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The FocalPlane Network: connecting the microscopy community

Posted by , on 20 September 2023

The FocalPlane Network is an international directory of researchers with expertise in microscopy. The goal of the Network is to facilitate promotion and networking, as well as assisting those seeking conference speakers, committee members, reviewers or collaborators. Membership is open to researchers in the microscopy community from all career stages, geographical locations or areas of expertise. Members can voluntarily provide details on aspects of diversity such as gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identity and disability status. The Network is fully searchable based on these diversity characteristics, as well as on scientific expertise, career stage and location.

The FocalPlane Network was set up in collaboration with our Scientific Advisory Board and we spoke with board member Ricardo Henriques to find out more about the motivation to create the database.

“As a Scientific Advisory Board member for FocalPlane, I’m excited about the FocalPlane Network directory. This global database aids connections among microscopy researchers, encouraging diversity and collaboration. The FocalPlane Network provides a significant resource through a searchable hub of researchers in various stages of their careers and expertise, spread across different locations. This network fosters interactions among developers, imaging scientists, biologists, bioimage analysts and other specialists, promoting potential partnerships and cooperation. Emphasising inclusion, the FocalPlane Network encourages profile-sharing concerning gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identity, disability status and other diversity characteristics. This voluntary self-identification fosters visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups and showcases existing diversity within the field, aiding towards equity and representation.

I’m thrilled by the potential of the Network to create a positive impact. It’s equipped to drive innovation, ensure equitable access to opportunities and nurture budding microscopy leaders. The platform promotes benefits like wider viewpoints, collaboration and diverse talent reflecting our global scientific base. I urge all microscopy community members to join the Network. It can advance science through knowledge sharing and networking, adding to its inclusivity. The directory signifies our collective effort to build an engaged community. I look forward to witnessing it grow into an inclusive ecosystem benefiting scientific innovation and humanity.”

We also caught up with some of our members to find out why they joined the Network and why they think it is important.

Stefania Marcotti, postdoc and image analyst at King’s College London:
My work involves extracting quantitative data from microscopy images and performing analyses in collaboration with experimentalists.
I joined the Network as I feel it’s a great way to connect people, should we require help, or be able to help other researchers. We often end up spending a lot of time ‘reinventing the wheel’ and solving problems that other people have already found solutions for. A lot of the time, this is due to us not knowing the right person to ask, and I think the Network can help with that! The Network is (and should be) a safe space where everyone feels welcome, regardless of their gender/age/etc., but also level of expertise. No question is ever too small to be asked.

Mai Rahmoon, an Advanced Microscopy Fellow at the Advanced Imaging Center (AIC) at Janelia:
I am involved with the light-sheet microscopy, image analysis and outreach projects, mainly targeting Africa. My journey doesn’t end there; I proudly co-lead the TEA working group within the African BioImaging Consortium (ABIC). Later this year, I am honoured to step onto the executive committee of ABIC, where we, as a team, are poised to make waves in imaging Africa.
I believe in the transformative power of connections and the FocalPlane Network is a beacon of collaboration and a channel to help imaging scientists and researchers all over the world. I joined the FocalPlane Network to be part of a dynamic community that thrives on collaboration, knowledge-sharing, forging new career paths and mutual empowerment. Diversity creates a rich tapestry of perspectives, experiences and expertise, which will lead to a unique, innovative and a strong environment if we take steps to promote it.

Pablo Saez, a PI of the Cell Communication and Migration lab at University Medical Center Hamburg- Eppendorf:
Since I started working in microscopy nearly 20 years ago, I noticed the great advantage of interacting with colleagues that had expertise in using a certain microscope. However, when there was no well-known expert around, finding a colleague with required expertise was much harder and it mostly happened by chance or by word of mouth. In addition to other microscopy communities, the FocalPlane Network is a fantastic resource for finding collaborators, while FocalPlane itself is a great source of information through blog posts and comments. I have encouraged the people from my lab to join microscopy and bioimaging analysis communities including FocalPlane. Our expertise is focussed on cell biology and live-cell imaging. It would be great if other members of the microscopy community join the FocalPlane Network, so we could build a community in which more areas of research from our diverse community are represented.

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