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Vigor and Value: The 2012 SLAS Annual Report

By SLAS CEO Gregory F. Dummer, CAE

 

December 2012 marks SLAS's thirtieth month as a scientific community. As we reflect on the success of our progress, we do so in terms of our mission, which is "to serve as a global organization that exists to provide forums for education and information exchange to encourage the study of, and improve the science and practice of, laboratory automation and screening."

 

The SLAS Membership: Eager and Interested

SLAS reaches around the world and throughout a diverse spectrum of disciplines and sectors. Like-minded scientific professionals engage face-to-face; others engage online only; many do both.

SLAS offers a flexible menu of membership categories, programs, products, services and events so individuals can custom-tailor their engagement to meet their professional needs and personal priorities. Regular (dues paid) members enjoy premium benefits. Their dues also assist in advancing the SLAS mission and collective scientific community. E-members who join SLAS are kept informed of SLAS news and take advantage of individual SLAS programs and opportunities of their choice on an ad hoc, pay-per-view basis.

This member-driven leadership philosophy is attracting more and more active participants every day. At the end of 2012, 16,879 individual stakeholders from 100 different countries have united to form the foundation upon which SLAS is building the future.

 

 

From this rich, diverse and widespread base, an organized network of more than 200 active volunteers stepped forward this past year to bring SLAS programs, products, services and events off paper and into real life. Their hard work established the solid foothold from which SLAS reached out and touched literally millions of laboratory science and technology professionals around the world.

This SLAS community network was fueled by contributions from 1,500+ journal authors, manuscript reviewers and conference and webinar presenters; participation by 6,000+ conference and webinar attendees; online dialog among 8,000+ social media fans and followers, 120,000+ LabAutopedia visitors and 260,000+ full text downloads at JALA Online and JBS Online. Add crosstalk among colleagues and coworkers and the tangible reach and impact of our community skyrockets exponentially.

The SLAS Board of Directors (which was led in 2012 by President Dave Dorsett of Princeton, NJ), committees and working groups are all guided by the tenets of the thoughtfully prepared SLAS Strategic Plan and ongoing member feedback collected by a major member needs assessment study conducted in late 2011; a comprehensive study of our European market conducted by professional consultants in 2012; annual JALA and JBS reader surveys; evaluation surveys that follow every in-person and online event; and even informal polls in SLAS Point-to-Point and social media sites. The SLAS leadership team listens to what its members say and uses member input to drive-forward development of existing initiatives and prioritize future opportunities.

Emphasis on recognizing the global scope of our mission created important momentum this past year. SLAS launched a new Emerging Economy membership category to level the dues playing field for those in countries identified as being of low- to upper-middle income by The World Bank. Since then, SLAS has embraced 76 new regular (dues paid) members in this category from China and four other countries.

As we look toward 2013, SLAS is poised to energize its efforts in Europe to ensure meaningful accessibility and service to the laboratory science and technology professionals who live and work there.

Leadership Excellence in Form and Substance

SLAS practices an open leadership model that invites participation by all members and ensures a healthy, ongoing rotation of talent. The SLAS Board of Directors comprises nine individuals who are elected by the members-at-large to three-year terms of service. The SLAS Nominations Committee plays a key role in guiding the election process by seeking, qualifying and nominating a final list of at least two candidates for each open position whose backgrounds and experience reflect the goals of the SLAS Strategic Plan.

Eight outstanding candidates were presented to the membership in late 2012, and three were elected to the SLAS Board of Directors for terms beginning January 1, 2013 and ending December 31, 2015. These newly elected Board members include:

• Joshua Bittker, Ph.D., The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA (USA)

• Richard Ellson, M.S., Labcyte, Sunnyvale, CA (USA)

• Dean Ho, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles (USA)

As these three new Board members step in, three tenured members step out with heartfelt thanks and great appreciation for their years of tireless dedication to SLAS. These retiring Board members include:

• Jason Abbas, M.S., of Syngenta Seeds, Slater, IA (USA)

• Erik Rubin, Ph.D., of Bristol-Myers Squibb, New Brunswick, NJ (USA)

• Andy Zaayenga, B.S., of SmarterLab, Martinsville, NJ (USA)

Behind the scenes and beneath the surface, SLAS employs a professional team that functions within a virtual context that stretches from Wisconsin to China. This management framework abandons bricks and mortar and leverages technology to enlist flexible, just-in-time service and support from professionals with expertise in nonprofit event management, marketing, publishing, information technology, customer service and more. Several times in the past year, SLAS has been recognized internationally by the association management field for the success of this progressive management model.

