The Member Representative Forum is the Society’s ‘think tank’ committee which meets quarterly to ensure the views of the membership are fed into Society activities. These activities cover education and careers work, public engagement, media, policy and public affairs, which includes helping to formulate responses to external consultations. You can find summaries of the main discussion points from our recent meetings below.
The BSI Member Representative Forum and its members are here to represent you. If you would like to raise any issues for Forum to discuss, please contact your relevant Forum member – you can find a list of your representatives here or, email our Director of External Affairs, Jennie Evans, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our most recent meeting in January was a first in many ways: the first one of 2023, the first with our new Chair, Professor Jim Brewer; and the first under our new name Member Representative Forum (in previous meetings we discussed and agreed to adapt the name to better showcase its purpose). This was a very productive meeting, and we covered a variety of topics.
We began talking about membership; our members are at the heart of everything we do, and we continue to evaluate the benefits that we offer to you. Members shared their ideas on how we can keep engaging with and retaining members from a broad range of careers and across the breadth of immunology.
Then we then dived into how we communicate our activities and interact with our community on social media. The Society has several different channels for two-way conversations with our members, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, and as they continue to evolve, so does our approach, always in response to our membership’s activity.
We moved on to hear members’ thoughts on BSI Congress 2022 – the attendee feedback was incredibly positive and together with the ideas from this discussion, we will work hard to make future events even better. Finally, our Member Representative Forum was given a brief overview of recent external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world.
The most recent meeting opened with a welcome to our newest Forum representatives Dr Gareth-Rhys Jones (Clinical representative), Dr Julia Makinde (England representative), Dr Becca McLean (Veterinary representative) and Dr George Robinson (Early Career representative).
As part of our Diversity and Inclusion framework, the BSI hosted two EDI focus groups in August and September. Displaying their passion for EDI, Forum members who attended had a constructive and open discussion on the topics raised at the groups. Our session also focused on several other important topics, including the effect of the rising cost-of-living on PhD students with members suggesting how the BSI could provide support.
Jane Sessenwein, BSI Head of Conferences and Events, joined the meeting to give an update on Congress 2022. This led to a vibrant conversation on poster sessions where innovative formats were shared along with valuable feedback which will be incorporated into this year’s and future events. We then dived into how we work to raise the profile of immunology with policymakers. Finally, Forum was given a brief overview of recent external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world.
This was the final meeting for our outgoing Scotland representative Dr Megan McLeod, Public Engagement Secretary Professor Donald Davidson and our Chair of Forum Professor Ann Ager. A big thank you for the positive difference they have made to the BSI during their terms!
The most recent Forum meeting at the end of June was an action-packed session with our members coming together in person for the first time in over two years. First, Forum had the chance to feed into the BSI priorities for our new financial year as well as our BSI Diversity and Inclusion framework. There was an engaged discussion where Forum members shared their experiences and ideas on how to continue growing our EDI work.
In policy, we discussed the delayed progression of Horizon Europe association agreements with the UK. This was a topic that many on Forum felt passionately about, and they provided key insights and examples which will help the BSI’s work in this space. We then explored the upcoming update to our ‘Careers in Immunology’ report. The recommendations from members were wide-ranging and incredibly valuable in shaping the new publication coming out later this year, which will also include feedback from our wider membership. Lastly, we discussed the benefits of mentoring and the different formats it can take.
As usual, Forum then took an overview of all the external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world. This was the final meeting for our outgoing Early Career representative Dr Alice Burton, Clinical representative Dr Matthew Buckland and England representative Dr Helen McGettrick. A big thank you again for their dedication and contributions over their terms!
The April Forum meeting, which took place virtually, was particularly engaging with all members voicing their views on a range of topics, from the future of postgraduate research and training needs of the immunology community to recent changes in working with animals in research. A major focus for Forum members in this meeting was informing the BSI’s submission to the UKRI consultation on their ‘New Deal for Postgraduate Research’, a longterm piece of work that aims to improve the experience and quality of postgraduate research training in the UK. Topics raised included the benefits and drawbacks of different funding models, ways to embed equality, diversity and inclusion, and the importance of channels for two-way feedback between supervisors and students. This discussion will form the basis of the BSI’s response to the UKRI consultation.
Next, there was an interesting discussion to identify the various training needs of different sectors of the immunology community. A range of options were highlighted, including skills such as leadership and teamwork, and specific lab techniques, which will be fed into future training programmes that we will launch as part of our strategy. Then, Forum members shared their experiences on the impact of the pandemic on animal research and recent changes to inspection procedures, an important topic which we will highlight in discussions with relevant external partners and focus groups.
