Mission and Strategic Plan
I. SfN's Mission
- Advance the understanding of the brain and the nervous system by bringing together scientists of diverse backgrounds, by facilitating the integration of research directed at all levels of biological organization, and by encouraging translational research and the application of new scientific knowledge to develop improved disease treatments and cures.
- Provide professional development activities, information, and educational resources for neuroscientists at all stages of their careers, including undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral fellows, and increase participation of scientists from diverse cultural, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds.
- Promote public information and general education about the nature of scientific discovery and the results and implications of the latest neuroscience research. Support active and continuing discussions on ethical issues relating to the conduct and outcomes of neuroscience research.
- Inform legislators and other policymakers about new scientific knowledge, recent developments, and emerging opportunities in neuroscience research and their implications for public policy, societal benefit, and continued scientific progress.
II. Scientific Vision
Guided by its mission and its values, the vision of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is to advance breakthrough discoveries in neuroscience and promote innovative translation of scientific advances to improve the health of people everywhere.
SfN represents the entire range of scientific research endeavors aimed at understanding the nervous system and translating this knowledge to the treatment and prevention of nervous system disorders. It fosters the broad interdisciplinarity of the field that uses multiple approaches to study the nervous system of organisms ranging from invertebrates to humans across various stages of development, maturation, and aging. SfN facilitates the translation of this fundamental knowledge into strategies for the treatment of nervous system disorders. It also encourages information transfer from the clinic back to the basic research arena. In these ways, SfN contributes to the breadth of the field of neuroscience, its highly dynamic nature, and its creative use of all the tools and modern biology and technology to understand neural function in health and disease.
Neuroscience is a rapidly evolving field that benefits greatly from, and helps to drive, the ongoing development of powerful new tools for acquiring and analyzing experimental data. The effort to make efficient use of the staggering amounts and diversity of information known about the nervous system raises challenges that have social, ethical, and technical dimensions. Some of these challenges are common to biomedical research in general and to its subdisciplines of bioinformatics and scientific ethics. Others are unique to neuroscience by virtue of the tremendous complexity of neural circuits and their role in controlling behavior. This entails opportunities as well as responsibilities for the neuroscience community to develop novel tools and approaches for integrating and advancing our understanding of the nervous system.
The Society for Neuroscience will play a key role in confronting new issues as they challenge and energize the field. This will require active dialogue within SfN and among SfN, funding agencies (NIH, NSF, and others), policy makers, and strategic partners to define current needs and to develop strategies for meeting them. SfN's perspective on the current nature of the field and its future trajectory permeates all the elements of this strategic plan and will guide the initiatives aimed at enhancing the key scientific functions of the SfN, including the annual meeting and the scientific journals. This perspective, which in some cases may involve taking a position or stance on an issue (or not), will guide the ways in which SfN will strive to serve its membership and will frame the public outreach and governmental interactions of SfN.
SfN supports the open exchange of scientific information both among scientists and between scientists and the public. The Society is committed to ensuring that its published materials are scientifically accurate and widely accessible to interested audiences. The Society seeks to ensure that its access policies and practices for information dissemination are consistent with these goals, and with the sustainability of a system requiring careful scientific review prior to publication.
III. Organizational Values
In carrying out all of its activities, the Society for Neursocience is committed to the following:
- Identifying and serving the evolving needs of SfN members as well as the field of neuroscience.
- Actively promoting the idea that progress in understanding the nervous system depends on the honest pursuit of scientific research and the truthful representation of findings.
- Continuing to promote greater representation of women, minorities, and scientists across the career spectrum, along with geographic and specialty balance, in SfN's meetings, conferences, committees, and governance processes.
- Reflecting its commitment to supporting and fostering a welcoming community in which all scientists are able to contribute fully, SfN affirms that sexual harassment and other harassing behaviors have no place in a healthy scientific enterprise.
- Seeking new and innovative ways to utilize technology in ongoing activities to better serve members and to help manage the problems of scale as a successful association in the 21st century.
- Fulfilling its Mission in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible fashion, including minimizing SfN's environmental footprint through energy efficiency, recycling, and other initiatives, and being mindful of the broader impact of its day-to-day practices, decisions and actions.
- Developing effective strategic relationships and collaborative initiatives with appropriate external partners, including other scientific societies and associations, health advocacy groups, foundations, public agencies, government entities, educational institutions, corporate entities, information technology service providers, etc.
- Building a model of iterative planning into the fabric of SfN governance and management processes.
IV. SfN Programs
SfN provides value to its members in fulfillment of its mission, vision, and values through its annual scientific meeting, peer-reviewed journals, and other established programs that are summarized in SfN's annual report (available at www.sfn.org). These activities represent the culmination of previous planning initiatives that were responsible for substantial growth and broad expressions of member satisfaction. This strategic plan does not rearticulate these critically important ongoing activities or the strategic rationale behind them. Rather, this document addresses an emergent set of strategic issues that SfN will address in an ongoing, dynamic planning effort to ensure the future viability of the Society, its constituents in neuroscience, and the beneficiaries of their endeavors.