Most recently, the SLAS professional team shifted its shape to shore up its front line in Asia. Five management professionals in Shanghai and Beijing, China, joined the team to provide more meaningful access to member services, including a Chinese language version of the SLAS website, and to work closely with the volunteer members of the Scientific Program Advisory Committees on the annual SLAS Asia Conferences.

SLAS2012 Sets a High Standard

The First Annual SLAS Conference and Exhibition was presented in San Diego, CA, Feb. 4-8, 2012. SLAS2012 exceeded all expectations, attracting 5,806 in-person participants from 40 different countries plus an additional 600 online participants from 13 countries. Quality went hand-in-hand with quantity as 83% of the participants who completed satisfaction surveys said they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the scientific program, and 99% said they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the exhibition.

New online tools designed especially for mobile technology enabled participants to conveniently search, sort and choose from 132 podium presentations, 3 keynote speakers, 378 poster presentations, 22 short courses, 59 exhibitor workshops and tutorials, 14 SLAS Special Interest Group meetings, three special sessions by SLAS Strategic Alliance Partners (LRIG, ALSSA and LPA), other related special events including a demonstration arena for local FIRST teams, plus services designed exclusively to assist students and job seekers. Five presentations were streamed live on the Internet for worldwide, real-time access by members and nonmembers alike.

Forty-three undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty members enjoyed full financial support for their travel and participation in SLAS2012 through the SLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Awards and the SLAS Young Scientist Awards programs.

The SLAS2012@Night social agenda kept participants actively networking after hours. Highlights included an appearance by PerkinElmer's popular Molecular Groove band and a full-fledged Block Party Bash in the heart of the famous San Diego Gaslamp Quarter that overflowed with buffets, games and dancing to live music by "The Beatles."

Leading up to SLAS2012, the Exhibition had to be expanded twice to accommodate strong demand from 325 exhibiting companies. Of the 60 new products launched at SLAS2012, four were honored with SLAS New Product Award designations. In addition, eight promising new start-up companies earned free exhibit space and travel to SLAS Innovation AveNEW, a specially designated area on the exhibit floor.

Dan Dongeun Huh, Ph.D., of Harvard University, Boston, MA, walked away with top honors and a $10,000 cash prize as the 2012 SLAS Innovation Award winner for his presentation, A Human Breathing Lung-on-a-Chip for Drug Screening and Nanotoxicology Applications. Huh and three other 2012 SLAS Innovation Award finalists later traveled to Shanghai to repeat their presentations at the 2012 SLAS Asia Conference.

Other honors presented at SLAS2012 included those earned by the Student Poster Competition winners, SLAS Journal Achievement Award honorees, and the JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest winners.

It's important to mention that the success of SLAS2012 was increased by significant and greatly appreciated support from many sponsors, friends and media partners, including premier sponsor Agilent Technologies. The fact that these industry leaders stepped forward to join forces with SLAS is a testament to the thought leadership of SLAS, the unity of our scientific community and the value of constructive collaboration.

SLAS2013 Promises Continued High Quality

Next month, SLAS members will once again travel from around the globe to convene the Second Annual SLAS Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, FL, Jan. 12-16, 2013.

Like its predecessor, SLAS2013 offers an extensive and unparalleled, first class educational portfolio that's carefully designed by volunteer teams of scientific experts to address the most important issues facing the laboratory science and technology community today. At SLAS2013, participants also will enjoy:

• More time to explore the Exhibition

• More time to review poster presentations, including before, during and after the conference via the new SLAS2013 Online Poster Gallery

• Continuation of the popular SLAS@Night series of evening networking events

• A more convenient reorganization of the SLAS Special Interest Group meeting schedule

• Presentations by two new SLAS Strategic Alliance Partners (AMP and ISBER); and a special program event by a third, The Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute

• Special incentives, discounts and dining benefits for staying at the beautifully renovated Gaylord Palms Resort

• Convenient morning e-mail news briefs called the SLAS2013 Daily News

SLAS2014, SLAS2015 and Beyond

When SLAS says good-bye to Orlando on Jan. 16, it will begin a new bi-coastal U.S. rotation between San Diego, CA, and Washington, DC. This plan, which was shaped by input from SLAS members, takes advantage of the access and amenities offered by these two convenient, world-class cities.

