President Dennis Ray is interested in feedback from ASHS Members. Please read the following article and provide any feedback in the form at the bottom of the page.
Reflections September 2019
Do More than Belong—Participate!
As I alluded to in my second “Reflections” (of course you remember my appeal to give to the ASHS
Endowment Fund), at this last Annual Conference, I spent most of my time in committee meetings. I did
go to the featured talks, which were excellent, but other than that, committee meetings! I am not
complaining, since this goes with the territory. However, one morning I had a free hour and I saw that
one of my Professional Interest Groups (PIGs) was having their Business Meeting (OK, I know, another
meeting, I just can’t help myself), and I went. However, when I arrived I found only three of us present!
Friends, interactions of individual members in Professional Interest Groups are the heart of ASHS.
Professional Interest Groups provide a forum for individuals with common interests in research,
extension, teaching, and industry to develop, discuss, exchange, share, and disseminate ideas. This has
been a wonderful way to find out what was current in my own area of research, because all the major
players were at the annual conference. We also had great discussions. It was our opportunity to identify
critical needs, discuss best methods and procedures, and many a research project and proposal came
from these dialogues. Thus, through these interactions, PIGs are promoting, encouraging, facilitating,
and coordinating basic and applied research, and identifying and promoting liaisons with other
organizations with similar interests.
One of my first leadership positions in ASHS was as an officer in one of my PIGs (at that time called
Working Groups). Taking on this responsibility helped me personally and professionally. Professionally, I
could put this on my annual report and CV, but personally were the people I met and interacted with
who had similar interests (in my case vegetable genetics and breeding). This is a perfect opportunity for
young scientists to become involved and gain leadership experience. Let me share a secret with you—
PIGs are always looking for volunteers to take leadership positions!
Members of PIGs share information and ideas at annual conferences through workshops, oral sessions,
poster sessions, contributed paper sessions, discussion groups, business meetings, and field trips. We
even plan regional and national meetings for related groups with the same interests. Unfortunately, our
most common methods of sharing information are traditionally 15-minute presentations in oral
sessions, and 30-minute presentations in workshops. We know that our membership has changed over
time, and for many of our members today, these formats are really not very effective. We have an
excellent Education Division, led by David Kopsell (Education Division Vice President) and Teaching
Methods PIG, and they tell us, and prove, that there are much more diverse and effective means to help
people understand information in our areas of interest. We are changing. For instance, workshop
proposals now must emphasize participation and group discussion, if possible with problem-solving
and/or hands-on activities. Many recent Workshops do not have any, or very few, actual “talks.” When
are workshops proposed and designed? Yes, in PIG Business Meetings!
Professional Interest Groups do much more than have talks at annual conferences, and these activities
are planned at PIG Business Meetings! I trust you are seeing a theme here—don’t just belong, but
participate! Here are some examples of what some PIGs are doing: producing a list of
experts/consultants; producing a webinar; running competitions; creating member video profiles on
careers in their field; distributing articles of interest; and writing columns (I am open to guest
“Reflections”). Other PIGs are currently discussing: putting together photo collections for class use;
producing tutorials; publishing monthly student spotlights; developing many different webinars; loading
Intellectual Property Resources on the ASHS site; and suggesting tours. In addition, don’t forget
something PIGs have done well for some time—recognize outstanding contributions through awards. I
hope you can see that how effective a PIG becomes is limited only by their members’ imaginations.
I am currently active in a number of PIGs. However, I do not limit myself to just these groups. One thing I
have done at each Annual Conference for some time is go to an oral session or Workshop by a PIG that
is related to, but not exactly in, my area of emphasis. For instance, I am a geneticist/plant breeder, and I
have worked with several vegetable, landscape, and bioenergy crops over the years. However, I might
go to a fruit breeding or floriculture session since we all are dealing with similar problems/issues, and I
am interested in how different groups address these same problems and issues.
I cannot encourage you enough to not only sign-up for PIGs, but actively participate. You will gain much
from your interactions with others in these groups, and the groups will gain by your input and potential
A special thank you to ASHS Assistant Executive Director Tracy Shawn for her help with this
“Reflections”. Her knowledge of what PIGs can do, particularly in the ASHS Annual Conference Program,
is second to none.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or provide feedback in the form below.