In the SfN planning process, a strategy is a work-in-progress having four critical elements:
- the strategic issue, which provides the motive to act
- a desired outcome that provides an image of what will be accomplished if the issues are addressed successfully
- guiding principles that place parameters on the tactics that can be taken in achieving the outcome
- a summary of the actions that will be taken
A strategy sketch provides a brief description of the initiatives that are under way to address the issues on the "radar screen." Some of these initiatives are exploratory in that the best outcome or the best means of achieving an outcome are not currently clear. In this manner, strategies can be considered learning endeavors that become more precise as they gain intelligence. The following sketches describe SfN's current efforts to address the issues on the radar screen. Members are invited to share thoughts on improving these initiatives, so that the strategies may be better tuned and refreshed over the next few years.
VI. Strategic Issues
With the continued guidance of Council, SfN maintains a radar screen of issues, opportunities, and challenges that the field of neuroscience and the Society will need to address within the coming years. The purpose of the radar screen is to build consensus on changing environmental conditions that may require new program initiatives or more resources than are currently allocated. These strategic issues are, by design, concise statements that represent an issue demanding attention without specifying what action should be taken (the latter is outlined in the associated strategies). The idea is to build alignment in increments: first agree on what needs to be addressed and then agree on the best way of addressing it.
This effort, as part of the philosophy that utilizes iterative and continuous planning by SfN's leaders, will help ensure that the benefits and potential of neuroscience research are realized for individuals and for society as a whole. The strategic issues and the preliminary action plans are described below.
A. Enhancing the Member Experience Strategy
Continued evolution and growth of the neuroscience field, as reflected in SfN’s changing member demographics, necessitates constant focus on the diverse nature of the Society’s existing and potential members, and increased attention to creating year-long member value.
- Knowledge: Increased organizational understanding of the changing needs and expectations of potential and existing members that informs effective identification, attraction, and retention of priority membership segments.
- Value: Increased member awareness and perceived value of SfN’s programs and initiatives through more targeted and personalized member communications.
- Engagement: Enhanced and effective use of all possible venues for increasing membership engagement across the full range and diversity of member constituencies.
- Loyalty: Increased membership participation, loyalty, and lifelong affiliation with SfN.
- Satisfaction: Optimized member satisfaction with their SfN experience and interaction.
- SfN’s membership categories, policies, and programs should remain reflective of the enduring sense of who the Society is as an organization, while adapting as appropriate to reflect the broad membership and the dynamic field of neuroscience. A balance of customized communications with mission-critical information is necessary for responding to member preferences while supporting broader needs of the field and of SfN.
- SfN’s committees should consider career stage(s) of current and potential members and structure the content to meet the needs of each identified group.
- SfN should maintain content and service policies with different access levels, such as member-first, member-enhanced, or member-only, that encourage and reward membership.
- Create a system which provides a diverse menu of member volunteer opportunities, as necessary, in order to increase the number of members who can be of service to SfN, as well as provide another pipeline to leadership positions.
Changing Membership: Enhance ongoing efforts to monitor the evolving field and membership, using data to inform and support the needs of a diverse and growing membership.
- Establish and/or maintain the infrastructure and resources needed to support robust monitoring and research on membership trends, member satisfaction, and other metrics. Use research, surveys and focus groups to inform potential adaptations to membership categories. Conduct all-member survey every 3-5 years.
- Ensure SfN committees, Council and staff prioritize opportunities to broaden the range and number of SfN members served and continue to align their programs to meet the needs of varying member segments, further prioritizing those opportunities that can have more impact by serving multiple constituencies.
Personalization: Increase opportunities to serve members’ individual communication and information needs and preferences.
- Develop and implement a strategic member communications plan that increasingly enables members to enhance their personalization or customization of SfN communication and access to information, while also working to enhance member awareness and engagement in key programs and initiatives. Communications may be crafted and shared for member segments based on past behavior and the use of more targeted communications is continually evaluated and applied based on effectiveness.
Engagement: Strengthen efforts aimed at building lasting relationships with and engagement opportunities for members throughout their professional life cycle.
- Maintain and increase venues for student and postdoc members, a growing membership segment, to have a voice in SfN’s governance, creating a vehicle for ensuring their interests and needs are included in SfN activities and increasing their engagement and participation in SfN programming.
- Implement a membership onboarding program to create awareness of programs and value to new and reinstated members.
- Continue to find opportunities to recognize long-standing members and membership milestones, as a means of building a stronger sense of affiliation and loyalty to SfN.
- Develop strategies for enabling emeritus members to continue to contribute to SfN’s mission and programs.
- Strengthen existing efforts to support SfN’s network of chapters as a means of engaging members locally and increasing member value through chapter funding, programs, and services.
- Maintain existing efforts to incentivize membership with programs that promote longevity, as well as by leveraging existing individual and institutional members as recruitment champions.
- Continue to seek out new audiences to engage in programming in order to expand SfN’s footprint in meaningful ways.
- Leverage Neuronline as a means to create yearlong value and resources for members at all career stages.
Technology & Data: Apply technology appropriately and effectively to enable SfN to optimize data collection and analysis and to support member needs.
- Assess and strengthen SfN’s data collection & analysis capacity to support membership recruitment/renewal and related programs and services.
