Attending Scientific Meetings on a Budget

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant; and Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG

The ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting will be here before you know it! Sessions are being crafted, workshops organized, exhibits developed, and people from the around the world are preparing to gather in San Diego from October 16 –20 to discuss the newest, most exciting research in human genetics. In this three-part blog series, we’re hoping to answer some of the many questions that come up while planning to attend a conference.

This month, we’ll tackle how to make the trip affordable. Look out for future posts on how to navigate a meeting alone and how to make the most of your time there.

Ask Your Institution

Some institutions build professional development into their annual budget, so don’t be afraid to ask. Before going to your department head, do a little research and prepare reasons why this meeting will benefit you and your institution. Use our Return on Investment (ROI) Toolkit to aid your pitch. Think about which sessions you would attend, the value of networking, and the opportunity to learn about new products. The Toolkit is also useful for tracking the sessions you attended to help retain information and act on it when you return.

Start Early

According to a recent Forbes article, 70 days prior to travel is the best time to purchase an airline ticket – during this window, fares average within 5% of their lowest price. As of today, we are 83 days away from the meeting, so now is the time to look. ASHG provides reduced hotel rates through our official housing partner, onPeak. Make your reservation early, as the hotels with lower rates fill up quickly. Check with colleagues if they will be attending and consider sharing a room to cut down costs.

Limit Personal Spending

Know what food might be complimentary: get a hotel that offers breakfast, drink the coffee at the meeting. The Convention Center is in a walkable area with many shops and restaurants, so we encourage you to explore on foot and use mass transportation to keep local travel costs low.

Awards & Membership

ASHG offers awards that can help defer meeting costs, such as the Developing Country Awards, and the ASHG/FASEB Mentored Travel Awards Program for Underrepresented Trainees. To be considered for these awards, you must submit an abstract in early June. Missed out this year? Add a reminder to your calendar if you’re considering attending ASHG 2019. You also get a discount on registration if you register before October 15 and if you’re a current member, so join or renew before registering.

Hope to see you in San Diego!

Ann Klinck is Communications & Marketing Assistant and Amanda Olsen is Meetings Assistant at ASHG. For more information on ASHG 2018, check out the 2018 meeting website.

Elevate Your ASHG 2018 Abstract – Here’s How

Posted By: Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, Chair, ASHG 2018 Program Committee

Every year, I look forward to getting an early look at all the exciting developments presented in ASHG abstracts. As an abstract scorer, I am even more enthusiastic when the abstract is easy to read and evaluate. Read on for tips to elevate your abstract during scoring and get started writing.

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2018 Program Committee Chair Heather Mefford, MD, PhD (courtesy Dr. Mefford)

→ Ready to submit? Visit the abstract submission site.

Start Early and Get Organized

When scoring an abstract, I generally do a quick read through the abstract to get an overall feel for the study being presented. During this first pass, I also try to get a sense for how organized/well-written the abstract is as well as a sense for how ‘excited’ I am about the content.

I then do a more careful read to determine: (a) is the aim (hypothesis) of the study clear? (b) are the methods clearly outlined? (c) are there results presented – not just promised – in the abstract? Do the results seem valid?

These may seem like simple things, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a well-organized abstract that is easy to follow. If the reviewer has to work too hard to figure out what the abstract is about, it will be difficult to score it well.

Give Your Work Context

Although reviewers are all ASHG members, and we try to select reviewers with sub-topic expertise, remember that your reviewers may not be experts in your specific area. Your abstract should be clearly written with enough background to put your research into context and highlight the importance of your data. Don’t put it off until the last minute – give yourself time to draft the abstract and to get input from others before you submit!

Submit Exciting and Mature Work

The highest-scoring 10 percent of >3000 submitted abstracts are awarded speaking slots, and only twelve of those are chosen for plenary talks. Abstracts that make good plenary talks address all of the points above. In addition, they present results that are novel and that represent a significant advance in the field. Often, the work presented is fairly ‘mature’, but this doesn’t mean the project has been going on a long time. The work presented has a clear hypothesis, approach, and results that represent a new finding.

Did You Know?

Abstract reviewers dedicate 4-6 hours to score approximately 150 abstracts in just one week. I always learn a lot when reviewing abstracts! I think you really get a feel for what is up-and-coming in the field, and it’s a good experience that is helpful for writing your own abstracts in the future. The hardest part is that it is time consuming. You want to make sure you are giving each abstract full consideration, and that just takes time.

