President’s Message to Membership
These are at once exciting and challenging times to serve as ASBMR’s President! While our field continues to make great strides forward, many of our members are confronted with shrinking funding for research. The ASBMR leadership met for its Winter Council Meeting on February 25th – 27th, 2014, in Washington, DC. In a series of intense sessions, Officers, Councilors and Committee Chairs reviewed and assessed the progress on our Strategic Plan, approved a budget and set goals for the remainder of 2014 to ensure that ASBMR continues to support our members and advance its mission. In this letter and in others that will follow in the coming months, I will write about key topics that the leadership discussed and deliberated upon, as a way to inform ASBMR members about the Society’s current activities and future directions, and how they may affect you, our members. Here, I focus on the financial status of our organization.
We are all aware of the current unfavorable environment for research funding; some members are worried about their careers if not their livelihood. In this context, it is more important than ever that our organization utilizes its resources in the most efficient way. Indeed, 2013 has been challenging for most professional volunteer organizations, including ASBMR. Multiple factors have had adverse effects on our revenue stream; mainly, decreased royalties from the sale of JBMR® articles reprints, industry funding shifts and fewer scientists attending the meeting because of declining research funding. Such decreases in revenue have forced us to decrease spending, which has been achieved in part by redistributing effort of some staff members, increasing efficiencies in many activities and carefully re-considering the costs of long-standing programs. This challenging task was met by the skilled and passionate work of our Executive Director, Ann Elderkin and the ASBMR staff, and by the meticulous work and judicious recommendations of our Finance Committee, led by Secretary-Treasurer Dolores Shoback. This team work allowed us to present a balanced budget for operations in 2014, which the Council unanimously approved. It is important to note that this positive result was obtained in large part by reallocating ASBMR staff efforts to other organizations managed by SmithBucklin; a tangible example of how our partnership with SmithBucklin can work to the advantage of our organization – we have been able to adjust to a more difficult financial climate without major consequences or limitations to our activities. Likewise, should the financial conditions change for the better in the future, we would be able to effortlessly reinforce our staff.
The current financial environment clearly requires that we not only reduce costs, but also further diversify and expand our sources of revenue. Secretary-Treasurer Shoback has led the charge in developing a proposal for an ASBMR Development Work Group, which will include Society members with extensive experience in seeking funding from industry and private sources. The group will develop initial fundraising strategies to support ASBMR educational programs and research grants through individual giving (annual and major gifts), corporate giving (educational grants and sponsorships), and private and corporate foundation grants; with the idea of eventually creating a full-status Development Committee. The Development Work Group will establish a closer relationship with our corporate sponsors, whose spectrum has changed over the years, and now includes a few companies interested in developing therapeutic agents for rare bone diseases, such as hypophosphatasia and hypophosphatemic rickets. This shift reflects the advances and growing interest in this area of research, which will be featured in a special way at the next Annual Meeting in Houston. ASBMR’s support can be a catalyst for industry and public investment in this field.
Over the years, ASBMR has accumulated substantial reserves, which give us financial strength and stability. This is the result of judicious and astute reserve investment strategies, and the leadership of our past Presidents and Secretary-Treasurers. Financial soundness and stability is the key for continuing to provide you, our members, with the services and resources that you expect from ASBMR. As an example, we are now able to “give back” some of those reserves to our members via the Grants in Aid Program (GAP), a substantial investment of $1 million of our resources to fund twenty researchers. Financial soundness also means that we are able to continue offering awards and travel grants for young investigators attending our meetings and other events. As a new resource for scientists and clinicians alike, we have recently launched the ASBMR Education Resource Center, the online home for education highlighting ASBMR’s existing basic and clinical research content, and a platform for new online educational programs. These are tangible examples of what a financially solid ASBMR can do for its members.
A very recent member needs assessment survey identified the Annual Meeting as the most important value ASBMR provides to its members. I am quite confident that the 2014 meeting will meet the expectations of both basic scientists and clinicians. In addition to the abstract-driven main program, a rich invited speaker program featuring the hottest topics in musculoskeletal research is planned. We will continue highlighting muscle and bone interactions, and will further expand our outreach to other disciplines with a one-day workshop on the effects of diabetes on bone, an event endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. Further, in a partnership with the National Bone Health Alliance and Rare Bone Disease Patient Network, we will also host a workshop on rare bone diseases, underscoring our organization’s interest in this area of research and patient care. Because of the close proximity of our meeting venue to the Johnson Space Center, we are planning a session co-sponsored with NASA on space biology and its impact on “terrestrial” bone health. If possible, a live feed from the International Space Station will be activated. An outline of the scientific program is available on our web site. As you can see, the Houston meeting promises to be the “Home for Bone” in 2014, and I encourage all of you to spread the news to colleagues who may not yet be members, and to collaborators in related disciplines, to attend our meeting and participate in the activities of your organization. It will be a great 2014!