Mastering the ASHG Abstract Review Process: Select the Right Topic

Posted By: Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

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Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

As you are preparing your ASHG 2019 abstract, I wanted to take some time to share how the ASHG topics and subtopics are structured and guidance on how to select the right topic. Understanding this will help you score better during review and get your talk or poster in front of the right people.

How ASHG Topics are Structured

Each of the twelve topics covers a large portion of current research in human genetics and are organized to group the most similar abstracts together. The topics and subtopics form the basis of the abstract review and session building process and, eventually, the organization of the poster hall. Program Committee members are assigned to review an abstract topic aligned with their research expertise.

With an average of 3,500 abstracts submitted, it has been helpful to further divide the topics into subtopics based on organ systems and clinical phenotypes. The subtopics are the same regardless of the main topic chosen. When Program Committee members gather to draft the Platform Sessions in July, they will often use the subtopics to build cross-topic sessions covering the most exciting research.

Changes to the Topics to Keep Up with the Field

The topic/subtopic system was last reorganized in 2016. Given the pace of expansion in human genetic research, the Program Committee reviewed and revised the topics this year. The largest changes were the addition of two topics. “Precision Medicine, Pharmacogenomics, and Genetic Therapies” was added to address the rise in genetic therapy development in recent years. “Molecular Effects of Genetic Variation” expands upon the previous “Genome Structure and Function” topic, so that we may group together all the functional genetics and gene expression abstracts that were previously spread across several abstract topics. Look for the new topics as you browse posters in Houston.

Tips for Selecting the Right Topic

Selecting the correct topic for your research is important to make sure it is reviewed by the appropriate experts and programmed with similar abstracts in either an oral or poster session. Each topic is represented proportionally in the talks, so there is no advantage to selecting one topic over another. In fact, submitting to the wrong topic will likely result in a poorer score because experts from other fields may view your work as less compelling.

Before submitting your abstract, make sure you read the definitions for each of the twelve topics. Determine which topic is most likely to have closely related studies to yours, as that is likely the best fit. Taking a few extra minutes to find the right home for your abstract will help you achieve the best possible score and boost your visibility with relevant colleagues.

Submit by June 6, 2019, to have your work considered for ASHG 2019. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Kiran Musunuru, MD, PhD, MPH, 2019 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Genetics, and the Director of the Cardiovascular Institute’s Genetic and Epigenetic Origins of Disease Program, at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Make the Case for Conference Attendance: Here’s How

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

Many institutions and organizations are on a yearly budget, which means now is the time to request funding for any educational and professional development opportunities you have in mind for 2019. If you’re attending the ASHG 2019 Annual Meeting, the best way to get funding is to submit your request early, appeal to your institution’s mission, and fulfill any promises you make during your appeal when you return.

Starting Early

With more professional development opportunities arising in the form of webinars, special-interest conferences, and service-learning, your department likely has a hard choice to make when deciding who and what to fund, even with an increased professional development budget. Many of these allocations are first come, first serve. Now is the time to do your research and put in those requests!

Figure out approximately how much you’ll need to attend the event including travel, registration, and hotels. Not every conference or meeting will have registration open in time for your request, but ASHG shows the benefit of early registration by sharing prices and price increase timelines well ahead of the ASHG Annual Meeting. Many organizations, including ASHG, share hotel rates ahead of time. Booking flights early doesn’t always get you the best savings, but using tools like the Kayak Travel Hacker Guide will help you know when to start booking and what kind of price you can anticipate.

Clearly indicate the financial savings of booking early and include all your research in your value of attending letter. Use our blog from last year to cut costs when traveling.

Appeal to the Mission

20190131_roitoolkit-imageThe Return on Investment (ROI) Toolkit helps you convey that while this meeting will benefit you, it will also benefit your institution since they are supporting your attendance.

  • Note which topics are being presented that directly correlate to your work.
  • State that the meeting isn’t just a learning opportunity but is also valuable for networking and can increase the possibility to collaborate.
  • Consider presenting your work, which would help get more visibility for your research and your institution.
  • Most importantly, explain that you’ll be ready to share all this new information upon your return. Sharing your findings with colleagues increases the value of attending to your institution by increasing the number of people who benefit from the cost.

See some other ways to get the most of a scientific meeting.


Fulfill Promises

Meetings can take a lot of energy, both mental and physical. Days full of new content can leave you burnt out and speechless when asked “what did you learn?” That’s why ASHG created several tools to help you keep track of it all. Track your participation on paper, or use our app! There are notes sections in each session listing where you can type about the session, and then email them to yourself later.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with you in Houston, so use the ROI Toolkit and get moving on those value of attending letters!

