Science and Innovation Center

History and Evolution



The American Thoracic Society (ATS) is unique in providing immersive interaction among clinician and non-clinician scientists in a collaborative atmosphere, perhaps best exemplified by the annual International Conference (IC). Fundamental and translational scientists within the ATS have long sought to highlight their work in a venue at the IC, much the way the exhibit hall highlights the scope and impact for clinical research. In 2012, a collaborative proposal submitted by the Assemblies on Assembly on Allergy, Immunology and Inflammation (AII), Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (RCMB) and Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function (RSF) led to the development of the inaugural Science and Innovation Center (SIC).  The SIC was established as a venue for basic and translational researchers to network and learn more about research-related resources.

The concept for the SIC included formal presentations by experts in innovative methods such as genetic epidemiology, genetically engineered mice, functional genomics, small animal imaging, and pulmonary stem cells. Career development sessions were proposed such as meetings with the editors of the ATS journals, and with NIH program leadership, as well as learning more about careers in academia and industry.  The SIC was also proposed to serve as a venue for formal and informal collaborative and mentorship interactions. Light refreshments would always be available throughout the day to facilitate these discussions. The goal was to create a “home base” for attendees to discuss fundamental and translational science, and promote networking and mentoring opportunities.

From 2012 through 2015, the SIC’s popularity waxed and waned, as changes were made to its organizational and leadership structure which was shared by AII, RCMB, RSF and the Assembly on Pulmonary Infections and Tuberculosis (PI-TB). In 2017, ATS staff established a new organizational and leadership structure for the SIC; the aforementioned assemblies (AII, RCMB, RSF and PI-TB) would collaborate on organizing the SIC, but take responsibility on a rotating basis. To ensure collaborative contributions among these assemblies existed each year, a SIC planning committee was established. The SIC Planning committee works collectively to program and create exciting new initiatives of interest to all ATS members.  This structure ensures collaboration, and also facilitates involvement more broadly from across the ATS, with representatives from many assemblies and groups.

The principles of the SIC remain the same; Networking, Career Assistance, Education and Social Opportunities.  The changes recommended by ATS staff have proven fruitful, as SIC attendance has skyrocketed with over 750 attendees in 2019. The new organizational structure appears to also have infused expanding creativity of content, with many new initiatives such as the PhD and Basic Science Researchers  reception and the Bear Cage competition. The SIC is poised to be a lasting and impactful part of the IC for years to come.