Both San Diego and Washington, DC are located near strong populations of laboratory science and technology professionals working in academic, corporate and government environments. Both cities are serviced by more than one major international airport; both offer Amtrak rail options; and both will welcome SLAS into beautiful, centrally-located convention centers and hotels that are competitively priced and well within walking distance of each other as well as scores of restaurants, museums, historical attractions, shops and nightclubs. An abundance of taxis will make getting around easy, and mild winter climates will make getting around comfortable. Washington, DC, also offers an outstanding and inexpensive public transportation system that includes subway and bus stops at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the east coast home of the SLAS Annual Conference and Exhibition.

Increasing Accessibility in Asia and Europe

Although the flagship SLAS Annual Conference and Exhibition is held in the U.S., SLAS also delivers scientific education and professional network-building opportunities to the doorsteps of members in Asia and Europe. To provide accurate focus and assist in guiding ongoing planning efforts, the SLAS International Advisory Committee was formed in early 2012.

The 2012 SLAS Asia Conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Shanghai, China, June 19-21, 2012, welcomed 470 participants from China and 13 other countries. This three-day event, which was themed "Advances in Drug and Life Sciences R&D through Laboratory Technology," featured scientific presentations by 29 experts, including keynote addresses by Professor Dean Ho, Ph.D., the SLAS Endowed Fellow from the University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry; and Mahendra Rao, M.D., Ph.D., of the U.S. National Institutes of Health Center for Regenerative Medicine.

The SLAS Asia Scientific Program Committee in China organized the agenda within three topical areas: 1) Drug Discovery Technologies; 2) From Screening to Therapy; and 3) Stem Cells in Drug Discovery. The Closing Session showcased the winner (Dan Dongeun Huh) and three finalists of the prestigious 2012 SLAS Innovation Award. In addition, three highly?rated short courses offered participants comprehensive information and advice on label?free/biophysics methods for screening, high content screening, and publishing in western scientific journals. The exhibition showcased 41 multinational companies, while 22 poster presentations illustrated the diversity of research initiatives being explored throughout the region.

In 2013, SLAS will return to Shanghai to present the Third Annual SLAS Asia Conference and Exhibition, June 5-7, at the Grand Hyatt. Planning by the SLAS Asia Scientific Program Committee in China is already well under way and working with the theme "Drug Discovery Science and Laboratory Technology." Professor Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D., of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL (USA) is already confirmed as keynote speaker and abstract proposals are being accepted and considered for podium presentations. At least 26 speakers will be invited to present their work within five educational tracks on Screening for Novel Biological Mechanisms and Disease Targets; Translational Medicine Basic Research; Assay Development and Screening; Exploring Biological Systems Using Micro/Nano Technology; and Drug Discovery Science. Three two-hour short courses will be presented in collaboration with WuXi AppTec.

In Europe, SLAS collaborated with the European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group (ELRIG) and MipTec to bring educational programs and expert speakers to their major annual events to address issues of timely interest to our unique scientific community. At both events, SLAS delivered a full day's line-up of presentations that attracted strong attendance and generated positive feedback.

In the meantime, SLAS commissioned a major needs assessment study of the European scientific community to provide objective guidance in boosting, targeting and timing the European delivery of future SLAS educational programs, products, services and events. The formal study was conducted by a team of professional consultants headquartered in Belgium. Their comprehensive report comprises interviews with SLAS members and other laboratory science and technology professionals; assessments of existing educational programs and events; and a gap analysis that identifies ways in which SLAS can productively serve European professionals. This valuable insight is now being used by the SLAS Board of Directors, SLAS International Advisory Committee and other SLAS committees to extend SLAS member activities accordingly.

