Thank you to all those who filled in our BSPP Membership Survey last year. Due to the BSPP Membership Secretary going on maternity leave and to a long-planned overhaul of the BSPP Members database behind the scenes, it’s taken us a little longer than expected to give you some feedback on the data collated. Thank you for your patience, and for those who are interested, we have put together an overview of the overall survey responses and your comments and suggestions.
As we said at the time of the survey, the BSPP Board wished to gather your views and opinions on BSPP activities and interests, to better inform our decisions and direction. To this end, we’ve also produced a sheet where we’ve responded to many of the questions and comments from the survey. The Board are continuing to discuss and evaluate all the comments and feedback we received from the survey.
BSPP Membership Survey – your comments and our responses
BSPP is keen to promote knowledge and training in practical diagnostics in plant pathology, and to help ensure that these skills are retained and thrive within the community. Two one-day courses on the Practical Diagnostics of Plant Pathogens were held by RHS with the support of BSPP, the first in early October 2016 at RHS Wisley, and the second in May 2017 at RHS Harlow Carr, both organised by Fay Newbery and Gerard Clover. Participant feedback on both courses was very positive and it is likely that similar courses will go ahead in the future. For more details please keep an eye on the BSPP website or subscribe to the mailing list for interested parties here.
Could a jobs board be put on the members’ area of the website?
This has been debated at various BSPP Board meetings, as we recognise the benefits of members being able to advertise and look for job opportunities within plant pathology in one place. However, a concern has always been that it would require BSPP members to actively inform the BSPP webmanager of job opportunities, and to keep us updated so that filled positions are removed as appropriate. We were also concerned that it could give a false or overly negative impression of the job market in plant pathology if few job positions were advertised in this way. The individuals on the Board are always happy to pass on information of job opportunities to relevant group leaders or individuals, but we are wary of setting up a ‘jobs board’ or page unless we can be sure that we can keep it substantially up-to-date and relevant.
BSPP should be more involved in professional advancement of plant pathology via press releases, lobbying for action on plant health and increasing public awareness of food security.
BSPP is represented by the BSPP President-Elect (Murray Grant in 2017) in meetings with the UK Plant Science Federation (UKPSF) to ensure that plant pathology is an important part of the UKPSF’s future ‘roadmap’ for plant science development and advancement. Our current BSPP Vice-President Dawn Arnold is also involved with UKPSF meetings as the representative for the Microbiology Society. Various individuals on the BSPP Board have also been involved in Working Groups to highlight the importance of advancing plant pathology research and public awareness of food security. BSPP has also been working with Defra regarding the Register of Plant Health Professionals.
We are aware that BSPP is not often visibly linked to lobbying campaigns as the Board members mostly focus on contributing towards campaigns headed by larger umbrella organisations. In part, this has been because we feel that BSPP’s voice is still relatively small and our messages would be better heard via a larger organisation. Furthermore, the BSPP Board is wary of preparing press releases or opinion pieces that may be taken to represent the consensus view of our members without society-wide input.
We are aware of the importance of increasing public awareness of plant pathology and food security, and towards this objective, BSPP Outreach has been producing and disseminating educational materials, to ensure that teachers have factually correct and age-appropriate materials they can use to teach plant pathology.
Keeping retired members more involved (if they so wish)
We greatly appreciate the experience and expertise of the retired members in BSPP and we would like to keep everyone involved in the society and its activities. Suggestions for field training days or public awareness events, such as fungus identification, or disease diagnostic days, are amongst some that have been brought up at Board meetings in the past. We would also very much welcome volunteers of all ages to contribute to the BSPP blog, which was resurrected by Eric Boa in early 2017, and for focussed articles for the website, blog or BSPP newsletters. Volunteers for specialist talks or help at outreach events would also be great.
Could BSPP offer one or two PhD studentships or bursaries for MSc students to further promote plant pathology in the UK?
The BSPP Board has discussed the possibility of funding the cost of MSc or PhD studentships several times over recent years. However, the cost of funding a PhD studentship would mean that the ‘pot’ of money available to our other funding schemes would be greatly reduced, and we would not be able to fund many Undergraduate Vacation Bursary Schemes or Msc Project Bursary schemes, the feedback from which indicates that they are considered important for encouraging young and early career scientists to explore and/or continue in plant pathology. At the moment, the BSPP Board has decided that the limited resources we have available would be better spent supporting a larger number of plant pathologists with smaller amounts of money per capita, than with larger schemes with fewer fund recipients. However, we will continue to assess this periodically to ensure that we can best serve the community’s needs.
Members who have previously volunteered at BSPP outreach events have not been contacted when local events have been set up
BSPP are grateful for the time and effort all our members give in volunteering at outreach events. Calls for volunteers are made via newsletter, website, monthly email and Twitter. If you are particularly keen to run your own event, do get in touch with Phil to ask for his support (firstname.lastname@example.org). We had a great response via the survey from members willing to be added to a mailing list of potential volunteers, so we will use this for future calls as well.
Get rid of the BSPP newsletter in paper form and use email to distribute a digital version/I really think the BSPP newsletter is more likely to be read than a digital only version.
BSPP members’ views were very mixed on this! Ninety of the 148 respondents would prefer a digital copy of the newsletter, whilst fifty-two preferred a physical copy. We’ve therefore decided to keep sending out the newsletter in paper form to our existing members, but an email link to the digital version will be sent out at the same time. When new members join, they will be given the option to opt-in to the print version. In time, existing BSPP members may also be asked if they wish to opt-out of the print version if they prefer reading it online.
We hope that all our members are enjoying reading the monthly BSPP update emails which we started in 2017 to keep our members up-to-date with BSPP news and to highlight articles of particular interest in the BSPP newsletter.