Looking Forward to Plant Health 2020

​by Lindsey du Toit, APS President

Building on the highly successful Plant Health 2019 meeting in Cleveland, Ohio on August 3-7, I am pleased to invite you all to ​​participate in Plant Health 2020 which will take place in the beautiful city of Denver, Colorado on August 8-12, 2020. The location of this city, in the center of the country and at the foot of the spectacular Rocky Mountains, provides for convenient travel and wonderful opportunities to explore the area before or after the meeting. 

The theme I have selected for Plant Health 2020 is “Scientific Credibility: Changing the Climate,” inspired in ​large part ​​​by ​the growing gap in understanding and respect between scientists and the public, as well as a book writ​​ten by Richard Harris​, ​​NPR Science Reporter, titled Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions.​

I am very excited to announce that Richard Harris has accepted our inv​itation to give the opening keynote presentation. His message should both inspire and challenge us as ​plant pathologists to consider our responsibilities and opportunities to ensure robust, high-​quality scientific research and extension/outreach to the public and other stakeholders. The extensive analogies between plant science and the many medical science issues highlighted in his book provide a tremendous opportunity for cross-pollination. 

I am also extremely pleased that Robert Sakata, who farms dry bulb onions, winter wheat, grain corn, and pinto beans in Brighton, Colorado, just north of Denver, has agreed to be a plenary speaker to address the topic of agricultural producers’ perspectives on credible science. ​​​Mr. Sakata, with whom I have had the fortune of interacting professionally in relation to onion production issues for approximately 15 years, has kindly agreed to share his and other producers’ perspectives on what it takes for research and extension efforts to be viewed as credible, and how we can be more effective at addre​​ssing the needs of producers in relation to plant diseases. He is highly engaged in public policy and advocacy for agriculture on a regional and national basis. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Onion Association, and as president of the board of directors of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (for which he was the founding president), in addition to serving on many other boards and state committees. 

Some of you may have met Mr. Sakata during Plant Health 2019, for which he voluntarily registered and flew to Cleveland to learn more about APS and the nature of our meeting, after receiving my invitation to be a plenary speaker at Plant Health 2020. When was the last time you observed a grower sitting through four days of scientific sessions, including talks on replicability in science and the meaning of the P value in data analyses?!

As Gwyn Beattie, Chair of the APS Pub​lic Policy Board and a Professor at Iowa State University, stated so eloquently, “The credibility of our science is one of the most valuable and fragile pillars holding up the U.S. science enterprise.” I look forward to seeing many of you in Denver in August 2020 to share your expertise and contribute to changing the regional, national, and international climate towards greater scientific credibility! ​