AAI President's Message

 

Paul W. Kincade, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2002-03)

With members in 56 countries, the sun never sets on AAI. Our membership continues to grow worldwide, and the last barriers to communication are falling to technology. Here are some personal thoughts about the opportunities and responsibilities that come with these important trends.

Science may be the most successful of all melting pots, where nature is the common language, and standards of excellence apply equally to all. Furthermore, travel and cultural exchanges are some of the most enjoyable "perks" scientists get to experience. While immunology first emerged as a scientific discipline in Europe, many countries have contributed significantly to the advancement of the field. Thanks to strong public support, generous federal funding, and encouragement of creativity, immunology has enjoyed unrivaled prosperity in the U.S. American science has also benefited from the fact that many outstanding investigators from elsewhere train and/or spend their research careers here.

For these and other reasons, we should continue to encourage the membership of foreign scientists and increasingly involve them in the association's affairs. Appointment of international members to some of AAI's committees is already possible. The day will come when many committees can work via virtual meetings, opening additional opportunities for international participation.

Over half of the manuscripts submitted to The Journal of Immunology are from foreign corresponding authors; a new online submission and review process should soon make it possible for reviewers and editors to be anywhere in the world. This development will spread the enormous workload and share the responsibility associated with critical peer review; this can only further improve an already outstanding journal.

Interactions and joint activities with other immunology societies are highly beneficial. For the first time, the Canadian Society of Immunology will be an official guest and host a symposium at this year's AAI annual meeting in Denver. They join 14 other guest immunology societies that are also enriching the scientific program.

Like AAI, many immunology societies around the world do an excellent job of supporting research, providing training, and encouraging the "best and the brightest" to pursue careers in science. AAI could never substitute for these societies, but I think we should share successful ideas. For example, recruiting, public affairs, and educational materials developed in the United Kingdom could be of interest and potentially very helpful to U.S. counterparts. Animal rights campaigns, regulatory burdens, and similar issues represent common problems that we might address together. AAI is very concerned about problems associated with the visa process, hoping that rational security measures do not hamper participation in meetings and international scientific exchanges. Shipment of biological specimens and experimental animals represent additional issues that involve equally our colleagues abroad.

AAI – and in fact individual AAI members – can do much to network with colleagues elsewhere. AAI is an active participant in the International Union of Immunological Societies, and many of our members teach outside the United States. We should look for additional opportunities and continue to enrich educational programs here with visiting scientists from abroad. I also think it is important to identify future scientific leaders in countries with limited resources and arm them with the latest information about research advances. Toward this goal, I am seeking ways for AAI to finance a scholarship program for foreign scientists to participate in the AAI Introductory and Advanced Immunology courses.

AAI members may also be able to enhance global relations in their own laboratories. Many U.S. labs allow undergraduates to volunteer and obtain practical insight into the research process. Given the fact that enrollment of U.S. students in our graduate programs is now stagnant, this is an opportune time to offer this experience to foreign undergraduate students. A good beginning would be for AAI members to notify colleagues abroad of their interest in hosting such students.