ASHG’s double-blinded review process is important for scoring and selecting the best abstracts. It decreases bias in that the reviewer does not know from which lab or institution the abstract is coming, whether the first author is a student, fellow, junior faculty, or PI, or what the gender of the submitter is. I think that reviewers appreciate the blinding as much as the submitters.

Submit by June 7, 2018, to have your work considered for ASHG 2018. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, is Chair of the 2018 Program Committee. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Genetic Medicine, Director of the Mefford Lab at the University of Washington, and Deputy Director of the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine. She has been a member of ASHG since 2006.

 

 

How to Craft a Competitive Invited Session

Posted By: Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, 2018 Program Committee Chair

It may feel like we’ve just returned from ASHG 2017, but preparations are already underway for the 2018 meeting, taking place October 16-20 in San Diego. Invited session and workshop proposals are due on December 14, which is just under two weeks away. Here’s how to make your proposal competitive, and maximize its chances of acceptance by the Program Committee.

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Heather Mefford, Chair, 2018 Program Committee

What are Invited Sessions?

Invited sessions address the state of the science on a specific topic, in a cohesive two-hour session constructed to include its most exciting subtopics and scientific leaders. In contrast, invited workshops focus on a tool, skill, approach, or software in an interactive format.

Tip: Choose the right topic.

Proposals that do well have a cohesive, overarching theme that hasn’t been presented at recent meetings. Topics should have broad appeal to ASHG members and meeting attendees. Note that there are designated slots for educational topics, ELSI topics, and a session organized by trainees.

Tip: Choose the right speakers.

Invited sessions traditionally include four speakers, each of whom present for about 30 minutes. Competitive proposals involve presenters who push the field forward, while offering unique perspectives on the topic of focus. Choose speakers who represent diverse institutes, career stages, and genders.

Tip: Consider varied formats.

While invited sessions are often a series of didactic talks followed by Q&A, the 2018 Program Committee is open to other formats for this year’s sessions. If you’d like to propose a panel discussion, debate, or other format, contact ashgmeetings@ashg.org for guidance on how to submit your proposal.

Tip: Craft clear descriptions.

Successful invited session proposals have clear, detailed descriptions of each speaker’s talk. These should relate to the overall session theme and include recent data when possible. View sample proposals to see how your colleagues have introduced their speakers.

Tip: Contact the Program Committee.

The 2018 Program Committee is available to answer questions and provide advice as you think through your proposal – don’t be afraid to reach out to them!

Want more tips? Watch our video on how to craft a competitive proposal.

Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, 2018 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in the Division of Genetic Medicine. She is also an attending physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital in the Genetic Medicine Clinic.

#ASHG17 in the Shoes of a Trainee

Posted By: Monika Schmidt, Chair, ASHG Training & Development Committee

On any given day of the ASHG Annual Meeting, I find myself in a predicament: What’s next on the schedule? Should I attend the exhibitor talk in the CoLab theater, visit interesting posters, or seek advice at the Careers in Academia panel?

No matter how carefully I plan my schedule ahead of time, the meeting always has more to offer than I could possibly take advantage of: exciting talks, posters, trainee events, workshops, exhibitor presentations, and naturally, social events. This year’s meeting in sunny Orlando was no exception, and in my role as Chair of the Training and Development Committee (TDC), I hardly had a moment to sleep.

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TDC members Lauren Tindale, Monika Schmidt, and Julie Jurgens take a moment to enjoy Orlando’s non-genetics attractions. (courtesy Ms. Schmidt)

I kicked off my experience early on Tuesday, October 17, by presenting to ASHG’s Board of Directors all the fabulous work the TDC has done over the past year. Despite being a bit nerve-wracking, this was hugely rewarding – there is so much support for trainee professional development and mentorship from the ASHG community. These two themes reverberated over the rest of the meeting.

Professional Development and Networking at #ASHG17

Developing networking skills benefits from lessons and practice. Recognizing this, ASHG teamed up with The Jackson Laboratory to develop the multi-week Conference to Career Program, which included a dedicated section on networking skills for national meetings.

