As the Auckland meeting races upon us we should take time to stop and think about where we are all heading. Major decisions with ramifications for the Society's future must be made. Things have been moving along at breakneck speed this last couple of months having followed a meandering course for some years. Feels a bit like the meandering creek has finally come to a waterfall and there is a set of rapids just around the corner. How we navigate the fall and the rapids will affect every member of the Society now and into the future. Pretty scary stuff really.
The meeting is also a watershed on personal levels for most members. It is where ideas and questions need to be turned into projects and papers. Priorities will be set and careers set in motion. Some projects will have the curtain brought down on them, others will be born. Exciting stuff.
We all find stimulation at the ASM and come home filled with enthusiasm. It is, however, important to leaven the ideas with a pinch of reality. It is one thing to formulate projects and develop ideas but on return home the reality sets in and we realise that we really haven't the time, the resources or support to carry the ideas to fruition. This quickly leads to frustration and thence disaffection. Not a good scene.
The ASM seems like a scary place to be - and not just for the presenters. How should we deal with these 'threats'? I guess the first inoculation is to be well informed on the issues to be decided. Only if we take the time to find out about the issues, can we make informed judgements. We may struggle to understand the ramifications of our decisions, so we need to seek clarification, absorb alternative viewpoints and put ourselves in a position where we can balance the options. The most important thing is to speak out when you have doubts or don't understand. Better to ask a 'stupid' question now, than let it pass and live to regret it.
Networking also provides a leavening of reality when developing ideas. Experience is a great teacher and you need to talk to others, particularly the elder statesmen of the Society, when developing your ideas. If you feel someone else will steal your ideas, then why do we belong to the Society? Sure it might happen, but I believe it is highly unlikely, and will only happen once. It is a risk worth taking. Collaborative research may be a way forward here. Many members on joining the Society indicate an interest in collaborative research. The ASM is where you can develop that relationship with another individual or another laboratory.
Mentoring is something that has been talked about for a number of years, but remains in the 'too hard basket'. While there may not be a formal mentoring program available, there is nothing to stop you forming an alliance with another member of the Society. The majority of new members indicate on their application form that they have an interest in having a mentor. I personally think that being a mentor is an important role for the more experienced members of the Society. The ASM is your opportunity to initiate such a relationship. Your potential mentor has to develop the relationship or it won't work. At least have the discussion. The worst that can happen is to have the potential mentor say no.
The common theme here is networking and building relationships. I believe that is the key to surviving the scary space that is the ASM.