radically change scientific meetings, including virtual conferences (https://www.aacc.org/store/webinars/9700/personalized-diagnostics-today-where-the-omics-community-collaborates
), such as that held by the American Association of Clinical Chemists in the fall of 2015 (though the AACC continues to have a live annual meeting). We feel that technology is a powerful means to an end, but not an end in of itself. We are constantly exploring how we can use all tools to optimize the quality of the meeting. While virtual attendance may be a way to deliver or archive some content, it will not replace the value of being at a meeting any time soon.
We have also explored the logistics of the meeting in a 360 degree approach. While perhaps not immediately apparent, the convention cycle is seasonal. Summer is out due to vacations, late fall difficult due to holidays and winter always risky due to weather. There is a reason most meetings you likely consider occur in the mid-spring or early fall. We also looked at the types of venues and cities. Factors which impact choice of a site include transportation links, venue floor plan, security, labor, local climate, and costs. While it is obvious there are tradeoffs in any decision, a complicating factor is that a site must be chosen years in advance. We have agreed to expand our search to even smaller cities and perhaps non-hotel conference centers in an attempt to broaden the chances of finding the venue with the best possible mix of features to fit our needs.
The current standing of our meeting is the result of careful attention and the work of many talented people. We however realize that scientists in industry, academics, consulting and the government often have to choose one or two conferences a year. There is competition not only from other societies, but also for-profit conferences. We acknowledge these challenges and use them to spur us on to constantly look to innovate our Annual Meeting. Exciting innovations for this year are the Bioinnovation Forum and the tour of the New Orleans BioInnovation District. We also look forward to the Asparagus Population Kinetic Project, revamping of the Poster and Exhibit Hall, and the usual outstanding scientific content.
We work to continuously innovate the meeting, but with an eye on the thing which has not changed through the years—the need to present the best science available and associate ASCPT as the organization best suited to do so. We hope you can play a role in the Annual Meetings by submitting session proposals, or volunteering in one of many possible capacities. I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans.
Walter Kraft, MD