I hope you have all had a good summer. First, thank you to all who responded to our membership survey. Our members are at the heart of everything the BSI does and it’s extremely important that we understand how you view our work, what you think we are doing well and what we could do better. We will report our findings to you in the next edition of Immunology News . The survey results will also feed into our strategy review in October. It is now two and a half years since we launched our strategic plan and this mid-term review will allow us to assess our progress and examine where we should direct our resources for the second half of our strategic cycle.
Since launching our strategic plan, the Society has come a long way. I hope that you as members have felt the benefit of the improvements to our activities. We are on track to deliver on all the aims set out in the plan, with many key objectives already achieved. In summary:
1. To improve our members’ experience, our office embarked on a major refit of our membership database to allow us to offer you an improved service. This, coupled with the launch of our new website, now allows us to better communicate with you, while also making it easier for you to make the most of your membership benefits.
2. I know that many members are active participants in our Regional and Affinity Groups – these groups form a vital part of the BSI, facilitating scientific discussions and networking that are invaluable for the continued development of our discipline. Over the past two years, we have worked closely with our Groups to increase their activities and visibility within the Society, with our Groups putting on 12 conferences plus numerous seminars, careers and public engagement events in the last 12 months alone.
3. Being the voice of immunology to external audiences is a new strand of work for the BSI but one of which I’m very proud. Our venture into policy work, representing the views of the broad immunology community to Parliament and senior decision-makers, has proved very successful. We are fast making a name for ourselves as a powerful and authoritative voice for immunological science. We regularly contribute to parliamentary consultations, and in just the last few months, our responses have been quoted in Parliament three times. Alongside our increased engagement with the media and the public, the BSI is ensuring that we put immunology centre stage in the public arena, both in terms of advocating in support of our profession and acting as a reliable, trustworthy voice on immunology in public debates.
4. Supporting early career members has always been at the heart of the Society’s activities and we have made important strides forward in this regard. The publication of our landmark Careers in immunology report last October allowed us a greater insight into the challenges that immunologists in all sectors face over the course of their careers – we have reviewed our findings and hope to announce some exciting new projects shortly.
5. We also launched a mentoring scheme to allow early career researchers to gain independent, tailored advice from some of the UK’s leading immunologists. Feedback on the first year of this scheme is very positive so far and we are currently recruiting participants for 2019 (see page 6 for details).
6. Additionally, our inaugural Immunology Teaching Excellence Award was bestowed this year – a key part of our work to recognise of importance of immunology teachers to training the next generation (see page 8 for details of this year’s award).
7. In the current climate, there has never been a more important time for us to reach out and build fruitful collaborations with immunologists around the world. The BSI continues to work closely with the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS) and the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS) to facilitate international links for our members. Furthermore, this year, we signed a joint letter of intent with the Chinese Society for Immunology to establish a collaborative partnership. Chinese immunology is expanding at a remarkable rate and we hope that this relationship will assist our members by providing new engagement opportunities and promoting exchanges and alliances.
Welcoming our new Chief Executive
The BSI still has much that we want to achieve and so we are delighted to welcome our new Chief Executive, Doug Brown, who joins the organisation from 3 September. Doug previously worked at the Alzheimer’s Society, where he was one of three Chief Officers working with the CEO to provide leadership, direction and financial management to the charity. During his time there, he led high profile initiatives across research and policy including the establishment of the new £300 million UK Dementia Research Institute. Doug comes from an immunology background, having completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge in HIV research, followed up by a postdoctoral position with Jean Langhorn at NIMR, Mill Hill working on malaria and stem cells.
While sorry to say goodbye to the excellent Jo Revill, we are so pleased to have found a new Chief Executive with an ambitious vision for the Society and a great background in immunological research. This vision is backed up by the skills and experience needed to guide the British Society for Immunology on the next step of our journey. Doug will be at the European Congress of Immunology in Amsterdam and I look forward to introducing him to many of you there – please do come and talk to him at the ECI and give him a warm welcome back into the immunological community. He will want to hear your views.
A bright future
Immunology and the BSI have a bright future: the BSI’s Trustees and staff are committed to building on current achievements to ensure that the Society continues to flourish and that we develop innovate programmes of work to support our members and to represent immunology to the wider world.
None of this is possible without the assistance of the many members and partners who volunteer their time to assist in various aspects of our work. Thank you all for your support over the past five exciting years. I look forward to welcoming Arne Akbar as the new President at the end of this year, and to sharing the next stage of the BSI’s journey with you.
With best wishes,
President, British Society for Immunology