American Society for Microbiology

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The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), originally the Society of American Bacteriologists, is a professional organization for scientists who study viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa as well as other aspects of microbiology. Microbiology is the study of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye and which must be viewed with a microscope. ASM membership includes scientists who do basic research into the nature and lives of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms. ASM membership also includes scientists who work in the field of applied microbiology, for example, researching cures for diseases caused by microorganisms, or the potential for microorganisms to create cheeses from milk, to generate fuels, or to clean up oil spills.


ASM was founded in 1899 under the name the "Society of American Bacteriologists." In December 1960, it was renamed the "American Society for Microbiology."[1]


According to the ASM website,[2] the mission of the American Society for Microbiology is to:

  • Advance the microbiological sciences,
  • Apply the study of microbiology to increase understanding of the physical processes of life, and to
  • Communicate this knowledge throughout society to support improvements in health, the environment, and the economy.

Again, based on its website, to achieve these goals, ASM:

  • Supports programs of education, training, and public information,
  • Publishes books and journals,
  • Convenes workshops, meetings, and conferences,
  • Recognizes achievement and distinction among its practitioners,
  • Sets standards of ethical and professional behavior, and
  • Generally, furthers the development of the field of microbiology.


ASM is based in the United States, and has 43,000 members throughout the world, one-third of whom live outside the United States. It is the largest life science professional organization in the world.[2]

Eligibility to become a full member of the society is open to any person who is interested in microbiology and holds at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent qualifications in microbiology or a related field. Many members hold advanced degrees, including at the Master's, PhD, ScD, DrPH and MD level. Students enrolled in microbiology classes or classes in a related field are eligible to become student members.


The ASM governance structure has two major components. The first and main component is the ASM Council which is made up of 88 voting members and serves as the Society's Board of Directors. Each councilor is charged with fiduciary responsibility for the actions and activities of the Society.

The second component is the Council Policy Committee or CPC which is made up of 18 voting members and serves as the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. The CPC has full authority to act ad interim for the Council; exercises the usual functions of an executive committee; and carries out further duties as provided in the ASM Bylaws. However this authority is "subject to subsequent explanation to and approval by the Council."

The CPC's voting members are the ASM officers, the chairs of the 6 major program units or boards, the chair of the American Academy of Microbiology and 6 at large members representing the two Society constituencies: divisions and branches. There are two standing committees which report directly to the CPC: the Communications Committee and the Professional Practice Committee. The chairs of both of these standing committees are ex officio (without vote) members of the CPC.


The ASM holds three international meetings annually: the ASM General Meeting, which focuses on microbiology, and the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, known as ICAAC, one of the world's foremost meetings on infectious diseases. The society also holds the annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting and numerous smaller conferences devoted to specialized areas of research.

Through its SCOPE program the society helps organize and manage scientific meetings for external organizations such as the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases


The society publishes twelve academic journals, as well as a minireview collection of all journals.

The society also publishes Microbe, a monthly news magazine for members as well as a full library of textbooks through its publishing arm ASM Press. A selection of articles from Microbe, Focus on Microbiology Education and Microbiology Education are available online via the MicrobeLibrary resource.

Public Affairs

Through its Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) the society regularly monitors public policy, specifically the United States federal government and Congress and provides comment and testimony on issues that affect microbiology.

In 2003, the ASM issued the public policy report Global Environmental Change - Microbial Contributions, Microbial Solutions, wherein they recommend “reducing net anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere” and “minimizing anthropogenic disturbances of” atmospheric gasses:

Carbon dioxide concentrations were relatively stable for the past 10,000 years but then began to increase rapidly about 150 years ago…as a result of fossil fuel consumption and land use change.
Of course, changes in atmospheric composition are but one component of global change, which also includes disturbances in the physical and chemical conditions of the oceans and land surface. Although global change has been a natural process throughout Earth’s history, humans are responsible for substantially accelerating present-day changes. These changes may adversely affect human health and the biosphere on which we depend.
Outbreaks of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, hantavirus infections, dengue fever, bubonic plague, and cholera, have been linked to climate change.[3]


The Education Board’s mission is to promote access, excellence, professional development, and advancement in microbiology education, promote the community of microbiology students and educators, and lead in microbiology education worldwide.

The board provides support for both students and educators at all levels. Programs of the education board include: the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, a four-day meeting designed to support minority involvement in biomedical and behavioral sciences, the ASM BioQUEST Bioinformatics Institute, an annual program for faculty interested in implementing bioinformatics across a curriculum, the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators, an annual conference of nearly 300 college biology faculty dedicated to educational excellence, the Biology Scholars Program and the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, a peer-reviewed publication about research in learning microbiology.

