The Microbes and Social Equity working group turned 3 years old in December, and we currently have 170 members from around the globe, as well ~100 newsletter-only subscribers (you can join either list here)! MSE continues to grow and shape the future of research, education, and policy thanks to the enthusiasm and support of our members, and we are grateful to have you with us!
We grew so much that in 2022 we added Directors to the Leadership Team, to support our administration and communication needs. In particular, our Directors and other communications specialists helped MSE to improve the way we share information across platforms and within the organization. In 2023, we will continue to improve how members connect with each other, and how people can connect with MSE. Our mailing list is the primary way to reach our members, but we also have public pages on Facebook and Twitter, as well as group pages on LinkedIn and Slack.
Early in 2022, we hosted our second annual spring seminar series, which was organized by Sue Ishaq, Mustafa Saifuddin, Emily Wissel, Melissa Manus, Francisco Parada, and the University of Maine Institute of Medicine. The series had 411 attendees and 901 registrants total across the 14 talks, which is more than the 2021 series had. These and previous talks have been used for teaching materials at several colleges and universities. In case you missed it or want to relive the moments, you can find links to the talks here.
The talks also garnered more attention in the UMaine community this year. Patricia Kaishian’s April 13 talk was promoted as part of the University of Maine Impact Week, and journalist Samantha Sudol of the MaineCampus wrote summaries on talks by Jake Robinson and Patricia Wolf.
Our symposium in 2022 was a little different than the first version, in that our 5 themed days focused on “Developing transformative research skills”, organized by Sue Ishaq, Ari Kozik, Ashley Toney, Emily Wissel, Kieran O’Doherty, Mallory Choudoir, Mustafa Saifuddin, Erin Eggleston, Carla Bonilla, Monica Trujillo, and Cecile Ferguson (UMaine Institute of Medicine). Our themes this year were “Context-aware experimental designs”, “Blending biological, social, and humanities writing”, “Transforming your research for policy engagement”, “Community engagement and collaboration”, and “MSE Education Practices and Curriculum design”.
This year’s symposium featured 20 speakers across 5 themed days with 3 plenary-style talks/day, followed by 90 min of small-group discussion led by speakers and MSE members. Participants were encouraged to “problem solve” a suggested topic or one of their own choosing to create action items that were meaningful to them, such as ideas for curricula development, identifying research needs or best practices, suggestions for engaging research in policy, and more. The symposium hosted 220 participants (460 registrations) overall and 121 across the breakout room discussions. Registrants were from 23 countries, students and researchers from various fields and career levels, Maine State legislators, and the public. The symposium led to 16 drafted resources documents written by participants.
Our symposium from 2021 led to an invited perspective piece in 2022 on organizing interdisciplinary working groups and conferences to Challenges, the journal for the inVIVO Planetary Health group: Designing the Microbes and Social Equity Symposium, a novel interdisciplinary virtual research conference based on achieving group-directed outputs.
Special collection of research articles at mSystems
The MSE special collection in the mSystems Journal has published nearly half of the anticipated contributions so far. The inaugural piece was written by a group of MSE members, and has since been joined by 10 other articles and an editorial.
- Introducing the “Microbiomes and Social Equity” Special Collection
- Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice
- Indigenous knowledge and the microbiome – bridging the disconnect between colonised places, peoples, and the ‘unseen’ influences which shape our health and well-being (Accepted)
- Perspectives on Inequity and Health Disparities in Chile and Their Relationship to Microbial Ecology
- Closing the GAP in Antimicrobial Resistance Policy in Benin and Burkina Faso
- Reciprocal Inclusion of Microbiomes and Environmental Justice Contributes Solutions to Global Environmental Health Challenges
- Obesity: Policy and Practice Recommendations for High-Risk Populations Influenced by the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Organized Violence and Organized Abandonment Beyond the Human: the Case of Brucellosis among Palestinians in Israel
- Evolution, the Immune System, and the Health Consequences of Socioeconomic Inequality
- Bile Acids, Gut Microbes, and the Neighborhood Food Environment—a Potential Driver of Colorectal Cancer Health Disparities
- Twenty Important Research Questions in Microbial Exposure and Social Equity
- Variation in Microbial Exposure at the Human-Animal Interface and the Implications for Microbiome-Mediated Health Outcome
- Teaching with Microbes: Lessons from Fermentation during a Pandemic
ASM and ESA
MSE held special sessions at two scientific conferences in 2022. At ASM Microbe, Monica Trujillo, Ariangela Kozik, Carla Bonilla, and Sue Ishaq hosted a panel discussion: Microbes and Social Equity: the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice. The panelists covered many aspects important to MSE from using collaborative, real-life science in microbiology teaching labs, questioning social inequities and disparities in health outcomes, and practicing critical pedagogy in microbiology education using a social equity lens. The panel was highlighted in an article published by ASM and drew an engaged audience eager to learn and share their experiences and vision for microbiology research.
Additionally at ASM Microbe, Emily Wissel, Johanna Holman, and Sarah Hosler were kind enough to give Sue’s presentation on “Microbes and Social Equity: what is it and how do we do it?” for the Field Work and DEI track hub.
Mallory Choudoir and Naupaka Zimmerman hosted the special session “Adding social contexts to environmental microbiomes” at the 2022 Ecological Society for America meeting in Montreal. A full room gathered to learn about the MSE working group. We drew a diverse crowd (over 40 participants), most were “microbial ecology” graduate students from public research universities, all aiming to learn new information about microbiology and social justice. We held a lively group discussion considering the human dimensions of our research projects and the perceived barriers to broadening our work to explicitly address social and environmental equity. It was fantastic to see so many smiling faces behind masks!
What are we doing in 2023?
In 2023, we will be hosting a speaker series starting in mid January, and this year we will be mixing it up by featuring speakers on a theme for a few weeks and then bringing them back for a panel discussion. We will be sharing the full line-up soon. Also new this year, one link to register them all!
MSE is planning our third annual summer symposium, which is still under development. This will be held virtually, and have a format similar to previous years where we combine plenary talks and discussions. We are hoping to add short talks/posters by students, post docs, and early career researchers this year!
As always, members are encouraged to give presentations or special sessions about MSE at scientific conferences this year, and we have previous session proposals or teaching materials which we can share to facilitate this. We also encourage members to get in touch with MSE with questions about resources, networking, or initiatives you would like to suggest.
MSE is continuing to add the rest of the contributions to the mSystems special collection in the first half of 2023, and as always we are enthusiastic about our members connecting and sparking collaborative projects!