India Biofilms Society: Building a Community of Researchers
NBIC have recently connected with the newly formed India Biofilms Society with the goal of better connecting the UK and India biofilms communities. In this blog, Snehal Kadam and Karishma S Kaushik reflect on how the society was established and detail their plans for the future.
We had anticipated Eurobiofilms 2019 in Glasgow, UK, to be valuable exposure for our young biofilm research group based in India, and given this, left no stone unturned to make the opportunity materialize. As we worked to get the scientific content and our presentations together, traveling to and attending the conference was enabled by funding from Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, via their international travel support programs (to Karishma and Snehal respectively), and the Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship, Department of Biotechnology, India (to Karishma).
After a full first day of interacting with fellow attendees from across the world, we realized we were the only two researchers traveling from India for the conference. The three-day event turned out to be an intellectual feast, but what struck us was the knowledge- and idea-sharing, and networking across biofilm researchers not only in the UK, but also across Europe. During the conference, we had the opportunity to interact with science administrators associated with the National Biofilms Innovation Center (NBIC), UK, and researchers from several NBIC-affiliated partner universities. NBIC’s holistic vision for biofilm research, collaborative approach, with industry partnerships in particular, as well as commitment to foster future scientific leaders was both insightful and inspiring!
As we presented our work at the poster session, I asked Snehal, “Where are all the biofilm researchers in India?” We realised that while on a personal level, we knew a few colleagues, there was definitely a glaring need to connect with and establish a network of biofilm researchers in the country. Looking back, it was this casual conversation that led us along the path of building our own ‘community’ of biofilm researchers.
Initiation of India Biofilms Society
Returning from Eurobiofilms 2019, we attempted to connect with biofilm researchers in India via Twitter and email, and the response from the community was tremendous. We established India Biofilms Society, a platform for biofilm researchers in India, with a focus on establishing opportunities for scientific exchange, identifying gaps and partners for collaborations, and mentorship for students and doctoral researchers in the country. The group also aims to build international partnerships, focused on scientific and educational exchange. Since its inception, the group has been meeting every fortnight (virtually), with scheduled talks from member groups. In addition to the scientific agenda, the group is focusing on building an administrative structure, and expanding its reach to include clinical and industry partners, host workshops and conferences, and support student and researcher exchange with international groups.
India Biofilms Society currently comprises a diverse group of biofilm researchers (almost 70 in number) across the country, and includes independent investigators, PhD students, project associates, as well as undergraduates. The inclusion and active participation of young researchers is a priority, given that they will be critical to shape the group’s agenda and activities, and forge future scientific leaders in biofilm research in India. Our researchers represent a range of institutes, organisations and universities across India, including those supported by the central and state governments, as well private and autonomous institutes.
Broad areas of research of society members
Research institutes/universities/organisations of society members. The chart number indicates number of institutes in different groups (based on survey responses)
Short and Medium term goals
As the society continues with its regular online engagements and meetings, the immediate goals of the group are towards establishing a formal administrative structure and a strong online presence (Twitter, website). In addition, the society endeavors to expand its reach across India (inclusion of more young researchers), as well as the inclusion of biofilm researchers across life sciences, agriculture, health and medical sciences, environmental sciences, and engineering.
The group is also looking to build international partnerships, starting with hosting international colleagues in our fortnightly meetings, organizing scientific talks across biofilm research groups, and applying for joint funding calls.
In the course of the next year, the group is looking towards hosting a multi-day conference or workshop (online, if in-person circumstances do not permit) for early-career biofilm researchers in India. This is intended to not only present biofilm research being done in India, but also provide exposure to advances in biofilm techniques, and create professional and collaborative opportunities.
Long term goals
Academia-Clinical partnerships: A major focus of the group is to include clinical partners, such as physicians, surgeons, clinical microbiologists’, and hospital infection control teams. This could include members from these professional areas joining the society, as well as fostering an open dialogue on the needs and gaps in healthcare practice related to biofilms. The society currently has two clinical microbiologist members, of which one is affiliated with hospital practice.
Academia-Industry partnerships: Towards developing solutions for healthcare and environmental biofilm challenges, the society would also include researchers from relevant industry, innovation and start-up ventures. Beyond translational applications of biofilm research, this would also facilitate academic training of manpower to meet specific industry needs.
Training, education and career advancement: With our national and international partnerships, the society also aims to develop programs that support the training and exchange of students and doctoral researchers. We envision this to involve working in other members’ groups for periods of time, young researchers spearheading collaborative efforts, and two-way international exchange of trainees. This is particularly relevant for postdoctoral researchers, for whom this can provide an opportunity to gain international exposure while retaining a foothold in India. For early-career faculty, this would enable collaborative grants and projects, and possibly even training and professional development during sabbatical leave or short-term stints.
Biofilm-focused funding calls from Indian agencies: To establish and continue the vision of India Biofilms Society, we aim to work closely with funding agencies in India, and international collaborative partners. This would develop a framework for concerted and comprehensive funding for biofilm research and innovation, across academia, healthcare and industry in India, via research, entrepreneurship, and training grants and fellowships.
Academic designations and in India Biofilms Society. The chart number indicates number of members in each academic stage (based on survey responses received)
Distribution of India Biofilms Society members across India. The size of the circle corresponds to the number of people.
Karishma S Kaushik
Get in touch with India Biofilms
India Biofilms Society, Institute of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India.