At Anytime from Anywhere

Regardless of geographic location, all SLAS members had the opportunity to engage in lively, interactive online webinars and virtual events that explored important areas of interest, including data management and informatics, chemical space, ion channel assays, ADMET and more.

Participation in live webinars became free for all regular (dues paid) SLAS members in 2012. Access to recordings of webinars and virtual courses from the past two years also became free to regular (dues paid) members. Access by e-members and nonmembers continued to be available on a pay-per-view basis.

Serious Scientific Publishing

In 2013, SLAS's two official, peer-reviewed, scientific journals will begin their eighteenth years of publication with new graphic identities and continued volunteer support from well over 1,000 editorial board members, authors and manuscript reviewers.

The Journal of Biomolecular Screening (JBS) and the Journal of Laboratory Automation (JALA) deliver a unique balance of complementary scientific content and together they create the most comprehensive catalog of laboratory science and technology research available. SLAS regular (dues paid) members enjoy instant free access to thousands and thousands of full text published pages via JALA Online and JBS Online. E-members and nonmembers enjoy free access to scientific content two years after final print publication. Viewer traffic to the JALA and JBS Online archives annually exceeds one million downloads.

This past year, SLAS consolidated its journal publishing program and made SAGE Publications its publishing partner for both JALA and JBS. In addition, JALA received its first-ever impact factor in 2012 of 1.420, ranking it fourteenth out of 32 journals in the Medical Laboratory Technology category. JALA also launched a new podcast series that introduces readers to the people behind the science via informal conversations with journal authors. Both JALA and JBS Online also added reader ranking functionality for online manuscripts, introduced new Editor's Choice Collections to highlight noteworthy manuscripts, and continued to publish accepted manuscripts ahead of print via OnlineFirst to ensure that authors enjoy fast track discoverability of their work.

Both SLAS journals honored exceptional achievement by authors and reviewers in 2012, and celebrated the creativity of the winners of the annual JALA & JBS Art of Science contest.

2012 also was a good year for LabAutopedia, the SLAS Knowledge Network at SLAS.org. This interactive wiki engaged more than 120,000 viewers from around the world, most notably from the U.S., India, U.K., Philippines and Canada. Viewers learned from more than 450 scientific articles managed by new editors Al Kolb, Ph.D., and Burkhard Schaefer, Dipl. Inform.

Also at SLAS.org, the SLAS Electronic Laboratory Neighborhood e-zine completed its first year of publication. With nearly 60 in-depth feature stories now available in its editorial archive along with other special features, such as The Lab Man blog and podcasts, the SLAS ELN continues to enrich understanding of our community, allows us to get to know our colleagues, and shares the unique perspective of our scientific community.

Keeping Members In-Touch and In-Action

The SLAS member-to-member network was alive and well in 2012. The weekly e-mail news brief, SLAS Point-to-Point, kept members informed of what was happening at SLAS and throughout the laboratory science and technology community.

Likewise, SLAS social media sites experienced explosive growth throughout 2012, and currently count 8,000 fans and followers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and a Sina blog on Weibo. As activity increased at these sites, SLAS enhanced the value of its content postings with links to custom videos on the SLAS YouTube Channel, SlideShare and other tools.

SLAS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) fueled much of the member information exchange on LinkedIn. The growth of the SLAS SIG network to 15 enabled birds-of-a-feather to gather in cyberspace at SLAS LinkedIn Subgroups (and in-person at the SLAS Annual Conference and Exhibition) to explore a diverse menu of targeted topics ranging from phenotypic drug discovery (which was a new addition in 2012) to automation quality control, stem cells, technology transfer, women's career issues and more.

As the world economy continued to endure bumps in the road this past year, students and job seekers were well served by SLAS Career Connections, one of only a few totally automated and interactive employment programs exclusively tailored to the field of laboratory science and technology. Online, SLAS Career Connections enabled job seekers in searching for employment opportunities, and assisted employers in searching for available talent. Regularly updated career headlines and other links created a valuable collection of practical resources and advice. In addition to these ongoing online benefits, the SLAS Career Connections program played an important role live and in-person at SLAS2012 with two well-attended networking receptions; personalized one-on-one coaching sessions with professional career counselors; and a series of well received presentations and workshops on life after graduation, how to network at a professional meeting, resume and cover letter writing, the interviewing continuum and mock interviews.

