AAI President's Message


Jeremy M. Boss, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2019-2020)

Emory Chair in Basic Sciences Research
Professor and Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Emory University School of Medicine

It is an honor to represent you as this year’s president of The American Association of Immunologists (AAI). Perhaps, like many of you, my view of the world is often split between what I learn in the lab and what I read/hear about in the daily news cycle. To me, the opening sentence in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens often comes to mind:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

As immunologists, we are experiencing amazing technologies, tools, and breakthroughs that allow us to explore and define the immune system in healthy and disease-based settings. Many of us are actively and successfully engaged in investigating how the immune system can be manipulated and deployed to treat disease through checkpoint blockade and other cell-based therapies. We are on the cusp of personalized molecular-based medicine in which the immune system will be front and center. It is the best of times and due to you, the spring of hope is upon us.

Although I don’t think it is the worst of times, science and society face unprecedented challenges of disbelief and distrust in areas ranging from climate change to vaccine safety and efficacy, to simply having to defend the question of why we need to understand biologic, chemical, and physical systems. Yes, it can be frustrating. As scientists, we must call upon our creativity and skills as educators to engage in open and respectful conversations. We must reach across the divide to teach the scientific method and how we derive our facts and conclusions. Here is where the AAI can help.

One way AAI assists its members and the field is by directly advocating for increased funding for basic biomedical and immunological research. The AAI Council and Committee on Public Affairs (CPA) work to bring your voice to Congress, the NIH, and other government agencies on a wide range of other issues, including removing barriers to research, training the next generation of scientists, and many other topics. We do this through Congressional testimony, visits with key Congressional representatives and their aides, meetings with agency officials, and other means of formal communication. We will continue to advocate for you.

Another way the AAI helps is through publishing your work. Our premiere journal, The Journal of Immunology, is 103 years old and the most-cited immunology journal publishing primary research. The JI publishes high-quality work that has an extraordinarily long citation half-life compared to other journals in the field1. It is distinct from other journals of the field in a number of ways: submitted manuscripts are not triaged and all are peer-reviewed by practicing scientists in the field; there is a rapid turnaround from submission to decision, and decision to publication; editors provide prioritized comments, which allow authors to better focus revisions; and the proceeds from the journal support you, the AAI membership. Our second journal, ImmunoHorizons, is a peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal committed to advancing the knowledge of immunology. It was recently accepted for inclusion in MEDLINE, the best-known and most widely used bibliographic database in life sciences. Only 12-15% of journals are recommended for inclusion in MEDLINE. Both of the AAI journals support our mission, but they need your support. By submitting your papers to The JI and IH, and citing articles published in these journals, you both advance your career, as well as lend vital support to your society.

The AAI has programs dedicated to advancing the careers of trainees and early-career faculty, both of which represent the next generation of immunologists. Careers are advanced through recognition, financial support, and mentoring. The AAI sponsors fellowship programs that support students and postdocs for a full year of training; a large travel award program for the annual meeting; an outreach program that allows member-organized regional meetings to recognize science presented at their events; training programs such as one that allows members to travel to another lab to learn techniques, and our field-leading courses. AAI offers advice sessions on navigating career challenges that are open to all attendees at the annual meeting, and hosts mentor matching through the Grant Review for Immunologists Program and Career Advisory Board. The AAI website highlights these programs, and we strongly encourage you to participate in them.

In addition to supporting our future scientists, AAI has established a new program to honor those who have made substantial contributions to the society and the field of immunology throughout their careers. The induction of the inaugural cohort of the Distinguished Fellows of AAI at the 2019 annual meeting was tremendously heartwarming. Congratulations to this year’s class, and thank you for your immeasurable contributions.

In closing, I want to thank you for being a member of The AAI and supporting our field. To those of you who spend countless hours participating in our numerous committees and editorial boards, I thank you for this remarkable service. As discussed above, we have a lot to do. We will continue to voice your concerns, advocate for scientific research, advance the training of immunology students and fellows, and sustain the progress of our field in this era of breathtaking opportunity.

I look forward to seeing you all at our next annual meeting in Hawai’i! It will be the best of times.


1 10.8 years as reported in the Journal Citation Reports, 2018

(Posted July 2020)

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