From the Desk of the President

David Altman, SIVB President


As 2006 begins, my thoughts have turned to reflections about where the SIVB has been coming from and where we are going. Partly, the season of New Year’s resolutions and planning for the upcoming calendar year are responsible, but in addition I’m now in the last months of my 2-year stint as SIVB President (read lame duck). Key accomplishments of the present Board’s tenure would be: (1) launch of the education initiative and infusion of renewed student participation; (2) introduction of tight budget management, fundraising initiatives, and expenditure controls that in combination have put the SIVB in the black financially; (3) a new, single-publisher arrangement with Springer that guarantees profitability for the journals beginning in 2007, expands their visibility and access, provides improved editorial support, and introduces a significant marketing component; (4) completion of the major overhaul of the Constitution and Bylaws originally started by Mary Ann Lila; (7) stabilized membership due in large part to the education initiative; and (6) reestablishment of participatory and democratic governance of the SIVB.

Let me now take a plunge into a description of what could be our future vision. I throw out this lead balloon with the purpose to spark debate and to solicit your involvement. My premise is that the SIVB must evolve if we are to remain vibrant and meaningful. First, although we are a great group of professionals, we are conflicted about our focus. Originally, tissue culture was perceived as a separate discipline, but one measure of success is how pervasively the nascent discipline became a part of many other disciplines. In recognition of this evolution, the society changed its name from the Tissue Culture Association to the Society for In Vitro Biology. However, “in vitro biology” has failed, in my opinion, to be a useful description. An Ad Hoc Committee that is examining our name, led by Paul Price and Indra Vasil, suggests “Association of Cellular Engineering and Biotechnology” for one consideration first by the Board. Something needs to change to give SIVB a better identity. Second, I would propose that SIVB evolve a structure which learns from the best concepts generated by other professional societies. For example, like many societies SIVB needs a companion foundation that can solicit a serious endowment, including a structure for members to consider donations in wills, for philanthropic foundations to support new initiatives like the education initiative, and for management of assets that might provide stability to the professional society. Third, we need to expand public policy participation. The absence of our voice means that others will decide key issues without the benefit of our insight on subjects such as stem cell research, science education curriculum, genetic engineering regulation, and others. Finally, these changes should be accompanied by a strategic plan that effectively markets the SIVB, provides new membership services, and expands our programs. While we will always have an annual meeting and a society journal, there should be a substantial increase in other activities that would bring value to the members.

Last, I want to highlight the growing list of corporations that have stepped up to be a contributor at least at the $10,000 level for our education initiative. Since my last letter to the membership, Syngenta and Monsanto have made the commitment. If you happen to work for a company that hasn’t already joined this group of sponsors (with UST and Land O’Lakes), then maybe you might contact Vice President David Songstad ( to find out how to help SIVB continue the momentum. This participation is critical because it bolsters our efforts to find new grants and foundation support.

Best wishes for the New Year, and the Board and I look forward to hearing your ideas and comments.

David Altman
SIVB President

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