ST. CHARLES, Ill.—As scientists, engineers and otherprofessionals with interest in applications and advances related to laboratoryautomation gather in Palm Springs, Calif., in late January/early February forLabAutomation2011, they will be ushering in the end of one era and thebeginning of another.
For years, the Association for Laboratory Automation(ALA) and the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) were separate entities,but 2011 will mark the last time that the groups' members will attend distinctannual meetings, because they merged this spring to become the Society forLaboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) and will have a single joint annualmeeting starting in 2012.
Since the overwhelmingly positive vote for the merger by ALAand SBS members in May, much has been happening behind the scenes, not theleast of which involves a move to a single central headquarters in St. Charles,Ill.
That flurry of activity to fully integrate the two organizations under theSLAS banner won't have much impact on LabAutomation2011, or the upcoming SBSmeeting in March, as planning for both events was well underway before mergerplans became official.
However, LabAutomation2011 will serve as the first venuewhere SLAS leaders can interact with a large concentration of members tosolicit opinions and feedback as the organization moves toward the latterportion of a busy transition year, according to SLAS CEO Greg Dummer, SLASPresident Dr. Michelle Palmer and SLAS Vice President Dave Dorsett.
"We've launched a new website, opened up our new worldwideheadquarters, gotten the SLAS board up and running, hired and put aprofessional team into place and launched a brand campaign, but we're really inwhat is an entire transition year, and this is just the first 125 days," Dummertold ddn in late November. "The journalsfor both arms of our membership have continued to be produced and circulatedand the plans for both the Palm Springs and Orlando meetings are moving alongsmoothly, and we've made tremendous progress. But there is a lot more to do,and one of the big things we're moving on to now is a new strategic plan forthe merged organization."
The strategic plan will be key to helping SLAS move forwardeffectively, Palmer asserts, and even though it will change and evolve overtime as would any strategic plan, it is important to get a solid foundation now.
The ability to interact directly with members about the plan in Palm Springs inJanuary, and later in Orlando in March, will help make that happen, she says.
"The critical thing now is to get that plan out to themembers and see what they have to say about it and whether they think this isthe right direction for the organization," Palmer says. "One of the key thingsthat has made this merger as smooth as it has been is good communication, andwe need to continue that with the rollout of the strategic plan and beyondthat. What I've been hearing from members is that they are positive and seegreat value in the merger, but even so, they will be looking hard to see whatthe next six to 12 months will bring and where they will actually see the '1 +1 = 3' effect we've promised."
Dorsett notes that he has also heard much positive feedbackfrom members about the potential of a merged organization and how the processhas gone so far, adding that in addition to practical economic reasons formerging, "a lot of members already had feet in both the laboratory automationand biomolecular sciences areas anyway."
"The society is offering more value to members and willcontinue to do so," Palmer predicts. "As LabAutomation2011 plays out, currentmembers will continue to see themselves in the organization and find the thingsthat drew them to meetings in the past. What's important to us is to continueto expand opportunities for current members and to bring in new members fromother disciplines and sectors of the community who could benefit from SLASmembership as well."
SLAS unveils inaugural strategic plan
After a three-month effort by the Society for LaboratoryAutomation and Screening's (SLAS) leadership and professional team, the SLASinaugural strategic plan was released Oct. 12.
According to the SLAS, the plan"establishes a meaningful framework within which the society will objectivelyassess, justify and build programs, products, services and events."
"To be a vital and viable organization that successfullyserves member priorities, SLAS must adopt the same kind of sound businessmanagement practices that guide all winning organizations," says Dr. MichellePalmer of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, who is the current SLASpresident. "The plan will serve as our litmus test for ideas and decisions overthe next three to five years."
According to SLAS CEO Greg Dummer, "this plan thoughtfullyoutlines where our organization expects to go over the next few years, how it'sgoing to get there and how we'll know if it got there or not.
It is a decision-making tool that defines ourdirection and provides a context for assessing tangible action plans andappropriately allocating resources."
SLAS members can review the plan online by visiting www.slas.org/about/plan.cfm.
Industry partners to host briefings at LabAutomation2011
The Laboratory Automation Section of the SLAS has announcedthat three industry partners will host briefings at LabAutomation2011.
SLAS hascollaborated and partnered with the Analytical & Life Science SystemsAssociation (ALSSA), Laboratory Products Association (LPA) and the SiLAConsortium for Standardisation in Lab Automation (SiLA) to bringLabAutomation2011 participants new informational briefings about recentdevelopments and trends.
The exclusive, invitation-only ALSSA breakfast briefing willassess several recent developments and trends in laboratory automationtechnologies and applications and the strategic implications for users andsuppliers. The LPA briefing will announce the preliminary results of the 2010North American Laboratory Purchasing Trends Report, addressing emerging trendssuch as the building of new laboratories, personnel issues and purchasing greenproducts. Officials from the SiLA Consortium in Basel, Switzerland, will reporton reference installations and new technology products applying or supportingSiLA standards, and provide an overview and update on current automationstandards development projects.
The lighter side of LabAutomation2011
JALA, an officialjournal of the SLAS, is now accepting submissions for the 2011 JALA Video Contest. In three minutes or less, SLASmembers and nonmembers are invited to show and tell JALA what "really" goes on in their labs, and the"just-for-fun" categories for consideration include: The Elvis Factor in LabAutomation; Star Trek vs. Star Wars in Lab Automation; Favorite Lab AutomationSongs; Lab Automation Action Heroes and Beauty Queens; Lab Automation Mind OverMatter; and Deuces Wild!
"Clearly, the point of this contest is to have fun," says JALA Editor-in-Chief Dr. Dean Ho, of NorthwesternUniversity. "It's a way for JALAreaders to express their cleverness and creativity—both of which they are knownto have in abundance."
Videofiles must be e-mailed before Jan. 9, 2011. Up to three finalists will beselected, and the winner will have his or her choice of one free fullregistration to a 2012 SLAS conference, global symposium or virtual course. Formore information, visit www.SLAS.org/media/video_contest.cfm.