President’s letter

28 February 2021 - By: Craig Franklin

Usually, at this time of year, I would be writing about the past Annual Conference in July that was going to be held in Prague, but which of course didn’t happen. For me the non-event left a big hole in my year that has me missing a lot of things.

Craig Franklin

I think what we all miss most from our Annual Conference, apart from the fact that we can attend presentations on topics that interest or involve us, is the opportunity we have to sit down with colleagues to talk about our work in general.  It’s a time when we have a lot of interesting conversations. Some with old friends and colleagues, others with young emerging scientists. For me it is often a time when a chance remark from someone working on an entirely different research project can open me up to new ideas or possibilities I hadn’t considered. It could be a thought about their methodology or a piece of new equipment or just a personal philosophy on work ethics.

Every time I go to any conference, this is something I look forward to. That exchange of ideas. It can happen at any conference, but especially at the annual conferences of our Society.

So, I am sad to miss out on that opportunity. Sad to not have had the time catching up with you all. Sad that the pandemic has changed the way we work and communicate, possibly forever.

The challenge ahead is how do we address this potential new world order in the way that we network, communicate and run meetings?  

As many other Societies have adapted to offering online networking opportunities, the SEB has also been working hard to look at introducing these options for our members. And, although it has not been a decision made lightly, we are pleased to say that our 2021 Annual Conference will take place in a fully virtual format.

I recognise that this will not be able to replace that feeling of meeting up with old friends and colleagues in the welcoming setting the SEB Annual conference offers year on year, but I am looking forward to the opportunities it will bring including an even more international and diverse conference in delegation and science presented as a consequence of it becoming more widely accessible.

You can read about the science our scientific sections are planning to showcase on page xxx. And I encourage you to keep an eye out for communications from the SEB team who will be announcing details on conference programme and dates in due course.

Over the past year an important focus has been on our early career scientists and how we can best support them, especially knowing their careers have been greatly affected by the pandemic.  We are an organisation who have committed in our Strategic Plan to nurturing the new generation of biologists, mentoring them in their progress and encouraging their ideas. And I think it is especially regrettable that our early career scientists have missed out on this year’s Annual Conference which can play an important part in that.

Our new strategic plan was written just prior to the pandemic hitting, but it does provide a roadmap for positive engagement and actions and we are currently developing some new initiatives for supporting early career scientists.  

Many of you will already be aware that we have expanded our education and career development offering with a year-long programme of career building workshops, covering topics from public engagement to grant writing skills, to aid our members’ continued professional development. We will also have many opportunities to foster your scientific interests and share your own research, with a lecture series that will begin this December. Alongside opportunities to develop academically, we have updated our grant schemes to include support for organising and attending virtual conferences. We will also be looking at introducing new funding initiatives to support our members, and to assist in diversity and outreach initiatives.

In the coming year we will be looking to engage with our early career scientists via focus groups and surveys to better understand how the Society can support you. I urge you to take part and let us know how we can help you to overcome challenges and progress in your career.

To all my colleagues I wish you all the best in getting through what this pandemic will bring and I urge you to take care.


Professor Craig Franklin
President, Society for Experimental Biology

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SEB 2021 Annual Conference

29 June - 8 July 2021
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