- Enhance programs and services for members, using state-of-the-art technologies such as mobile apps (for the annual meeting, JNeurosci, eNeuro, Neuronline, etc.), online professional development offerings, and dynamic posters at the annual meeting.
- Facilitate scientific collaboration and career advice matching through advanced search capacity in the SfN membership directory.
- Routinely assess systems to ensure that the latest technology is applied to improve member transactions and ensure online processes are streamlined and user-friendly.
B. International Strategy
The continued significant growth of SfN's international membership and their expressed needs creates both an opportunity and an urgency for SfN to develop a coherent approach to meeting the needs of its international members from all regions of the world.
- Increased engagement among international members in SfN’s mission, programs, and governance.
- Enhanced collaborative relationships between SfN and national, regional, and international neuroscience societies through strategic partnerships and jointly sponsored activities as appropriate.
- Increased coordination between SfN and its international partners, such as FENS and IBRO, on advocacy and animal research initiatives, carried out at national and regional levels to increase political and public support for neuroscience research and international scientific exchange.
- Increased program resources for international members through the development, encouragement, or funding of professional development and training programs and other activities.
- SfN’s programs, services and governance should reflect the changing composition of its full membership, which is increasingly international.
- Advocate for sustained, robust funding support for neuroscience, the free exchange of scientific ideas, and global scientific collaboration.
- Maintain commitment to core value of supporting, engaging and welcoming diverse voices and scientific exchange between scientists of all nationalities.
- Remain committed to supporting the development of neuroscience in developing countries, while also addressing where the majority of international members live and work.
- Create opportunities for lifelong learning on scientific training for neuroscientists on a global level.
- National and regional neuroscience societies are key partners in helping to advance the interests of SfN’s international members and global neuroscience in general.
- • Wherever possible, seek to leverage capacities of partner organizations such as FENS, IBRO, the Canadian Association of Neuroscience, and other international neuroscience societies in pursuing common goals.
Professional Development and Scientific Training
- Work jointly with FENS, IBRO, the Candadian Assocation of Neuroscience, and other international partners to support areas of collaboration and shared resources concerning scientific training and professional development to benefit memberships of all involved organizations.
- Work jointly with FENS on executing the 3-year Memorandum of Understanding that addresses collaborative opportunities with regards to scientific training of neuroscientists, animals in research, and advocacy in Europe and North America. The Neuroscience Training Committee, Committee on Animals in Research, and Government and Public Affairs Committee, respectively, will lead the efforts in their areas of expertise.
- Task the SfN Global Membership Committee (GMC) to work with IBRO in developing recommended strategies for SfN’s continued support for neuroscience training in developing countries. Coordinate with IBRO and its regional committees to help support priority initiatives.
- Ensure that increases in the number of trainee professional development awards to the SfN annual meeting reflects the growing number of international graduate students and postdocs.
- Investigate collaborative efforts with national, regional, and international societies to provide professional development and scientific training courses and workshops online, as well as outside the annual meeting and outside the U.S.
- Explore options for leveraging support for professional development and scientific training activities from U.S. educational institutions that have international affiliations/presences.
- Investigate third-party funding sources to support international collaboration for professional development training and scientific training in neuroscience.
- Continue to partner with The Grass Foundation on the Latin American Training Program, aimed at neuroscience trainees from Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Ensure collaboration and coordination between the GMC and other committees in the Membership and Professional Development Clusters on professional development and scientific training activities for international neuroscientists.
Global Outreach - Public Advocacy and Education
- Develop overall approaches and strategies to support national and regional societies on advocacy-related issues, when requested
- Coordinate with the SfN Public Education & Communication Committee, FENS, IBRO, the European Dana Alliance and national neuroscience societies to support programs related to International Brain Awareness Week and other international public education activities
- Coordinate partnerships between the Government and Public Affairs Committee, IBRO, FENS (including through the MOU referenced above), the Canadian Association of Neuroscience and the Mexico City Chapter to support worldwide funding support for neuroscience in culturally appropriate ways.
- Coordinate efforts of SfN’s Public Outreach Cluster (Government & Public Affairs Committee, Committee on Animals in Research, Public Education & Communication Committee), with input from the Global Membership Committee.
- Develop opportunities for international public engagement through BrainFacts.org and other outreach efforts.
Communication and Engagement with International Members
- Develop and implement strategies that address the particular needs and interests of international members.
- Actively seek international members for SfN committee service and other governance bodies. Further encourage the Committee on Committees to consider geographic balance in the committee selection process.
- Encourage the formation of international chapters that provide a mechanism for international members to access SfN funding opportunities.
- Develop mechanisms for gathering input from groups of international members, as appropriate, to identify concerns and issues to be addressed by the Society.
- Ensure surveys of the membership gauge international members’ changes in satisfaction with SfN membership.
Diplomatic Relations with International Societies
- To maintain an open and productive dialogue on collaborative activities, continue to engage regularly with the leadership of key international partners, including FENS, IBRO, Canadian Association of Neuroscience, the Mexico City Chapter of SfN, Federation of Neuroscience Societies of Latin America and the Caribbean (FALAN), the Japan Neuroscience Society, and others based on emerging opportunities and challenges.
