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Hello ASPS members,
By Sergey Shabala
University of Tasmania
From January 1 I have the responsibility of leading the ASPS for the next two years. This is a great honour and a privilege, and I will try my best to ensure that plant science in Australia maintains its high international profile and continues to enjoy the strongest possible reputation. I would like to use this opportunity to thank John Evans, as the outgoing President, for the fantastic job he has done over the last two years taking ASPS community through the harsh realities of a modern-day academic and political life. I would also like to thank the outgoing Honorary Treasurer, Brent Kaiser, and Honorary Secretary, Martha Ludwig for their sterling efforts in running of the society over this period. I look forward to working with the new committee and hope that we can serve our members equally as well.
Next year the ASPS will celebrate a major milestone – a 60th anniversary since its establishment. All this time Australian plant science has been at a forefront of international research. I believe that it may be highly appropriate to try to highlight our major milestones and summarise achievements of Australian plant science over this period in an article and then disseminate it via media, and would encourage someone to put a hand up for doing this. Do I hear any voices from volunteers?
Last year I attended several international meetings in my field and was pleased to see great representation from Australian researchers amongst delegates. We are also doing extremely well in international rankings when it comes to various metrics. Of 115 Australian highly cited scientists listed by Thompson Reuters in 2016, 18 belong to plant science community. We are also doing remarkably well in the overall rankings, being 5th country after USA, UK, Germany and China. For a country with such a small population, this is a commendable achievement. And while we all know about the difficulties in getting ARC grants, our current success rate (18%) is much higher that in many other countries. So, I believe we have all the reasons to be optimistic and look for more exciting developments in our field in the near future.
It would be very tempting for me to stop at this point and simply wish you best success in your work. Yet, I do not want to leave an impression that our road is covered by rose petals and we do not have issues. Similar to many other disciplines, Australian plant science is facing some big challenges. Some of them are under our control and therefore could be resolved in the short-term, while other are systemic and will require much more efforts and time. One of immediate issues is changing a format of our annual meetings. At the last Combio conference all founding societies have voted unanimously to move away from the existing format making Combio meetings bi-annual events, and having smaller (society-specific) conferences every alternating year. While these changes will be implemented only from 2019, we will need to start making plans much earlier. Other issues that our discipline is facing are (in no specific order): gender equality in Academic positions in Biological Sciences; collegiality and peer support in our discipline; the quality and integrity of peer review, both for publication and grants; proliferation of ‘predatory’ and poor quality journals; and scientific literacy in the public domain. While all these issues are not our discipline-specific, it is important that Australian Plant Sciences does its part in moving quickly towards resolving these or at least putting actions in place to initiate change.
Over the upcoming months the ASPS newsletter will feature viewpoints on these topics and more to stimulate discussion and propose ways in which our society can help promote change. For any of this to happen we need your input and support so we are calling for your active involvement – it is your society after all, and should be representing your views. You may also have additional things that the society should be working towards – so please get in touch.
This is all from me for now. I wish you a successful 2017 and hope it will be a year of new exciting discoveries, fruitful collaborations, and success for all of you.