Following the Conference to Career in-person session, the TDC hosted Peer Networking Trivia – an ideal event to put networking lessons into practice. 2017 marked the third year the TDC hosted this event for trainees; it was rewarding to watch new friendships form as trainees commiserated over the challenging genetics trivia questions. Naturally, it’s much easier to get chatting when a topic is presented for discussion, and so the Tweetup, Opening Reception, and various evening exhibitor events presented new situations for trainees to practice their networking skills. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting trainees at these receptions, chatting about their vision for future initiatives, and of course, singing along with NIH Director Francis Collins on guitar.

Mentors at ASHG: Many Ways to Connect

Between scientific sessions in the mornings and afternoons, trainee mentorship became the focus of my lunch hours. The TDC hosted two panel discussions this year: Careers in Academia and Careers in Industry. The panelists’ responses to trainee questions were thoughtful and thorough, which meant that I and my TDC colleagues spent a lot of time live-tweeting the discussions using our newly-introduced hashtag: #ASHGtrainee. Panelists hung back after the sessions to answer questions one-on-one, providing another networking opportunity.

On Thursday, the TDC launched our inaugural myIDP (Individualized Development Plan) session, led by Philip Clifford. I was blown away by the incredible turnout and high level of engagement with the material presented. This session led trainees on an introspective journey aided by their peers, and asked them to examine their values, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. The goal of the session was to help trainees define career paths that suit their personalities, needs, and wants. With a room abuzz with discussion, 75 minutes was undoubtedly too little time, and the TDC will be looking to expand the session at future meetings.

While the TDC-led lunchtime sessions were happening, ASHG staff were hosting the Trainee-Mentor Luncheons and newly introduced Round Table Discussions. These events focused on establishing trainee-mentor relationships and providing a more intimate setting to ask advice of a successful genetics professional. I myself am still in contact with the mentor who shared lunch with me in 2014. On the note of keeping in touch with mentors or networking contacts: remember that the mentors and Trainee Leaders at ASHG really care for your success as a trainee – we want to hear from you! Your emailed question or LinkedIn request (with an introductory message, of course) are welcome. So, take 30 minutes today to thank the mentors who spent time with you for their advice – you might just get a better response than you expected, and you’ll be on your way to building a network of professional contacts!

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TDC members Douglas Dluzen (far left) and Monika Schmidt (far right) with speakers at a trainee-organized invited session on rigor and reproducibility in genetics. (courtesy Ms. Schmidt)

The final trainee event of ASHG 2017 combined the best of mentorship and networking in an evening reception, Career Paths in Genetics. As a mentor at the TDC table, I and other TDC members were thrilled to answer questions from trainees about what being an ASHG Trainee Leader entails, and how the position provides an opportunity to advocate for trainees within the Society and at a federal level via FASEB. I also took a break to just ‘be a trainee’ per se, and heard a thrilling story about patenting BRCA1 from the intellectual patents mentor, discovered a whole new potential career path in scientific administration, and was offered very sage advice by a mentor from academia on maximizing upon my abilities post-PhD.

Reflecting on ASHG 2017

Every year I return from the Annual Meeting with renewed motivation for my research and a reading list as long as my arm, as is to be expected of any stimulating conference. I also came home hopeful that fellow trainees heard the same messages that I did over the five days in Orlando: it’s always the right time to say hello and explore potential new connections, pursue a new experience to build your skills, learn about yourself, and see what the world of genetics has to offer.

Monika Schmidt, BSc, is the 2017 Chair of ASHG’s Training & Development Committee, and has been part of the TDC since 2015. She first joined ASHG in 2014, the same year she started graduate studies.

Interested in a leadership position like Monika’s? Apply for 2018 Trainee Leadership Opportunities by Monday, November 6. For questions about these opportunities and other trainee issues, contact Monika on Twitter using #ASHGtrainee or by email

Remote Platform Presentation Due to U.S. Travel Restrictions

Posted by: Nancy Cox, PhD, ASHG President

One of our colleagues selected to give a platform presentation at ASHG 2017 will not be able to join us in Orlando. Arvin Haghighatfard, a graduate student at the Islamic Azad University, is unable to travel from his home in Iran due to new restrictions on travel to the United States.

Throughout my presidency this year, I have spoken out about how the new rules limiting travel to the United States threaten to undermine scientific progress both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Science is an inherently international endeavor and the Society strongly opposes the imposition of undue restrictions on scientists’ travel. As an organization representing human genetics specialists worldwide, we consider international travel a major and integral part of our enterprise.

