Reports from CAIP Affiliates: American Society for Microbiology International Programs

2004 Annual Report

The International Affairs Department comprises three committees: the International Committee (IC), the International Membership Committee (IMC) and the International Microbiology Education Committee (IMEC). This report of activities is submitted in accordance with: Goal Two of the ASM Strategic Plan, Enhance the Society’s leadership role in the international microbiological community, and The Goals and Objectives set out in the IC Strategic Plan adopted in 2001.

International Committee Goal One: Promote the microbiological sciences worldwide by providing a diverse array of educational programs and services This goal encompasses the work of the International Microbiology Education Committee.

The MIRCENs (Microbial Resources Centres) Research Awards, have been funded by the National Academy of Sciences since 1987. International Affairs staff secured funding for this program in 2004 and 2005 at the maximum level of $25,000 per year. In 2004, nine successful applicants were funded at varying levels. The MIRCENs is a network created by UNESCO.

Launched in 2003 and fully-funded by the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum, the Indo-US Professorship Program provides funding for up to eight Professorships per year through 2006 to microbiologists in India and the United States to teach interactive short courses in microbiology in either country. The program is being vigorously promoted both in the United States and in India and funded six Indo-US Professorships in 2004.

Funding from ASM and the Pan American Health Organization supported four International Professorships for Latin America in 2004 and two in the first half of 2005.

The Visiting Resource Person Program, funded by UNESCO, continued to provide support for ASM members traveling in developing countries on other business to visit an institution for 1-2 days to lecture and interact with students and faculty. Nine such visits were supported in 2004.

The ASM International Workshop Scholarship Program continues to enrich the experience of young scientists attending the ASM General Meeting or ICAAC by providing paid registration to an ASM Workshop to two young scientists from developing countries at each GM and ICAAC.

International Affairs will provide up to $20,000 in travel grants for young international microbiologists to attend the 2005 International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) Congress in San Francisco in July. In addition, this Congress is being organized by ASM’s Meeting Department.

International Committee Goal Two: Develop collaborative relationships with national, international, and umbrella scientific organizations worldwide.

During 2004 the International Affairs Department continued to work towards strengthening joint initiatives and programs with worldwide scientific organizations. These include the following:

Caribbean Basin Research and Training Network on Infectious Diseases

The first minicourse of the three-year Caribbean Basin Research and Training Network on Infectious Diseases program (funded by a grant to ASM from the Ellison Medical Foundation) was held November 8-19th, 2004 in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the University of Mexico’s Instituto de Biotecnolog’a. The course was titled Genetics, Genomics and Epidemiology of Infectious Disease: Bacterial Agents. Twenty-three students from eight countries participated in the course. The goal of the course was to illustrate how, by bringing together genetics, genomics and epidemiology, it is possible to generate powerful conceptual and experimental tools to better understand infectious disease. ASM will be awarding three travel grants to course participants to develop joint research proposals that follow from their work in Cuernavaca.

International Requests for Assistance (IRFA) Program

In 2004 the IC awarded ten grants in ten countries, for a total of almost $18,000. In 2005, so far, ASM participation in one meeting, the International Arab Conference on Food and Dairy Technology in Cairo, Egypt, has been approved.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

The ASM, as an official NGO partner of PAHO, participated in last year’s PAHO Executive Committee Meeting, and PAHO’s General Assembly. The ASM-PAHO four-year workplan of joint activities will be reviewed by PAHO at its Executive Committee Meeting in July 2005. These activities included: participation of ASM speakers in PAHO workshops, fellowship and professorship awards, participation in a regional task force on antimicrobial resistance, and development of a short course on antimicrobial susceptibility testing targeting clinicians and microbiology students throughout Latin America (final product will contain printed and CD-ROM resources; translation and printing will done by PAHO). In addition, PAHO and ASM will meet in May to discuss activities for the next four-year workplan of joint collaboration. AAAS Annual Meeting, Washington DC

A symposium entitled UNESCO: Opportunities upon U.S. Re-entry was held at the AAAS Annual Meeting last February. The session was jointly organized by Barrett Ripin, U.S. Department of State, and Lily Schuermann, ASM Director of International Affairs. The symposium presented an overview of U.S. interests and priorities, and opportunities for U.S. engagement in UNESCO’s three major divisions: Education, Science, and Culture. Moderated by Dr. Rita Colwell, former Director of NSF, the symposium featured The Hon. Louise Oliver, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO; Walter Erdelen, UNESCO; Shirley Malcolm, AAAS; Bruce Alberts, NAS; and Terry Garcia, National Geographic Society (NGS).