- Initiate and nurture contacts with other regional and national neuroscience societies to explore opportunities for online or otherwise mutual collaboration where interests are well-aligned
C. Professional Development Strategy
Recent membership feedback confirms a continued and strong desire among members for SfN to provide greater professional development opportunities, particularly outside the annual meeting. Changing demographics and evolving professional and career development needs of members offer opportunities for SfN to design strategic, integrated, cohesive, and enhanced programming that serve the full range of neuroscientists throughout their careers.
- Careers Skills and Training - A professional development program that reflects the broad and evolving needs of neuroscientists throughout their professional life cycle.
- Community Building and Networking - Expanded and targeted training opportunities for career development and building professional skills that take into account the varying audiences, constituencies, and geographic regions being served.
- Diversity - Continued commitment and robust programming to address the professional development needs of women and underrepresented minorities.
- Ethics and Responsible Conduct - Activities that seek to impart ethical practices and responsible conduct within the neuroscience community.
- Professional development applies to the full range of activities that help people enhance their professional viability and success throughout their careers.
- Recognize that professional development concerns and needs of SfN members can vary by age group, gender, race/ethnicity, career setting, and geographic location.
- Leverage and build upon successful approaches and models developed within SfN and within the larger community.
- Avoid offering competing services with other organizations that already adequately address member needs; rather, seek collaboration and coordination wherever possible and appropriate.
- Strive to be innovative and “think outside the box” in developing new opportunities, including those that could be fee-based and revenue generating.
- Utilize the framework of Neuronline in order to expand the reach and impact of programming on a year-round basis.
- Maintain the strategic plan for professional development strategies for the Society, utilizing the approved framework of priorities and outlining resources needed and a plan to monitor and measure outcomes. Incorporate and address relevant aspects of SfN’s existing diversity strategy.
- Review and assess all current professional development activities of the Society to determine priority areas for programming.
- Identify external funding opportunities to support selected program activities.
- Develop a monitoring and evaluation plan to assess outcomes of PD activities and to enable strategic abandonment of activities as needed.
- Career Development and Networking
- Provide effective career guidance and networking programs with the goal of increasing opportunities for professional development for SfN members at all stages of their careers.
- Strengthen and expand SfN’s resources surrounding mentoring in order to facilitate better relationships between mentors and mentees.
- Manage annual meeting career guidance and networking events, including topic selection for the career advice roundtable event, and/or other programs that are prioritized by PDC or Council.
- Work through the PDC and other PDC subcommittees to support collaborative strategies for further promoting networking and career guidance within the Society both at the annual meeting and more broadly throughout the year.
- Reflect SfN’s strong commitment to addressing the needs of women and underrepresented minorities in neuroscience through programming at the annual meeting and via other forms of engagement.
- The Women in Neuroscience Subcommittee (WINS) is responsible for: “A Celebration of Women in Neuroscience” luncheon and additional programming online throughout the year.
- The Diversity in Neuroscience Subcommittee (DINS) will implement all aspects of the NINDS-funded Neuroscience Scholars Program (NSP) and is responsible for NSP programming at the SfN annual meeting: NSP Orientation, Diversity Fellows Poster Session, Neuroscience Scholars Mentoring Breakfast, and Diversity Reception.
- Ensure that ethics and responsible conduct of research (RCR) are consistently reflected in SfN programming.
- Develop programming that demonstrates that ethics and RCR are essential components of professional development requiring continued attention, regardless of career stage.
- Look for opportunities to incorporate ethics and RCR in SfN programming, both as stand-alone efforts and in conjunction with other training activities, either through PDC, Neuroscience Training Committee, or other SfN committees.
- Professional Development Workshops and Webinars
- Develop and implement a series of professional development sessions at the annual meeting. Ensure that topics and themes rotate from year to year to meet the evolving needs of the neuroscience community.
- Utilize Neuronline and other platforms developed by SfN to provide a diverse set of professional development opportunities on a year-round basis.
- Partner with other relevant organizations in developing and/or providing professional development content.
- Develop professional development resources for use by local chapters and work with chapters to initiate implementation. Materials and resources will also be made available online for use by the SfN community.
- Work with the Global Membership Committee to develop and support professional development activities targeted at SfN’s international members.
- Provide input and guidance to staff to strengthen and expand career development resources provided on Neuronline, including NeuroJobs, the online career center.
- Trainee Professional Development Awards
- Develop and maintain appropriate criteria to enable the award process for SfN member trainees, at all levels of their education, to facilitate their attendance at the SfN annual meeting, based on merit.
- Working with the Committee on Committees, evaluate the process on an ongoing basis to ensure goals and outcomes are being met.
D. Higher Education and Training Strategy
Members have expressed a strong desire for SfN to serve the needs of SfN’s membership by being a leader in advancing lifelong scientific training opportunities and knowledge in ways that complement the efforts of institutions of higher education. Further, as the field of neuroscience continues to attract growing numbers of trainees, SfN should enable greater coordinated engagement of, and support for, neuroscientists worldwide as they acquire and transmit important knowledge and skills.
- Promote effective communication and support for members on issues of neuroscience education and training as an element of SfN’s mission and strategic plan.
- Ensure that needs and interests of neuroscience departments and programs and their trainees are effectively met.
