Intellectual Merit: The meeting for the 22nd International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) will be held June 22-25, 2011 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This will be the first meeting since 2006 and the last one until at least 2014. The breadth of the conference makes it an important focus for the exchange of information in this era of scientific specialization. The conference will cover a range of topics: 1) Translational Plant Biology, 2) Hormone Signaling, 3) Organ and Cellular Polarity, 4) Epigenetics and Small RNAs, 5) Stem Cells, 6) Biotic Interactions/Stress, 7) Environmental Responses Global Regulation of Transcription, 8) Natural Variation/Quantitative Genetics/Evolution and 9) Computational Biology.

Broader Impacts: The broader impacts of this meeting allow for new efforts and collaborations to be discussed. In addition, the participation of young and ethnically diverse scientists ensures the future of the field. A conference website will feature the complete program.

Project Report

The gathering of a large number of plant researchers at ICARs allows discussion and dissemination of the latest research in basic plant biology and facilitates dialog among those who may be separated by geography, career stage, and culture. The most significant output for this project was partial support for U.S. participants at two gatherings of plant biologists at the International Conferences on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) in 2011 (U.S.) and 2012 (Europe). The scientific program for both meetings included a large number of excellent scientific sessions featuring talks by both established and early-career speakers. This project prioritized facilitating access by early career scientists and minorities that are historically under-represented in advanced fields of science in the U.S.; both groups typically have reduced access to attend major meetings and thus benefit the most from funding opportunities that allow their participation in important scientific meetings. The U.S. meeting, in particular, featured a large number of presentations by early-career participants including students, post-doctoral fellows, and new faculty, thus providing key opportunities for educational and career advancement to developing scholars. Conference topics spanned the breadth and depth of plant biology from the molecular to the systems level, up to the ecological level, and included basic and applied research. In 2011 there were 40 invited speakers and 50 selected from abstracts that presented in platform sessions, 42 additional presentations in community-organized workshops, and approximately 510 scientific posters. The 2012 conference included 42 invited speakers and 28 selected from submitted abstracts that presented in platform sessions, 45 additional presentations in community-organized workshops, and approximately 600 scientific posters. Specific impacts of this project include full support to facilitate inclusion of 6 under-represented minorities (5 female/1 male; 1 graduate student/2 postdoctoral scholars/ 3 assistant professors); partial support for 11 early career scientists (5 female/ 6 male; 10 graduate students/ 1 postdoctoral scholar) and 11 early career (6 female/ 5 male) and 3 interdisciplinary (1 female/ 2 male) invited speakers who presented current research in platform symposia in 2011. Also in 2011, meeting organizers organized two networking luncheons, the first for under-represented minorities who received project funding, the second for graduate students selected by meeting chairs on the basis of excellence in research. The project also partially supported the effort to conduct a survey of past meeting minority and travel-funding awardees spanning ICARs 2004 – 2011. Through surveying awardees we found myriad evidence that conference funding administered through projects such as this positively benefited award recipients. Award recipients from both early-career and under-represented minority cohorts reported significant personal and professional benefits to attending the ICAR; for example, opportunities to: present their research, clarify their projects, talk to researchers both in and outside their field, meet new colleagues and develop new collaborations, and learn about employment and funding possibilities. Recipients also found significant personal benefits to attending ICARs such as being inspired and reinvigorated about their research, making new friends, getting to experience a different culture, and exploring new career paths. One indication that this project may help to achieve educational goals came from the survey response that 47% of all NAASC-facilitated minority award recipients (five of whom were supported by this project) reported that attending an ICAR contributed to new curriculum development, including a majority of the current teachers. Furthermore, a number of the faculty awardees teach in a federally designated Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or Minority-Serving Institution (MSI). A separate survey of under-represented minorities that received conference funding in 2012 (1 supported by this project, 7 supported by a different federal grant) was performed pre- and post-ICAR 2012 to gauge expectations and their fulfillment. While this is a small survey sample, we can report that this meeting opportunity was the first for most awardees, half of whom were students, and the great majority were female scientists. Prior to attending ICAR 2012, the majority of minority awardees indicated they had ‘very few opportunities’ to interact with the Arabidopsis community and were ‘unfamiliar’ or only ‘somewhat familiar’ with the community. In the post-meeting survey, all respondents reported significantly higher familiarity with the scientific community. We view this as a positive indication that we have been successful in providing opportunities and expanding access for U.S. early-career and under-represented researchers to participate in advanced areas of science. The results of the ICAR have been disseminated via The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), the online, public resource.

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Duke University
United States
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