Message from the outgoing President
It has been my privilege and pleasure to preside over the IZFS for the past year and I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues on the Executive Committee, the members of the Board and the staff at EDI, especially Nichole Nikolic, for their unstinting support and advice in what has been an unexpectedly challenging 12 months.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances, I hand over the reins to Lila Solnica-Krezel with a sense of satisfaction at what has been achieved since last July. First and foremost, of course, has been the staging of our first virtual IZFC. Looking back, it is hard to imagine that we ever thought there could be any alternative to going on-line; but as we began the planning process last August, optimism still ran high and we really hoped and believed that come the following summer, the world would be back to normal, allowing us to gather in Montreal as planned. The second Covid waves last winter soon brought us down to earth, however, and in the months that followed we found ourselves navigating unchartered territory as we embraced the world of virtual meetings. The success of this enterprise – in terms of execution, participation and appreciation – was far beyond my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares!) and I believe we have established a model that – with adaptation and modification – will serve the society well in the future in its commitment both to widening participation and to preserving the environment, as has been championed by our recently established Environmental Sustainability Committee. None of this could have been achieved without the commitment and professionalism of the EDI staff – and especially Nichole, Gina Doyle and Eli Rehorst - or the tireless work of the Organising Committee – I would particularly like to thank Kessen Patten and Brian Ciruna, who having worked so hard on this conference have volunteered to do the same again for the re-scheduled Montreal meeting next year.
Widening participation has been one of my priorities since I was elected back in 2019 and I am very pleased to see how quickly the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee has taken up this cause under the leadership of Kirsten Sadler Edepli. I was also pleased to have the opportunity through the review of the Society’s bylaws to promote greater international participation by redefining our geographical regions and enhancing their representation within the Society. For the first time, each of the six continents of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America are guaranteed representation on the Board, whilst the number of Asian representatives has been increased to reflect the size and growth of the research communities on that continent. I am particularly pleased to have welcomed our first members from South Africa and I look forward to seeing the zebrafish community there and throughout the continent growing with our support over the coming years.
Another important change to our byelaws, suggested by our Treasurer Steve Farber, has been the broadening of our mission statement to include the study of fundamental biology as well as advancing human health. At first sight, this may seem a fairly nuanced change – but at a time when researchers and funding agencies engaged in research intended to safeguard human health are under intense scrutiny, it seems a propitious moment to reflect on the wider value and impact of scientific research, not just for the physical health of humans, but for our deeper understanding - and ultimately, preservation - of the planet that we inhabit. There could be no better reminder of this than Sean Carroll’s Keynote Lecture at IZFC2021, a lecture that I hope will have inspired the upcoming generation of zebrafish researchers to look beyond the narrow lens of translational research.
Finally, I would like to express our appreciation to Didier Stainier for his many contributions to IZFS during his three-year stint as future, present and past President, to Elizabeth Busch-Nentwich for her tremendous efforts, not only as Society Secretary but also as the co-organiser, along with Tatjana Piotrowski, of the hugely successful Webinar series - and to Tatjana and the outgoing Board members for their valuable service to the Society.