- Develop and disseminate resources (both internal and external) and programs that support scientific training and education goals.
- Coordinate participation of academic institutions, as a group, in SfN’s advocacy efforts to inform policymakers about neuroscience research and workforce needs.
- Consider new and better ways to serve the needs of institutional members engaged in neuroscience training (neuroscience departments and programs and non-degree granting institutions, such as foundation supported laboratories) into SfN’s membership structure.
- Increase diversity among trainees and scientists in neuroscience and related disciplines.
- Serve as a focal point for neuroscience educators and their institutions, while creating added value for members through combined and expanded resources dedicated to neuroscience education and training.
- Leverage SfN’s increasing digital and online capabilities to expand the portfolio of scientific training programming offered to members and the field.
- Support the varied and unique needs of Neuroscience Departments and Programs as they train the next generation of neuroscientists.
- Seek and engage leaders of neuroscience departments and programs who have a significant history of involvement in advancing education and research training in academic neuroscience.
- Leverage and build upon successful approaches and programs overseen by the Neuroscience Training Committee, including work with Institutional Program members and the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), as well as global partners engaged in neuroscience education and training.
- Maintain close collaboration and coordination, and build relations with other organizations, including FUN, the Association of Medical School Neuroscience Department Chairpersons (AMSNDC), and the Network of European Neuroscience Schools (NENS), that represent the interdisciplinary domains in which neuroscience departments and programs can reside.
- Ensure close coordination and synergy with SfN’s professional development and diversity strategies.
- Work with global partners to address the training and learning needs of scientists and programs around the globe.
- Continue efforts to develop new training programs, evaluate their effectiveness, and look for scientific training opportunities, technologies, and methods.
- Expand SfN’s scientific training programming to provide technical resources to members around the world to assist them in lifelong learning about scientific tools and techniques.
- Utilize a wider array of tools and technologies to provide scientific training programming worldwide, including consistent and regular use of “virtual conferences” to increase the reach and impact of scientific training resources.
- Ensure attention to diversity and inclusion in accordance with the Diversity Strategy (Part E).
- Provide a forum for postdoctoral members to expand their training opportunities and participate in SfN efforts to support the next generation of neuroscientists.
- Ensure robust scientific training courses are available at the SfN Annual Meeting.
- Organize events during the SfN Annual Meeting that serve SfN’s Institutional Program members.
- On a regular schedule, conduct a survey of neuroscience departments and programs to determine the recent trends in higher education, student services, curriculum, and related issues.
- Strengthen existing partnerships and identify potential new partners for collaborative activities in support of the professional development needs and concerns of members engaged in teaching neuroscience
- Expand linkages and coordination with FUN and other relevant organizations, including those outside North America.
- Seek to engage SfN chapters as active partners in implementing the higher education and training strategy.
E. Diversity Strategy
Diversity is an organizational priority of SfN and programming must ensure representation of all members. Individuals such as women, researchers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and those with disabilities contribute to the expansion and quality of research produced in neuroscience.
- SfN leadership and participation in SfN programs and initiatives reflect the diversity of SfN membership.
Increased opportunities in support of professional development activities for women and individuals underrepresented in neuroscience.
- The Society will make greater efforts to increase diversity within SfN's leadership and governance structures, its membership, and its professional development activities.
- Through its publications and its leadership, SfN will articulate diversity as a core value and highlight its importance to the profession at every level.
- Task the Committee on Committees (CoC) to increase outreach to segments of the membership that are underrepresented in the Society's committee and leadership structure.
- Develop and execute programs, such as NSP, and work toward ensuring diversity in all organization activities, as well as the promotion of diversity in the field of neuroscience.
- Provide input to the Program Committee to maintain appropriate policies and procedures, with regard to the Annual Meeting scientific program.
- Continue to monitor the field to seek partnerships and collaborations with other organizations or entities that promote diversity activities.
F. Annual Meeting Strategy
This strategy is currently being revised by SfN leadership.
G. Federal Funding Strategy
Engagement between the scientific community and policymakers is an essential element of advancing scientific progress. The Society’s support for advocacy efforts, in the U.S. and around the globe (through collaboration with international partners), reflect the urgency of such interactions. As a leader in the research advocacy community, SfN should continue emphasizing the central role of investigator-initiated research, the importance of peer review, the critical role of basic science in discovery and progress, and the global nature of scientific collaboration.
The Society for Neuroscience seeks to secure Congressional and Administration support for consistent and robust funding for biomedical research that reflects the emerging scientific opportunities for the field of neuroscience. This will require the continued development and implementation of an advocacy strategy that values member engagement at all levels, advocacy communications, and leveraging SfN’s credibility with policymakers. Additionally, the Society will continue to broaden and strengthen unified approaches to support biomedical research that works both within and beyond the scientific community.
- Recognize that involvement in advocacy utilizing the Society’s voice and member’s engagement is essential to the success of efforts to support consistent, robust research funding.
- Seek opportunities to advance appreciation for neuroscience and to enhance government and public understanding of the value of federal support for research.
- Remain engaged and active within coalitions on issues related to science and research, including funding and policy changes that have implications for neuroscience.
- Leverage SfN’s size and voice to push for bolder action when appropriate and helping to build coalition consensus when it increases the likelihood of progress.