The education board offers a comprehensive website, with resources for graduate students and post-doctoral scientists. Microbe Library is an online publication of over 1500 peer-reviewed resources for undergraduate microbiology education.

American Academy of Microbiology

The American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) is the honorific leadership group within the ASM. The AAM is the only group of its kind devoted entirely to microbiologists and the science of microbiology. Members of the AAM, are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer-reviewed process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

The academy regularly convenes colloquia for in-depth analysis of critical issues in microbiology and publishes scientifically well-founded that provide expert advice and practical recommendations.

The academy administers ASM scientific achievement awards that honor important contributions to basic and applied research, microbiology education, and scientific and professional leadership.

Professional Practice Committee

The mission of the Professional Practice Committee (PPC) is to provide professional development opportunities and content to members to increase their skill, enhance their job performance and contribute to the profession. The PPC serves the microbiology profession by representing clinical microbiologists and immunologists, microbiologists working in the pharmaceutical, environmental and food industries, and biological safety officers.

To achieve its mission the Committee will:

Coordinate ASM's professional development activities on behalf of its constituents. Develop and market new products and services that benefit the practice of microbiology. Educate the public about how the profession improves public and environmental health. Provide an identifiable voice in ASM governance for constituents. Maintain the quality and rigor and preserve the legitimacy of the credentialing programs. Engage members and solicit their feedback on enhancements of existing products and services and proposed new activities. The American College of Microbiology,, is one of the core components of the PPC; it oversees three certification boards and a postdoctoral training program.

Another significant component of the PPC is maintenance of the Clinical Microbiology Portal, The portal houses a myriad of resources and is a global forum for clinical microbiologists and immunologists.

International programs

Through its international board, the ASM conducts a number of activities designed to support microbiology research worldwide. The board aims to develop, sustain and promote the global activities of the ASM by providing a diverse array of educational programs and services, developing programs and services that enable ASM to understand and meet the needs of its international members, and building international laboratory capacity for all clinical microbiology in resource-limited countries.

ASM International Programs include:

International Grants and Fellowships ASM International Laboratory Capacity Building (LabCap) ASM International Ambassadors Program ASM International Mentoring Program ASM Volunteer Translators Network ASM Global Outreach Program

Public education initiatives

Through its Communications Committee, the ASM operates a number of public outreach initiatives designed to educate the general public about the importance of microbiology to their daily lives and behaviors that can help improve public health.

The ASM's website is aimed at teaching about microbiology in general. It includes information about microorganisms, microbiologists, current events and news, and links to resources.

Currently ASM produces MicrobeWorld Video and Meet the Scientist. MicrobeWorld Video is a video podcast that highlights the latest in microbiology, life science and biotechnology news. Covering diverse topics ranging from scientific conferences, events, museums and science comedians, MicrobeWorld Video launched in April 2007.

Launched in 2008, Meet the Scientist is a biweekly podcast highlighting one scientist; what they are working on, their interests, why they became involved in science, and where they see their discipline headed. Initially, the program was hosted by Merry Buckley, a long time science writer with a PhD in Environmental Microbiology. On September 11, 2009, Merry Buckley passed the role of host to noted science writer, Carl Zimmer.

From 1997 - 2008, ASM produced the daily MicrobeWorld Radio show. MicrobeWorld produced 260 unique shows each year highlighting the process of discovery, historical changes in research, and a variety of scientific careers in industry, academia, and government. Radio features included interview segments with leading scientists in the field and were reviewed by a panel of scientists with expertise in a variety of research fields to ensure content accuracy.

In November, 2006, Moselio Schaechter, a microbiologist and former president of the ASM, expanded the ASM's public outreach program by creating an educational blog, Small Things Considered. Early in 2007, he was joined by science writer and editor, Merry Youle. The blog has earned a reputation for accessible, high quality posts about research and current issues in microbiology.citation required

Since 1996, the ASM has conducted its Operation Clean Hands campaign to educate the public on the importance of handwashing to individual and public health. To help promote the campaign, every few years the Society conducts an independent survey of handwashing behaviors in public restrooms. The last survey, conducted in August 2005, found that while 91 percent of adults say they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom, only 83 percent were actually observed doing so.

The ASM Public Communications Award, sponsored by ASM, recognizes outstanding achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge and understanding of microbiology. Print, broadcast and online journalists are nominated for individual items and series they produce during the calendar year. Applicants may nominate themselves. Nominees are judged by a committee of their peers. The award consists of a $2,500 cash prize, a commemorative plaque, and travel expenses to attend the ASM General Meeting for presentation of the award.

External links


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  2. 2.0 2.1 Website of the American Society for Microbiology, About Us page
  3. ASM “Global Environmental Change - Microbial Contributions, Microbial Solutions”

See Also