Likewise, The Market Place at SLAS.org served as a year-round extension of the SLAS2012 Exhibition. Recognized as the ultimate, searchable, online product directory for the laboratory science and technology community, The Market Place at SLAS.org housed a quick-and-easy-to-access collection of products and services organized alphabetically by company name; by product category; and by scientific discipline. As a helpful bonus, products and services mentioned in the SLAS LabAutopedia are linked directly to those companies listed in The Market Place at SLAS.org.

These SLAS member services and benefits all have one thing in common = SLAS.org, the official portal to all things SLAS. The breadth and depth of the more than 1,000 pages at SLAS.org is too extensive to catalog here. Timely and accurate, it maintains a complete portfolio of information about SLAS and its many past and future programs, products, services and events. It also houses member resources of its own like those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs plus others, such as the popular SLAS Learning Center.

SLAS Endowment Fund Paves a Path for Innovation

In 2012, SLAS was extremely proud to announce the first award from the SLAS Endowment Fund. A five-year commitment totaling $100,000 was pledged to create an Endowed Fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for a new UCLA School of Dentistry research program based on the development of novel technologies that serve as vehicles for therapeutic molecular compounds. The UCLA team is led by SLAS member Dean Ho, Ph.D., in collaboration with Cun-Yu Wang, D.D.S., Ph.D., who is the No-Hee Park Endowed Professor and Chair of Oral Biology and Medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science who was recently honored with election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

The purpose of the SLAS Endowment Fund is to provide start-up funding for visionary research projects with the potential to advance the disciplines, technologies and skills involved in screening and molecular discovery, including support of graduate and undergraduate training in these areas.

The fund was honored to receive its first major unrestricted contribution in 2012. Beckman Coulter Life Sciences stepped forward with $20,000 to further strengthen the future of the fund. Beckman Coulter’s partnership exemplifies the SLAS spirit of scientific community, which recognizes that as mutual stakeholders with a shared vision, we can advance faster and further when we join forces and work together.

Microplate Standards Further Unite the Community

After painstaking work by the SLAS Microplate Standards Development Committee, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) finalized accreditation of SLAS Microplate Standard 6 for Well Bottom Elevation. Known as ANSI/SLAS 6?2012, this new standard defines terminology and measurement protocols for well bottom elevation (WBE) and well bottom elevation variation (WBEV), and outlines the conditions required for making necessary measurements. SLAS also secured ANSI reaffirmation and redesignation of four existing microplate standards in 2012:

• ANSI/SLAS 1-2004 (R2012) Microplates - Footprint Dimensions (formerly recognized as ANSI/SBS 1-2004)

• ANSI/SLAS 2-2004 (R2012) Microplates - Height Dimensions (formerly recognized as ANSI/SBS 2-2004)

• ANSI/SLAS 3-2004 (R2012) Microplates - Bottom Outside Flange Dimensions (formerly recognized as ANSI/SBS 3-2004)

• ANSI/SLAS 4-2004 (R2012) Microplates - Well Positions (formerly recognized as ANSI/SBS 4-2004)

SLAS Microplate Standards clearly define dimensional standards and nomenclatures for microtiter plates (or microplates), which benefit microplate vendors, instrumentation companies and end?users by accelerating and streamlining the industry.

As with successful and well managed for-profit organizations, it is imperative that nonprofit membership societies like SLAS employ thoughtful and comprehensive budget planning to achieve short-term goals and ensure long-term stability and viability.

The last SLAS fiscal year began on July 1, 2011, and ended on June 30, 2012. Thanks to enthusiastic membership support and participation, especially at SLAS2012, SLAS was able to exceed its 2011-2012 revenue goals. In addition, ongoing attention to detail and cost control enabled SLAS to respectfully manage projected expenses.

In the spirit of transparent governance, the following report provides an overview of the Society’s financial performance for fiscal year 2011-2012.

 

 

 

December 14, 2012