ASM Tsunami Relief/Recovery Fund

ASM has partnered with the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF), a close partner of the World Health Organization (WHO), to create the ASM/Asia Tsunami Relief & Recovery Fund. The fund will be directed towards rebuilding and strengthening the microbiological infrastructure that is so critical to both short-term relief and long-term well-being of the people in the devastated areas. We are currently discussing our offer of assistance both financial and technical with international organizations. ASM officers approved an initial donation of $30,000 from the ASM budget to launch the work of the fund, and notification of the fund was sent to all ASM members and staff, encouraging those who wished to contribute to visit the PAHEF website at

US National Committee of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (USNC/IUMS)

ASM has four representatives to the USNC/IUMS, and ASM staff (Meetings and International). They continue to play a leading role at the USNC meetings. Main issues in 2004 included the organization of the next IUMS Congress in San Francisco in July 2005, and the review of travel grants applications from domestic and international scientists to attend the Congress.

International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Congress was held last August in Cancun, and gathered around 2,000 participants worldwide. Microbial ecology is an interdisciplinary science which promotes an understanding of microbial interactions among members of microbial communities as well as the interactions of the microbial community with its environment. ASM supported the participation of Dr. Ramon Rosello-Mora from Spain, whose talk was The Species Concept in Prokaryotes.

Lily Schuermann, ASM, participated and met with the ISME leadership. Many ISME Board members are also very active with ASM. An MOU between ASM and ISME was signed.

Mexican Congress of Microbiology

The Mexican Association for Microbiology (AMM) organized its 34th Congress of Microbiology last August in Cancun. The meeting featured an ASM symposium on Antimicrobial Resistance. Convened by ASM Ambassador Juan Carlos Tinoco, Durango, Mexico, the symposium included: Gerard Cangelosi, Seattle Biochemical Research Institute, WA, Keith Klugman, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, and Stephen Lerner, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

World Water Congress, Morocco

The International Water Association (IWA) in partnership with the Moroccan Association of Drinking Water and Sanitation (AMEPA) presented the World Water Congress last September in Marrakech, Morocco. Joan Rose, IWA Chair of the Microbiology Section, developed a day-long presentations on international water microbiology issues. Lucy Hoareau, UNESCO, and Lily Schuermann, ASM, co-organized a session on two Microbial Resource Centers (MIRCEN) which included: Balakrish Nair, MIRCEN Director in Bangladesh, and Anwar Huq, MIRCEN Director at the University of Maryland. Also, Hoareau and Anne Morris Hooke, ASM IC Chair, participated in a round table on resources/funding for international water microbiology programs.

Cooperative Agreements with Universities in Spain

Two Spanish universities– the Universidad de Salamanca, one of the oldest universities in Europe, and the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), which belongs to the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to develop joint programs with ASM. Programs will foster collaborative ties between Spanish and Latin American institutions and societies, with ASM as principal organizer and umbrella organization. Both universities have agreed to raise funds from Spanish sources.

President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

The CPC approved ASM-CDC collaboration on PEPFAR last March 2004. ASM received a draft terms of reference from CDC in December 2004 preparatory to signing a cooperative agreement to support microbiology and laboratory capacity in PEPFAR countries. ASM has formed a Task Force on PEPFAR under the leadership of Dr. Steven Specter, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. Last January 27-28, 2005 Specter and Lily Schuermann participated in a Training for Quality HIV Rapid Testing organized by CDC in Atlanta. The goal of the training was to prepare CDC’s partner organizations in the PEPFAR program for a systematic roll-out of the CDC HIV rapid test package. After the training, Specter and Schuermann were joined by PEPFAR task force members Ruth Berkelman and Keith Klugman, and International Affairs Manager Dan Lissit, to meet with CDC staff to discuss the preparation of the cooperative agreement.