Build a Cohesive and Competitive Invited Workshop: Here’s How

Posted By: Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

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Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

On the heels of our successful 2018 meeting, the Program Committee is soliciting invited session and workshop proposals for ASHG 2019, taking place October 15-19 in Houston. Proposals are due on December 13, which is just over three weeks away.

One of the highlights of the meeting for me are the interactive invited workshops, which help me stay up-to-date on the latest research tools that I can use in my own work, as well as keep me informed about and engaged in pressing issues in human genetics. Today I will share some tips on how to build a cohesive, competitive invited workshop proposal that will be well received by the Program Committee and, if accepted, the attendees of the workshop. If you are looking for advice on invited session proposals, see last year’s blog post.

What are Invited Workshops?

An Interactive Invited Workshop is an educational or instructional event that relates to scientific scholarship, research tools, new technologies, skill development, or public information related to science. If you are looking to organize a session to address the state of the science on a specific topic, you may want to submit an invited session proposal instead.

Tip: Craft your session to benefit attendees.

Take this opportunity to write a clear description of the intended workshop with realistic goals to accomplish in 90 minutes. The average workshop participant is relatively unfamiliar with the tool or skill being taught, and the workshop goals should be conceived and communicated accordingly. A good strategy is to cover two to three main concepts and, if in doubt, err on the side of more basic learning outcomes.

If you want to target a more advanced audience, remember to be explicit about what prior knowledge you will expect of participants, and stay away from words like “introduction” and “primer” in the workshop title to avoid confusion.

Tip: Plan for a crowd.

It can be challenging to maintain interactivity with up to 200 attendees at your workshop! I recommend you recruit help from knowledgeable colleagues who can either co-present or float throughout the room to help participants who are falling behind. Depending on the complexity of the skill or software, four to six workshop leads should be sufficient.

To support your ability to recruit a team to oversee the workshop, ASHG offers complimentary meeting registration for up to two workshop presenters, as well as an extra four complimentary workshop tickets for any additional experts you invite.

Tip: Workshops can be low-tech.

Despite the increased use of computers and other technologies in the lab and clinic, there is a desire for skill-based workshops. Past programs have included workshops on improving clinical communication with patients and exploring how to accurately and sensitively capture demographic data in research studies. Such workshops can build great connections between attendees. Just be sure to avoid a series of lectures from a panel, which would be better suited to an invited session.

Tip: Improve upon past experiences.

If you have run a similar workshop before, either at a previous ASHG Annual Meeting or another venue, be sure to address past challenges. For example, if too many participants thought the workshop pace was too fast, you may wish to reduce the amount of content covered, pair attendees for the demonstrations, or recruit additional floaters to help keep everyone on track. There will be space on the proposal form to include past participant feedback. Of course, new workshop organizers are always welcome and encouraged.

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

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Top 5 tips to craft an Invited Workshop proposal: Watch!

Kiran Musunuru, MD, PhD, MPH, 2019 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Genetics, and the Director of the Cardiovascular Institute’s Genetic and Epigenetic Origins of Disease Program, at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Making the Most of Your Time at a Scientific Meeting

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

This is the third and final installment of our three-part blog series with tips on attending a scientific meeting like ASHG 2018. Check out part one about budgeting, and part two about attending a meeting without colleagues!

There are many reasons to attend a scientific meeting, but the top three we hear are for education, networking, and travel. Here’s how to accomplish those goals.

Education

ASHG Annual Meetings are a great opportunity to learn about new technology and research spanning a wide breadth of genetics topics. So how can you possibly absorb all this new information? Plan it out! Use our online planner to browse, search, and filter out the subject matter that most interests you. The app is another great planning tool, and you can take notes on the app for the sessions you attend. Find and download it at: ashg.org/MeetingApp.

Need more tips on getting the most out of attending? Watch this quick video:

Networking

Whether you’re attending as a mentor or to be mentored, you can always use opportunities to connect with people in your field. A hot spot to network is the Exhibit and Poster Hall: Your Solutions Hub. With over 250 exhibitors, it can be overwhelming, but you’re in luck! This year, ASHG is offering custom itineraries that follow a variety of career tracks, directing you to exhibitors that will best fit your interests. Check the 2018 meeting site soon for details.

While networking with people in senior positions is valuable, Emily Davenport, member of the ASHG Training & Development Committee, reminds us that peer networking matters, too. “People often think they should network ‘up,’ but it’s really valuable to meet other trainees from different institutions who are in the same position you are, or similar. These are the people who could one day be your new lab mates or eventually PIs themselves,” she said.

Finally, social events are part of the Meeting for a reason! We are one genetics community, and we love to talk shop, but we also want to unwind together. Check out events like the TweetUp, or any of the ancillary and exhibitor events! The Welcome Networking Reception is also a great opportunity to connect with fellow attendees. You never know what shared hobbies could bond you to a fellow colleague.

