ISAPP Annual Conference photos

ISAPP – Going beyond the science at our annual meetings.

June 2017. By Prof. Glenn Gibson, The University of Reading, UK.

Having never wrote a blog in my life (nor sent a twit nor Instamatic-gram nor facial networking book message), I had to consult my social media savvy children on what this blogging business was all about and who cares anyway. Both looked at me with exasperation, as if I had just crawled out of a cave, and gave me the highly informative answer “Write about what you want, you luddite, but try to make it less boring, than normal. If you write it, then it should perhaps be called clogging not blogging.”

What you might call a total vote of no confidence; anyway it did get me thinking. If this blog was for the ISAPP website, then surely it must have to at least mention probiotics and prebiotics – but that is what I have written about each day for as long as I can remember, and none of that ever had any impact! So, if you are reading this expecting to be educated on bugs, guts, health, faeces, etc, then please do move along to your next Google page.

When I think about what ISAPP has done differently, the science springs to mind, but then there has also been our annual meeting and the associated “fun” (for some people anyway….) activities that have been a hallmark. So, here is my reflection on these. This is all from my-  rapidly fading – memory and all mistakes are my own. I apologise if you have never attended ISAPP and hope that the below text does not discourage you from ever doing so!

It all began in London, Ontario in May 2002 with a treasure hunt in the woods and various ball games (remember, all delegates take part in these exercises). Bob Rastall eventually emerged as the winner and came out of the nearby woods clutching his hard earned treasure like it was a golden fleece. Actually it was a cuddly teddy bear – pink I think, to match his eyes. To this day, he still brags to students about the riches that can be gained with perseverance and unstinting application – as well as several pints of cold drink before tackling the task.

Next year, it was off to Henley UK for the epic Team Probiotics vs Team Prebiotics cricket match. Perhaps about 1% of participants fully understood the rules. Highlights included the Americans pitching the ball like a baseball (known as a beamer in cricketing parlance and highly illegal); Willem de Vos taking mobile phone calls while fielding at deep mid-wicket (which as you know is equidistant between deep square leg and cow corner but at the opposite side of the wicket to cover, point and extra cover i.e. 45o from mid on and fine leg); various attempts to catch the ball with one hand while clutching a full beer in the other; me being out for nothing (a duck) to the worse ever ball bowled in cricket history; the Americans (again) dropping the bat when running. As befitting a game that can last for 5 whole days, a draw was declared.

2004 saw us in the dizzy heights of Copper Mountain resort in Colorado. Here, the fun event took on added sophistication with a GPS driven game and various tasks to be completed. Have you ever seen over 100 highly trained scientists trying to master a small electronic gadget? (think Keystone Cops on amphetamines). Mary Ellen and family were the official adjudicators with Rick being introduced by her as “the nearest thing I’ll get to a secretary.” Gregor’s late night turn in the bar as a hybrid between Dave Lee Roth and one of the Supremes was not to be missed either.

On to Coleraine, Northern Ireland for a tour of the local attractions, including the spectacular Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Next, was London UK for an open meeting in 2007 where we were entertained by Jimmy Bright the professional comedian. He won over the notoriously tough scientific audience with his tales of British eccentricities and foibles – at least true for those who understood his accent.

The only venue to have hosted ISAPP twice is London, Ontario to where we returned in 2008. The social event here was a user friendly guide to social media by Amber MacArthur. Almost a decade later I write my first blog – well, these things do take time.

In 2009, we visited Newport Beach, California. Here, we hosted a joint meeting with NAS Sackler and therefore had to be on our best behaviour (for proof of this see the image). One highlight was seeing dolphins in the wild from Newport pier.

It was back to sporting excellence in 2010 at Castelldefel. Lots of Spanish family Sunday afternoons were completely ruined by the entire ISAPP descending on their beach for games, loudness and hilarity. This included football (Gregor acting as referee and goalscorer), volleyball, sand pictionary, quiz. Team Black Cats triumphed (had to mention that).

The next meeting was in Berkeley, I was not there so have no thoughts on the social prowess of the conference, but I did hear rumours of broken buses.

Cork in October 2012 featured a distillery trip and céad míle fáilt or póite (a hundred thousand hangovers). The next one in 2013, was joint with New York Academy of Sciences and featured one of the best views ever from a lecture hall. We also took time for a night boat trip on the Hudson.

Aberdeen was our location in 2014 for a joint meeting with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health and INRA. Full scientific humiliation was evident at the Scottish Country Dancing event.

Georgetown, Washington had the ISAPP experience in 2015. This featured a once in a lifetime visit to the National Academy of Sciences for a posh dinner, and many contrived poses in the lecture auditorium.

Last year, we visited Turku, Finland and were transported back to the 1600’s for a medieval banquet hosted by Duke John and Princess Katherine, including the use of bread as a plate.

The 2017 meeting is almost upon us and we turn our mixture of science and fun towards Chicago. There is to be a bowling and beer event. Who knows what will happen, it won’t be pretty but it will definitely be competitive and, hopefully, memorable.

Goodness knows what new humiliation lies ahead for Singapore in 2018?