Finally, Forum took an overview of all the external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken over the past few months including our policy, public engagement and partnership work to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world.
Forum members came together virtually for the first meeting of 2022 in January. It was a great start to the year, with excellent discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges of team science and the incorporation of patient and public involvement (PPI) into BSI activities. In the dialogue around team science, we acknowledged its benefits as well as the challenges it can present to career progression for early career researchers. Fair author recognition in publications was particularly highlighted but we agreed lessons could be learned from other scientific fields like physics, where team science has been widely used.
Next, members shared their experiences with PPI to help identify areas where the BSI could potentially provide support. There were some great activities suggested that integrate patients across many aspects of research from those who had worked extensively with PPI. However, exposure to PPI isn’t common in all areas of immunology research, which led to a discussion of the barriers to PPI for researchers and how we can work to remove them. This feedback will be used to guide the BSI’s development work for a future PPI offering. Watch this space! In the latter part of the meeting Forum heard from the BSI staff team who reported on how they have been raising the voice of the immunology community in the wider world through external affairs and outreach activities in what has been a busy few months at the BSI.
In September, we met virtually for another important session discussing research culture and community, and diversity champions within the BSI. First, Forum focused on improving research culture, a vital focus of the new BSI strategy. Members shared their experiences of different aspects of the current culture that they have witnessed, as well as feedback on how it can be improved. It was evident that this discussion merits a significant focus to ensure careers in all branches of immunology can be more positive and fulfilled. Feeding in Forum’s views, the BSI will publish an updated ‘Careers in immunology’ report as part of the 2021–2025 strategy.
Next, we delved into equality, diversity and inclusion. This is a critical aspect of our five-year plan and as such, we are launching a BSI ED&I strategy shortly. With it, we are renewing our commitment to building a fairer, more inclusive immunology community and maintaining a two-way conversation with our community. An important part of that conversation is our regular meetings with Forum. In the most recent one, we specifically looked into how ED&I must be embedded into every aspect of the Society’s work and members discussed the best approach of establishing diversity champions in every BSI committee, including Forum.
Finally, Forum took an overview of all the external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken over the past few months to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world.
The meeting in June was an action-packed session focusing on four main areas. First, Forum looked into research integrity in scientific publishing. This set of established principles around honesty in research, accountability and fairness is incredibly important to the Society and to our members. They engaged in a productive discussion around different types of infringements and practical actions that can be taken not only by journal editors but also by reviewers, publishers and early career researchers.
Secondly, we had a guest speaker, Dr Bnar Talabani, who has been working on vaccine engagement throughout the pandemic. She provided insights into how to be proactive in this area, target specific concerns and reach diverse audiences, for example ethnic minorities and a younger demographic. A few examples shared were running pop-up vaccination clinics in local religious centres, joining Team Halo (an international collaboration of doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals creating TikToks) and getting involved in BSI activities such as our popular COVID-19 vaccine Instagram Q&As.
Thirdly, Dr Doug Brown, BSI Chief Executive, shared the Society’s upcoming five-year strategy, including our diversity and inclusion strategy which is core to our mission and values. Next was a presentation of our new career support offering, developed after listening to our membership in our recent survey, and in collaboration with BSI Early Career Trustees, Dr Calum Bain and Dr Emma Chambers. This significant expansion in the careers support for members, launched in July, includes revamped schemes, new initiatives and further funding opportunities.
At the April meeting, Forum focused on three main areas. First, the new BSI strategy was presented for review ahead of its launch later this year. This additional round of consultation resulted in useful feedback from Forum members being incorporated into the strategy, together with insight from our Board of Trustees, various committees and the responses from our dedicated membership survey.
Next, the BSI’s Marketing & Communications Manager, Teresa Prados, gave an overview the Society’s communications strategy, which included a productive discussion around different channels used, content of interest to members and successful initiatives such as our ‘Black in Immuno week’ campaign.
Thirdly, there was a big focus on early career support, and Forum members shared their experiences and the effects of the pandemic. In particular, they discussed ways in which we can better support our early career members going forward, looking into our webinar series about careers in immunology and potential new offerings such as financial support for training.
Finally, Forum took an overview of all the external affairs and outreach activities that the BSI has undertaken over the past few months to communicate the voice of our immunology community to the wider world