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ASHG 2017 TweetUp, Orlando, Florida

Enjoy the City

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Coronado, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center)

A scientific meeting is more than just a chance to expand your knowledge and career; it’s time in a different city and should be used as a chance to explore. Check out our blog post on fun San Diego neighborhoods that are close to the Convention Center, or read the ASHG 2018 travel page. Add networking to the mix by using #ASHG18 and #ASHGTrainee on social media to find fellow attendees looking to explore!

We hope you’re as excited for ASHG 2018 as we are, and we wish you luck achieving all your meeting goals!

Neighborhoods to Discover in San Diego

Posted by: Amanda Olsen, ASHG Meetings Assistant

There are so are many places to explore in San Diego, host city to the ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting this October, that we cannot cover them all. Learn more about exciting San Diego and all it has to offer.

Gaslamp Quarter—adjacent to the Convention Center; a short walk

Conveniently located across the street from the San Diego Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter is a lively downtown neighborhood that offers great food, premier entertainment, and rich history. The area features diverse cultural offerings including performance art, historic architecture, and many museums. To explore the district’s 150-year story, you can take a guided walking tour, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a nighttime Ghosts of Gaslamp walk. Foodies will delight in the myriad exciting dining options around every corner. Often called the “historic heartbeat of San Diego,” this neighborhood is a must-see.

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Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Café 21: Farm-freshy, healthy food and a popular happy hour.
  • Barleymash: Extensive beer list and great pub fare.
  • La Puerta: The best spot for Mexican food in Gaslamp.
  • Werewolf: A place for good burgers, beer, and scrumptious weekend breakfast.

Coronado—3 miles from Convention Center; 15 minutes by taxi or ferry

The Coronado coastline offers beautiful sandy beaches and a beachfront boardwalk filled with oceanfront dining, unique shops, and breathtaking views. The area is best known for the Victorian Hotel de Coronado, a 19th century-era grand resort that has hosted some of the biggest names in U.S. history. Soak up the sun on the beach or soak in the culture at the Coronado Museum of History & Art. Beyond beach lounging, you can sail, paddle, surf, kayak, and even ride on a gondola, Venetian-style. Coronado is a relaxing 15-minute ferry ride from the Convention Center.

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Coronado, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Nado Gelato: Ranked by TripAdvisor as the #1 place to eat in Coronado, this spot offers authentic Italian gelato, a dessert to die for.
  • Poehe: A top-rated fine-dining restaurant offering fresh seafood and beautiful bay views.
  • Miguel’s Cocina: Where you’ll find the best Tex-Mex in Coronado.
  • Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge: A local gem with an eclectic menu that satisfies every palate.
  • Clayton’s Coffee shop: A neighborhood institution with classic diner fare.

Old Town—5.5 miles; 15-minute taxi ride

History is waiting for you in the “birthplace of California:” Old Town San Diego. Experience the past at one of the dozens of historic sites, reflect in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, marvel at the 19th-century architecture, or attend any of the festivals and showcases that are planned for nearly every weekend. Round out your day with the fantastic authentic Mexican food that Old Town restaurants offer, reminiscent of California’s long history with its southern neighbor.

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Old Town San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Fiesta de Reyes: Live music and affordable Mexican food with festive décor.
  • Sushi Tadokoro: Traditional sashimi, nagiri, and saki.
  • Casa Guadalajara: Large portions of authentic Mexican cuisine.
  • Café Coyote: In a town with countless Mexican dining options, Café Coyote sets itself apart with beautiful décor, fresh food, and great drink specials.

 

Balboa Park—2.7 miles; 7-minute taxi ride

Though not technically a neighborhood, Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres offer enough to rival many nearby California enclaves. Just three miles from the Convention Center, the park boasts more than 15 diverse gardens, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the famous San Diego Zoo. If that’s not enough to pique your interest (and how could it not be?!), Balboa Park also houses more than ten museums and over a dozen dining options. Performance art entertainment is also an option: go back in time and to the other side of the world by visiting The Old Globe Theater, modeled after Shakespeare’s playhouse in London. You can even get a round of golf in on the Park grounds. Whatever your interests, Balboa Park is an enticing destination.

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Balboa Park, California (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • The Prado: Full-service American eatery in the heart of the park.
  • Panama 66: Inner-park laid-back spot for brews and bites.
  • Hash House A Go Go: a short walk from Balboa Park, serving market-fresh brunch and dinner with their signature Bloody Marys
  • Evolution: A casual vegan and vegetarian restaurant adjacent to Balboa.