- Build and maintain strategic relationships with thought and political leaders who have the ability to project issues onto the national public policy agenda.
- Support efforts to increase global funding for neuroscience research as expressed in Strategic Plan B. – International Strategy.
- Member Advocacy and Engagement – Increase SfN member engagement in advocacy both in Washington, D.C. and in members’ home states to leverage the importance of localized messages and outreach. Continue developing and offering applicable tools, resources, and methods that encourage and facilitate member-lawmaker relationships, which can be shared with SfN Chapters and members at-large.
- Sustain an advocacy network comprised of SfN members and members of the public who support neuroscience who commit to developing substantive communications and relationships with their members of Congress and staff. Provide network members with regular federal policy and appropriations updates. Use network members to target specific legislators on key votes and issues.
- Develop a nationwide network of advocacy leaders at the local level to train and advocate on issues important to the Society. Use these leaders to build stronger relationships with policymakers in support of neuroscience policy and funding.
- Develop a strong and dependable set of neuroscience champions consisting of Members of Congress who can provide visible and meaningful support for policy impacting neuroscience and biomedical research.
- Engage chapters, local advocacy leaders, and neuroscience departments and programs in advocacy activities with the intent that they mobilize locally, and train fellow chapter members to communicate with legislators the importance of federal research funding and other policies. Offer advocacy trainings in Washington D.C. and at the local level by traveling to specific chapters and departments to teach interested neuroscientists how to effectively educate the public and advocate to policymakers on behalf of neuroscience.
- Involve members in hands-on advocacy, using activities including the annual SfN Capitol Hill Day, the SfN Annual Meeting, and the Early Career Policy Ambassador Program, hosting lab visits for Members of Congress, and participation in Congressional Neuroscience Caucus briefings or other Capitol Hill meetings and events.
- Leverage the SfN Annual Meeting to highlight the breadth and depth of neuroscience research to policymakers, including the use of poster floor tours, coordinated advocacy by the meeting attendees and strategic use of advocacy communications.
- Continue to urge the membership to contact policymakers on crucial issues and votes via an e-mail advocacy service and other direct outreach to elected representatives. Educate and mobilize SfN leaders to deliver key messages to political leadership.
- Submit statements and testimony from the SfN President, GPA Chair, and other Society leaders to Congressional committees and leadership advocating in the strongest language possible for robust, consistent, and dependable federal funding for neuroscience and biomedical research.
- Increase SfN’s use of advocacy-focused communications to highlight the benefits of neuroscience and basic research nationwide through outlets like the press, social media, and others as appropriate.
- Support the efforts of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus to bring educational and other briefings to Capitol Hill for showcasing the value and advancements of neuroscience research.
- Continue to work with biomedical research groups and other coalitions to maximize the Society’s influence on Capitol Hill and in other venues, while building stronger relationships with a broader array of organizations and individuals that support biomedical research. Ensure that membership in coalitions fulfills specific advocacy goals, such as outreach to industry, working with recognized science leaders, and collaborating with patient and disease groups.
- Biomedical Research Advocacy – Continue membership in coalitions, such as Research!America, that represent the broader community in advocating sustained funding for basic and applied research, as well as continued collaboration with organizations.
- Industry Partnerships - Reach out to industry leaders who exert considerable influence through partnerships with other organizations, and urge their support for the economic importance of research in the U.S. and global economy.
- Coalitions with Patient/Disease Groups - Continue leadership role in the American Brain Coalition (ABC), which seeks to bring together patient groups and professional organizations in support of a shared agenda of expanding research.
- Develop and consistently deploy messages that serve as the centerpiece of SfN’s federal strategy including, but not limited to:
- Neuroscience research – from basic to translational – offers opportunities to improve health outcomes, particularly in the areas of mental and neurological health.
- Support for biomedical research is one of the best investments we can make in our future – it saves lives and decreases health care costs.
- Basic research serves as the foundation for translational and clinical applications that lead to medical treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
- A strong U.S. research infrastructure is essential to enhancing the global science enterprise and ensuring the nation’s economic competitiveness.
- Inadequate and unpredictable biomedical research funding is constraining grants, thus threatening research programs across the country and driving young investigators from the research field.
- Continue to develop and deploy communications in multiple venues in support of the federal strategy, including, but not limited to:
- Writing op-eds with SfN leaders and grassroots volunteers that illustrate and support the need for basic research and connect the value of robust funding to improvements in human health.
- Pitching op-eds and getting them placed by working closely with media.
- Write material for Neuroscience Nexus and Neuroscience Quarterly related to federal advocacy activities, value to members, and opportunities and examples of engagement.
- Consistently sharing social media messaging aligned with federal advocacy strategy across multiple platforms including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to share advocacy stories, information about SfN engagement and activities including issuing statements or testimony, federal science policy decisions or developments, and coalition partner activates such as briefings or sign-on letters. Drive followers to more information on the SfN.org website or action alerts.
- Seek out and write stories about member engagement in advocacy, develop videos that share key advocacy themes for SfN.org that are shared on social media.
- Attend coalition advocacy events and write about them or collaborate to produce video content about them for multiple venues, for example Congressional Neuroscience Caucus briefings and Rally for Medical Research.