International Committee Goal Three: Ensure that ASM products and services continue to meet the needs of a growing international membership International Affairs achieves this goal through the International Membership Committee (IMC).

The IMC pursues its strategy of improving international recruitment and retention through a number of ongoing programs: 1) The Global Outreach program brings ASM to scientists in the least-developed countries of the world, providing them with free membership and on-line journal access. It currently serves 480 members in 22 countries; 2) A new International Student Chapter program was launched in 2004 with the creation of a Mexican student chapter; 3) The Morrison Rogosa Award, which provides young, female scientists from the former Soviet Union with a two-year membership in ASM and a two-year subscription to either all online journals or a print journal of their choice. Also, the IMC has created a Task Force on International Recognition that will make a merit-based selection of an International Member of the Year and an Ambassador of the Year, and recommend international members for existing ASM Awards.

The International Ambassadors program has clearly demonstrated how the access to local knowledge and networks can enhance ASM’s ability to provide services to members. The Ambassador program was reorganized in 2004, with the adoption of new guidelines, and the completion of an Ambassador’s Handbook. In the new structure, the entire world has been divided into sixteen regions, each of which will eventually be represented by an Ambassador. Currently, there are nine Ambassadors. To assist the Ambassadors in covering their regions the position of Country Liaison was created. Various on-line services have been especially tailored for international members. The Translators Network program, which provides translations of ASM materials into Spanish, French and Portuguese, has translated the Clean Hands Campaign materials and the monthly Tipsheet in addition to International website materials. The International Mentoring program, a searchable database of members willing to mentor young scientists from around the world, has grown to over 370 members (double the number from one year ago). Other initiatives include a Spanish-language discussion group entitled Red Microbiolog a; and a Resource Clearinghouse through which members can donate used books, journals, and equipment to laboratories in developing countries.

At the ASM General Meeting, the IMC hosts the annual Special Session on a topic of international interest. This year’s speaker will be Dr. Jos Esparza. His presentation is entitled: The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise: A new paradigm to organize research to solve major global health problems. Two years ago, Dr.Esparza joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to lead its Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. International Committee Goal Five: Enhance ASM’s ability to communicate on international microbiological issues International Affairs Department contributes to ASM’s ability to communicate on international microbiological issues through a number of different avenues. Listservs and discussion groups are used to disseminate information to a much broader segment of the community than is reached by traditional methods. The Ambassadors program, through its local representation of ASM to members, affords the opportunity to become more familiar with ASM’s structure and functions. Finally, the international committees encourage foreign scientists residing in the US to develop relationships and promote communication with their home countries. In 2004, a Task Force on Africa headed by Dr. Musau WaKabongo was created. Members are Africans living in the US. The Task Force distributed a questionnaire throughout African countries to assess the needs of the continent. Results of the questionnaire were included in the development of a proposal for ASM activities on the African continent. Proposal will be presented at ASM Meeting in Atlanta.

ASM had a strong presence at the last Latin American Congress of Microbiology in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 2004. Over 3000 microbiologists from throughout the region attended. ASM President Jim Tiedje participated in the opening session, and made the presentation Genomic Windows on Microbial Communities. ASM also supported the participation of Michael Dunne, Jr. (Barnes-Jewish Hospital St. Louis, MO) through the International Requests for Assistance program. Ambassador Cristina Cerquetti (Argentina) organized a full-day workshop on Microbiology Education and Training in Latin America. The workshop drew over 150 participants. Ambassadors Humberto Guerra (Peru) and Leda Mendon a-Hagler (Brazil) also participated in the session. The next Latin American Congress of Microbiology will be held in Chile in 2006.