La Jolla—16 miles; 20-minute taxi ride

This beachside getaway is known as the “jewel” of San Diego, and with its beautiful shoreline, famous Torrey Pines golf course, and endless water sport options, one doesn’t have to wonder why. If you’re coming with family, lounge on La Jolla Shores, which features wide sandy beaches and a calm surf perfect for kid-friendly fun. If it’s wildlife you’re after, visit The Children’s Pool, a tiny cove that serves as a haven for California sea lions. Swimmers, kayakers, divers, and snorkelers can find paradise in La Jolla Cove, the perfect spot for sport. After a long hard day of beach adventure, picnic on the grassy expanse of oceanfront Scripps Park, or dine beachfront at one of the area’s many fine-dining establishments.

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La Jolla, California (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • George’s at the Cove: Contemporary American/seafood spot with expansive outdoor seating for a gorgeous ocean view.
  • The Taco Stand: local fast-food tacos with a great reputation.
  • Whisknladle: French, Spanish, and Italian inspired seasonal meals featuring farm-to-table ingredients
  • El Pescador Fish Market: Fresh fish at a counter-service market and restaurant.

Mission Bay—10 miles; 15- to 20- minute taxi ride

Mission Bay Aquatic Park is a 4,600-acre manmade water park, the largest of its kind in the world. Popular activities include surfing, jet-skiing, skateboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and biking. Learn how to sail at the Aquatic Center, bike along the beach boardwalks, ride roller coasters at Belmont Park, or even take a moonlight cruise around the bay. With such an exhaustive list of activities to choose from, anyone can find something to do here. Mission Bay is also home to world-famous the park Sea World San Diego.

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Mission Bay, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Luce Bar & Kitchen: Warehouse-chic bar serving pub grub & Sunday brunch.
  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen: Sushi bar, seafood, and a great view.
  • Phil’s BBQ: Hailed as the best barbecue in San Diego.
  • Coin-Op Game Room: Bites, cocktails, and craft brews in a spacious “barcade” with lots of games.

 

We look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

Navigating a Scientific Meeting Alone

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant, ASHG; Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG; and Emily Davenport, Member, ASHG Training & Development Committee

You’re reading part two of our three-part blog series on attending the ASHG Annual Meeting. If you want to check out part one about budgeting, click here.

The ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting is getting closer each day, and advance registration is only open until October 15.

This month, we’re going to talk about best practices for navigating a meeting or conference alone, and how to enjoy the process.

Know What to Expect

If you’ve never attended an ASHG Meeting before, it might help you to look at materials from previous meetings such as blogs, videos, or tweets. Visualizing your setting is likely to relax some nerves.

Planning your days helps you focus your attention on networking instead of worrying about where to go next. The printed Program-at-a-Glance includes a schedule overview, scientific session information, and maps of the convention center. Check the schedule online, and learn about the app in advance.

Emily Davenport, TDC member, shares that the ASHG meeting is an introvert-friendly environment: “I was nervous, but there were a lot of people at meal times willing to eat together, and you’d be surprised how often you can find a friend-of-a-friend. Science is a smaller community than we think!”

Do What Makes You Comfortable and Confident

Know your limits! If you feel like you’re overextending yourself, then go to a relaxing place to unwind for an hour. You’ll get more value out of the rest of the day if you take that time. Think about where that relaxing space is for you, whether it’s your hotel room, your car, a coffee shop around the corner, or the inspiration lounges. ASHG also has a Prayer & Meditation Room at the meeting each year.

Wear clothes that you feel confident in. When you feel confident, you’ll act more confident, and you’ll be ready to mingle. Think sensibly when it comes to footwear.

Talk about subject matter that interests you, and chances are you’ll find someone who has similar interests. Posters are organized by scientific topic, so if you’re presenting a poster, you’ll be surrounded by people with similar interests.

Realize You’re Not Alone

Many attendees don’t come with colleagues, so you’re not actually alone. You’re surrounded by friends you’ve yet to meet! Think about where people are likely to be looking for some conversation filler: in line for an event or food, or waiting for a session to start.

There are many social events built into the meeting, such as: the opening reception; ancillary, satellite, exhibitor events; and inspiration lounges. Use the online schedule filter to see ancillary events, or ask exhibitors directly if they will be hosting something. Trainees should check the trainee events page and watch the video below.

Use twitter to find fellow attendees by using the social media badges, the meeting hashtag #ASHG18, and the trainee hashtag #ASHGTrainee. People are often on Twitter looking for exercise partners and sightseeing buddies. You can also attend the Tweetup social event.

The most important thing to remember when attending alone? Everyone is in it together! If you’ve never attended a meeting or you’ve attended a dozen times, there are new people all around you just as interested in mingling as you are. Come meet our friendly staff at ASHG Central throughout the entire meeting. We can’t wait to see you there!

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.