H. Science Policy Strategy
While well understood within the scientific community, the Society must remain vigilant in reinforcing the legitimacy, priority, and value of basic science research to broader audiences, including the public and policymakers.
- The Society will play a leading role in the support of basic research in all fields of biology, as well as translational research. This includes the support of the responsible use of animals and humans in research.
- The Society, partnering with other scientific, academic, and health care organizations, will educate and engage targeted priority audiences on the benefits and necessity of basic, scientific curiosity-driven research, including the use of animal models.
- The Society will work to combat the efforts of extremists who seek to restrict legitimate animal-based research or who abuse the regulatory system in attempts to drive researchers away from using animal models.
- SfN should focus on policies that are rooted in science, advance the needs of the scientific community, and provide support for the scientific enterprise. This evidence-based decision making will form the basis on which the Society decides to engage on policy-related matters.
- SfN should continue developing and offering activities and messages on these topics for specific audiences, including policymakers; university presidents, deans and research VPs; law schools and attorneys; primary and secondary educational settings; and neuroscientists. Leveraging public outreach tools like BrainFacts.org can help disseminate these messages.
- Facilitate ongoing collaboration between SfN's Public Education and Communication Committee, the Government and Public Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Animals in Research to incorporate animals in research messaging in Society public-facing and education material.
- The portfolio of issues relevant to SfN will be reviewed annually and recommended to Council for approval by the Government and Public Affairs Committee.
- Continue to distribute materials and promote the Animals in Research section of BrainFacts.org through priority science education partners, including the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
- Continue to emphasize the importance of basic research and the importance of animal models in research throughout SfN produced materials and on BrainFacts.org.
- Consistently articulate the scientific basis for supporting the responsible use of animals in research wherever relevant in all SfN publications, materials, and information.
- Seek opportunities to communicate these key messages with media, on SfN social media channels, and in storytelling related to the value of basic research and the appropriate use of animal models in advancing neuroscience discovery.
- Collaborate with scientific organizations around the globe to make SfN's basic scientific message a universal one.
- Support and protect SfN members’ ability to engage in responsible scientific research. This effort will include the following:
- Continue to update and promote resources to enhance institutional support for faculty targeted by anti-research extremists.
- Use SfN.org as a platform to provide support and resources for members/institutions involved with animal research, including providing materials from partner organizations like the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR).
- Continue efforts through SfN.org, BrainFacts.org, and in coordination with other organizations to promote educational resources aimed at developing a broader understanding and support for basic research, including that which uses animals.
- Continue to regularly engage SfN membership (both in the U.S. and internationally) on issues impacting animal research by:
- Engaging with FENS on the execution of a 3-year Memorandum of Understanding that envisions collaboration on both advocacy and animal research issues (See Part B—International Strategy).
- Looking for opportunities to collaborate with global partners in order to share best practices and strategies around animal research issues.
- Establish collaborative arrangements for international content relating to animals in research on BrainFacts.org.
- Ensure that member resources contain material suitable for a non-U.S. audience.
- Working with partner organizations, such as the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) and Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), look for opportunities to serve as a catalyst for coalition coordination and activity as it pertains to animals in research.
- Create forums and venues for pro-research discussions through Neuronline, op-ed pieces, and working with other scientific societies, clinicians, and patient advocates.
- Continue working with NABR on legal and other issues that arise and are prioritized by the Committee on Animals in Research (CAR), for example public records requests that seek personal information on researchers and challenges to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).
I. Public Communication and Education Strategy
SfN strives to be a key trusted and authoritative source for neuroscience information for the public with particular emphasis on educators, policymakers, and the news media. The need for the public to know more about neuroscience, in addition to increased public attention and interest in the brain, present an opportunity to deliver neuroscience information to receptive audiences. At the same time, the rapidly changing media landscape, including the growth of social media, offers communications vehicles through which SfN can effectively reach target audiences.
In the 24/7 news environment, SfN can effectively develop and deliver neuroscience messages to reach a variety of audiences including media, members, scientific community, policymakers, educators, and the public. Communications should reflect key issues: emerging knowledge that is advancing science, improving health, and promoting wellness; the importance of federal research funding to advance science, the importance of animal models in biomedical research, and the need to strengthen public support for science through education about the brain. SfN must work, to the best of its ability, to articulate and disseminate scientific knowledge and communicate the value and excitement of scientific research.
- Greater civic neuroscience literacy throughout the general public as a result of SfN's communications outreach;
- Greater awareness, appreciation, and support for neuroscience among SfN target audiences.
- Inspired curiosity among young people who are encouraged to study neuroscience or become brain aware citizens as a result of SfN educational products and information.
- Widespread support for neuroscience research among policymakers.
- A greater number of SfN members engaged in public outreach and strengthen the science community's capacity to communicate science to the public.
- Communication that enhances and underscores SfN’s reputation as trusted source of authoritative, vetted, high-quality information about the brain and nervous system.
- Consistent focus on SfN priority audiences: the general public and crucial sub-audiences of educators and policymakers. The media is an audience with its own characteristics, and an important vehicle for reaching the other key audiences. Ensure disseminated products are consistent with SfN’s commitment to scientific accuracy and are fully vetted by experts.
