Proposals for future development
1. Pattern of Meetings
There is widespread support for a move away from the current pattern of three Main Meetings per year, usually of three days duration and held at university venues. From 2004 it is proposed to replace this pattern with an 'Annual' meeting together with a flexible programme of smaller, focused one or two day meetings comprising a total of 15-20 full day sessions.
Extensive research suggests that the best UK venue for the Annual Meeting would be the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) Glasgow, with the event being held at the end of June/beginning of July each year. The aim would be to deliver a four-day programme of science that would quickly become a fixture in the diary for members and non-members alike. It would comprise:
Obviously, such a radical change in programme requires an equally radical approach to financing such meetings. However, we are confident that the total "experience" in terms of venue and quality of science will justify registration fees of £350 for non-members, approximately £150 for members, and a reduced fee for students and younger members of the Society.
Throughout the rest of the year there will be a programme of smaller, more focused one or two-day meetings, comprising 15-20 full day sessions. Focus meetings will provide in-depth treatment of topics at the forefront of research activities and are intended to cover a wide range of members' interests. We would expect the registration fee for such meetings to be c. £50 with reduced fees for younger members and an enhanced charge for non-members.
2. Scientific Coverage of Scientific Interest Groups (SIGs)
The MORI poll disclosed a perception among many members and non-members that the present Scientific Interest Group Structure did not cover their particular area of scientific interest and appeared old fashioned. The reality, that many new topics were covered by the existing SIGs, was not always immediately obvious to scientists at large. The Working Group felt the perception was so strong that fine-tuning of the present system was unlikely to achieve the desired result and accordingly a more radical approach was required.
The findings of the Working Group and the proposed new structure are set out in more detail in Annex 1. The main features are a Meetings Board that will meet at least three times a year and will be responsible for shaping the overall programme of meetings and allocating funds. Feeding into the Meetings Board will be eight Theme Panels. These will fulfil many of the functions of the existing groups and in particular they will meet at least twice a year to generate proposals for the meetings programme and consider suggestions from the membership as a whole. The theme panels will be the focus of interaction with other societies and will manage colloquia from inception to meeting within agreed budgets. The greater breadth of the Panels should make them more flexible and make it possible, in the light of experience, to add a new topic to one or more Panels or even add a new Panel without major constitutional implications every time an adjustment is made.
Detailed proposals regarding elections/appointments to the Meetings Board and the Theme Panels are being developed. The principal aim will be to ensure that these bodies are populated by scientists with appropriate expertise but, at the same time, also ensure there is a mechanism for turnover to foster new ideas, scientific developments and participation by a larger number of members.
3. Regional Structure
Historically, the Society's regional structure has only covered education and professional affairs. Clearly, however, an active local network has potential in all areas of the Society's activities, not least in fostering greater contacts with younger scientists, local schools and those in industry. The Working Party on Area Structure will report later in 2002, but already the Executive Committee has approved an experimental scheme whereby members can apply for funding up to £500 to support a local activity. Details are attached in Annex 2. The scheme will be launched in the February 2002 Biochemist.
4. IT Support
Enhanced use of the Society's web pages and IT supported facilities is also envisaged as a means of involving a larger proportion of the membership, especially younger scientists, in Society activities. The essence of these activities should be diversity and flexibility so I will only highlight here some of the possibilities.
Interest Groups currently provide a focus for those interested in a specific area and this approach has proved successful in harnessing the commitment of their members. Informal interest groups could be developed via the web making use of Bulletin Boards, hosted by the Society, to promote discussion of topics for conferences, identification of research expertise, requests for materials, collaborators, protocols etc.
In addition to scientific issues, the web could be used in other topical areas such as training and support networks for Ph.D. students, careers information for young scientists and to canvass the membership for ideas on all these topics. Information on bulletin boards could also provide a link to Theme Panels so that ideas for colloquia and specialist meetings could come from a wider spectrum of the membership. The web could also be used to support activities on a regional basis, an idea that is emerging from the working group on the Society's area structure. A key driver for developing these aspects further is the belief that greater use of the WWW should help to attract many more of the younger bioscientists audience to participate in the Society's activities.
As part of this remit the Society is launching a website portal- Biochemist e-volution. A brand extension of The Biochemist magazine, the website will be updated daily providing news, features, events, book reviews, announcements and job advertisements. The site will be dynamic, interactive, and modern - guiding users to all aspects of the Society's work in an exciting way.