As scientists, we do a lot of talking. Whether presenting at conferences, engaging during meetings, or discussing the latest results with lab members—there is a lot to talk about! But it is at least as important to make time for listening in order to keep pace with scientific advances and to take the pulse of a community.

Taking the time to listen is doubly critical in times of change and especially important for the President of a large society. That is why I and the rest of the GSA Board of Directors kicked off our new strategic planning initiative by stopping to listen to you — members of our community.

In just one week, we received over 900 responses to our community survey, which gathered input on the major challenges you face, what you are excited about, and how our science is intersecting with society at large. We heard from faculty, students, postdocs, research scientists, visiting scholars, professors emeritus, technicians, academic advisors, educators, database curators, adjuncts, and group leaders, among others. Respondents hailed from more than 40 different countries, use approaches ranging from molecular genetics to evolutionary genetics, and study hundreds of organisms, from Aspergillus to zebrafish. Crucially, you talked about a wide range of challenges and concerns, and the aggregate data is starting to reveal some fascinating trends.

This fantastic response helped us bring your voices straight into the recent “Blue Sky” meeting, where 20 key opinion leaders representing various GSA communities and interests spent a productive day and a half brainstorming ideas and dreaming up critical new directions for our Society. It was enormously exciting and rewarding to spend the day in discussion and contemplation with such passionate and thoughtful people.  Their ideas and yours will now form the basis of a blueprint for the GSA’s 5–10 year Strategic Plan.

Of course, channeling all the new energy and Blue Sky thinking into concrete plans and executing them will be challenging. This week, we will be taking the results of the Blue Sky meeting and community survey to the Board of Directors to start formulating a strategic framework. To keep you abreast of developments, I will be posting a summary of the Board conversation in the coming weeks.

Lastly, even as we begin formulating a strategy, the listening will continue. Making our goals a reality will require more research and analysis over the coming year, including additional topic-specific surveys and in-depth interviews. Watch out for more chances to shape GSA’s future direction and feel free to send me your thoughts and ideas any time at!

Jeannie Lee is Immediate Past President of the Genetics Society of America. She is a Professor of Genetics and Pathology at Harvard Medical School and an HHMI Investigator. The views expressed in her "Frameshifts" posts are hers and are not necessarily endorsed by the Society.

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