- Strategic communication delivered in a way that is relevant to everyday experiences and through in person and evolving digital channels, including BrainFacts.org, SfN.org, Neuronline and social media
- Support of future neuroscience discoveries and progress, reflected in SfN public resources that integrate the Society's positions on science policy and advocacy matters, such as animal research, research funding, and the importance of STEM education.
- Broad representation of diverse neuroscience topics through public information and outreach activities should reflect the breadth and depth of the field.
- Consistent quality enhancement informed by effective metrics that monitor and measure impact and reach.
- Public Outreach Resources & Dissemination
Maintain quality and enhance reach of current publications and resources to the public, educators, students, and policymakers.
- Strengthen and enhance the reach of SfN's signature public information/education vehicle: BrainFacts.org. Continue to leverage this importance resource and expand its reach through targeted content and dissemination strategies.
- Promote content and new materials through new and existing partnerships and venues. Strengthen dissemination of high-quality supporting materials on neuroscience aimed at students through multiple vehicles and partnerships with science teacher organizations, and disseminate information to the policy community about the importance and impact of science funding.
- Prioritize use of dominant digital communications tools, formats, and channels from multimedia to social media.
- Brain Awareness Week/Campaign
Sustain and strengthen public education activities surrounding Brain Awareness, increasing engagement in BAW and working toward a goal of expanding BAW into a year-round campaign.
- Strengthen dissemination of tools and resources to the education community and the general public through existing channels, and explore additional ones that continue to engage the public, leveraging BrainFacts.org and other communication vehicles as well as identifying new partners to aid our efforts.
- Make it easier for members to participate through examples, turn-key tools, and resources for BAW outreach to chapters and other interested parties.
- Continue to inspire and showcase member engagement and creativity through crowd-sourced content strategies (such as the Brain Awareness Video Contest). Develop further opportunities for two-way communication and creative expression with members and the public on brain awareness.
- Media Relations
Sustain high levels of media relations activity in support of annual meeting, The Journal of Neuroscience, and year-round communications by continuing to innovate and modernize operations.
- Expand the universe of potential media outreach across the globe by working with national societies, funding entities, and universities to inform press offices of JN research or press releases involving their scientists.
- Continually evaluate, and improve where necessary, the review, vetting, and outreach process for annual meeting abstracts and JN studies.
Maintain a key messaging framework that can be adjusted for use with all SfN audiences. Messages will incorporate core concepts, and will be reflected in language describing SfN programs and topics, including BAW, annual meeting, animals in research, and public-facing materials.
- Messages will be used as the basis for training SfN staff, leadership, and key volunteers who speak to the public and via the media.
- Support and enhance the development of seasoned media spokespeople within SfN by offering message/media-training to key volunteers.
Help increase the number of scientists who are trained and willing to engage in SfN's diverse public outreach strategies. Enhance field-facing training strategies that leverage existing platforms such as Professional Development Workshops, Neuronline, the "Find a Neuroscientist" program, chapters or other venues to improve capacity for public communication and opportunities for engagement.
J. Financial Reserve Strategy
SfN seeks to ensure the Society has sufficient resources to serve its members during both favorable and adverse economic conditions, and to sustain the capacity to reinvest selectively in priority programs to benefit members.
- Maintain significant reserves to ensure that SfN would have time to adjust to drastic or sudden external changes while allowing time to re-stabilize the Society's business model. This goal seeks to ensure that SfN has sufficient financial flexibility to withstand unpredictable external events, such as:
- To accomplish the above, SfN will seek to reach and maintain a reserve portfolio market value equal to at least 115 percent of the identified liabilities1 in the Multi-Year Reserve Strategy Document.
- Strive to achieve end of year financial results that generate net revenues between $500,000 and $1 million in annual net operating surplus.
- Allocate up to $500k of the reserves each year to support strategic initiatives, as determined by the established criteria.
- Continue to employ a balanced, realistic financial management strategy that plans for moderate revenue growth from diversified revenue streams and continues rigorous control of expenses, consistent with fulfilling the Society's mission and goals.
- Consider the aggregate risks faced by SfN in all facets of its operations, and seek ways to plan for, minimize, or mitigate those risks.
- Be mindful that increasing reserves both can protect against adverse financial events and provide an opportunity to draw income from those higher reserves to contribute to the support of the Society's mission.
- Ensure program enhancements or departures from the multi-year planning targets are balanced by revenue increases and/or expenditure reductions to ensure stable, planned budgetary growth.
- Staff will prepare and Council expects to approve annual budgets with net revenue targets of between $500k and $1 million with any surplus to be added to the reserves each year.
- Monitor the cash flow, move funds as available to the investment portfolio, and optimize cash management by utilizing a collateralized line of credit.
- Develop adaptive revenue generation and expense management strategies in response to unanticipated economic conditions or financial outcomes to achieve the strategic targets.
- Work with the Finance and Investment committees to update the Multi-Year Reserve Strategy document at least annual based on current investment returns, revenue and spending projections, and risk assessment.
1 The identified liabilities include one year's consolidated operating budget, endowed assets, general operating liabilities, deferred revenues, and a self-insurance fund for building operations.