The difficulties that Mr. Haghighatfard has experienced are exactly the kind of situation we feared. Upon learning of his unfortunate experience, we contacted the Department of State on his behalf to raise our concerns, but without success. Given these exceptional circumstances, I believe it is important that we provide Mr. Haghighatfard the opportunity to present his work, so we have arranged for him to conduct his presentation remotely.

I fear that there may also be other geneticists in Iran or elsewhere who cannot attend the meeting because of the travel restrictions. When we gather in Orlando later this month, I hope we spend a moment to think of those in our global genetics family who are unable to join us.

Nancy Cox, PhD, ASHG President, directs the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and is a Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor of Genetics. She is also the Director of and a Professor of Medicine in the Vanderbilt Division of Genetic Medicine.

No Printed Program at ASHG 2017

Posted By: Pauline Minhinnett, ASHG Director of Meetings

You asked and we listened! To reduce our footprint on the environment, ASHG is no longer offering the full printed Program Guide that we have in previous years. Instead, the most important meeting details, including convention center maps and a schedule overview, will be published in the Program-at-a-Glance. Full information can be found on the official ASHG 2017 Mobile App (available for iOS or Android), Online Planner, and meeting website.

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The ASHG 2017 Mobile App is available for iOS and Android, and as a web version. Check it out!

The online planner and meeting app can help you plan your schedule before the meeting and add to or modify it on site. Our tips:

  • Create an account with the Online Planner to browse and save sessions of interest, create your schedule, and sync across desktop and mobile devices.
  • While on site, you can flag sessions to track continuing education; browse sessions, posters, and exhibit booths by location; and take notes.
  • The app is a helpful networking tool – use it to email speakers and message with other attendees who have opted in to these functions.
  • If you prefer another calendar app, you can export your schedule to any other app supporting .ics files. Similarly, you can add personal meetings and events to your ASHG 2017 calendar.

Prefer the printed versions? No problem! Our Documents and Downloadables page has printable versions of all Program content, as well as other useful materials.

See you in Orlando!

Pauline Minhinnett, CMP, CEM, is ASHG’s Director of Meetings. For more information on ASHG 2017, visit the meeting website.

Awards and Exhibit Hall Changes at ASHG 2017

Posted By: Carrie Morin, ASHG Exhibits, Sponsorship, and Meeting Marketing Manager; and Pauline Minhinnett, ASHG Director of Meetings

ASHG 2017 features several new initiatives and special features to help attendees connect with the latest human genetics science – and each other – in novel, productive ways.

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Watch our video on the latest changes and enhancements to the ASHG Annual Meeting.

CoLabs in the Exhibit Hall

CoLaboratories (CoLabs), are exciting new networking lounges and educational theaters in the Exhibit Hall. Organized by high-level themes – clinical, laboratory, and data – these short events are organized by ASHG, partner organizations, and exhibiting companies. They focus on a single, specific topic or tool, and are free to attend with no advance registration required.

Each CoLab is paired with a networking lounge to facilitate conversation after the session ends. These events are a great way to meet colleagues and potential collaborators who share your interests, and to learn the basics of new tools to help you reach your goals. Be sure to review the CoLab calendar as you start planning your ASHG 2017 schedule!

And don’t forget: the people who staff exhibit booths at ASHG are often your peers! Don’t be afraid to ask them what sessions they find interesting or what new technology has made their jobs easier. They will often share interesting information and remember – they are there for you! They want to talk to you and get your feedback.

Changes to Awards

We’ve also made some changes to the annual Society awards, presented in sessions throughout the meeting. Each award presentation will feature a short lecture by the recipient about his or her current work, past and present challenges, and notable accomplishments. Browse these talks on the schedule of events.

While ASHG’s awards program is over 50 years old, this year’s slate includes our first-ever Early-Career Award, which recognizes scientists in their first ten years as an independent investigator. Finally, we’ve revamped the ASHG/FASEB Mentored Travel Awards Program for Underrepresented Trainees, which now includes a substantial mentoring component. Congratulations to this year’s 13 awardees!

Check out our website for details on other new initiatives at ASHG 2017. See you in Orlando!

Carrie Morin, CEM, is Exhibits, Sponsorship, and Meeting Marketing Manager at ASHG, and Pauline Minhinnett, CMP, CEM, is Director of Meetings. For more information on ASHG 2017, visit the meeting website.