Mission Statement

To lead a diverse, global and multidisciplinary scientific community focused on the cell, the basic unit of all life.

The American Society for Cell Biology was first organized at an ad hoc meeting in the office of Keith R. Porter at Rockefeller University on May 28, 1960. In the 1940s, Porter was one of the first in the world to use the revolutionary technique of electron microscopy (EM) to reveal the internal structure of cells. The other early leaders of the ASCB—George Palade, Don Fawcett, Hewson Swift, Arthur Solomon, and Hans Ris—were also EM pioneers. All were concerned that existing scientific societies and existing biology journals were not receptive to this emerging field that studied the cell as the fundamental unit of all life. The ASCB was legally incorporated in New York State on July 31, 1961. A call for membership (at $10 a year) went out, enlisting ASCB’s first 480 members. The first ASCB Annual Meeting was held November 2-4, 1961, in Chicago where 844 attendees gathered for three days of lectures, slides, and movies of cellular structure. The results of a mail ballot were read out and Fawcett was declared ASCB’s first president.

The ASCB did not remain an EM society. New technologies and new discoveries in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and light microscopy quickly widened the field. Cell biology has continued to expand ever since, extending its impact on clinical medicine and pharmacology while drawing on new technologies in bioengineering, high-resolution imaging, massive data handling, and genomic sequencing. ASCB membership has grown to over 7,500 members worldwide (with 25% of ASCB members working outside the United States). Annual meetings now draw upwards of 5,000 people. Since 1960, over 40 past or current ASCB members have won Nobel Prizes in medicine or in chemistry.

As the ASCB has grown over the years, so has its interest in being the Society that represents all members of the cell biology community. At the 1971 ASCB meeting in New Orleans, a group of women held the first meeting of what would become the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Committee. In 1985, the Minorities Affairs Committee became another committee committed to increasing involvement of underrepresented groups of scientists in all aspects of the Society. In 2013 the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) was formed to create programming for early career scientists and to increase their visibility within the Society. In 2021, the ASCB the LGBTQ+ Committee was established to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ+ members in the Society.

The ASCB also understands its responsibility to speak on behalf of our members in the formation of federal policy. In the late 1980s both the ASCB Public Policy Committee and the Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy, now the Coalition for the Life Sciences, a coalition of like-minded societies interested in advocacy for the biomedical research community, were created and have become leaders in the area of science policy and advocacy. In 2012, a group at the ASCB Annual Meeting to create the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). DORA has become a world renowned organization dedicated to changing the ways in which scholarly research is evaluated.

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