Summer Council Roundup
From August 6–7, SfN Council met in Montreal, QC, Canada to discuss multi-year financial planning and strategic programming to enhance the member experience and initiatives to meet the needs of the broader field, and to review updates for Neuroscience 2018.
As a part of a broad attempt to increase the effectiveness of services provided to members and to enhance programs supporting SfN’s mission, the strategic opportunities fund was created. Over the past two years Council has dedicated funds to high-priority mission initiatives to enhance the Society and increase member value. The Society’s strong financial position has enabled significant investment in key initiatives that are identified and reviewed annually to ensure that the support meets the needs of the organization. Based on the needs of the organization, some of the opportunities have been and will continue to be scaled up over time, while others will be absorbed into the regular operating budget. With this in mind, Council unanimously approved a recurring, annual draw of up to $2 million from its reserves to assure the approved level of support in SfN’s mission while ensuring a balanced operating budget.
The following are some of the areas where greater investments will be made in 2019.
SfN staff worked diligently over the last year on a redesign and enhancements to SfN’s flagship website, www.sfn.org, which launched on August 28. The goal of the redesigned site is to optimize the user experience by modernizing site architecture, streamlining content for effective delivery, and improving site navigation so all unique users can easily access the information they seek. The new site features a bright, visually appealing homepage that concisely presents the breadth of SfN’s activities and an emphasized announcements section with editorially curated information to keep audiences informed. Experts in the field and representatives from SfN’s leadership were consulted for input on building site pages around the variety of interests of the membership and neuroscience community at large, while also strongly reinforcing the reach of SfN’s work. The upgrade also focused on refreshing site content and improving processes for continuous content development that incorporates multimedia content. With strong encouragement from Council, SfN embarked on this project in order to provide a stronger, online home base for SfN members around the globe.
Digital Learning and Training
Council prioritized invigorating SfN’s strategic initiatives by investing in digital learning opportunities that are readily accessible to members anywhere they are in the world and that offer valuable training resources. Neuronline is fully equipped to house webinars, virtual conferences, live chats, and more to effectively facilitate an international exchange of science and ideas. SfN is positioned to be a leader in the virtual conference space by drawing upon its strengths in organizing impactful meetings and demonstrating its power of convening in a new avenue. After successes in both the pilot virtual conference on glia in 2016 and the Neuroscience Scholars Program hybrid conference in 2017, a robust strategy for future virtual conferences was approved.
In 2018, SfN launched an inaugural training series on optogenetics that guided participants through a comprehensive study of the subject that examined its applications within neuroscience, potential limitations, and how to design related experiments. The series began with eight unique modules, made available at no cost on Neuronline, and culminated in a virtual conference on September 20 at 10:00 a.m. EDT led by a panel of seminal experts in the space. Over the next year, the Neuroscience Training Committee will spearhead the planning of three additional virtual conferences covering an array of professional development topics. SfN plans to continue building out its digital learning programming to ensure its resources and programs are fully leveraged to support members everywhere.
Investing in the Next Generation of Scientists
SfN’s Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) Program recognizes undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows demonstrating scientific merit and excellence in research with the chance to present an abstract at a poster session, meet peers and network with senior scientists, and participate in learning opportunities at the annual meeting. Interest in the program has surged in recent years, prompting Council to contribute $100,000 to TPDAs in 2017 and 2018 in order to offer this opportunity to as many young scientists as possible. In 2017, SfN provided more than 200 awards to trainees from around the world, a 163 percent increase over 2016, and the number of awards is expected to increase again this year.
The success of the TPDA Program signals the value of this program to SfN’s student membership and the opportunity it poses to further enhance the overall member experience for early career scientists. During its summer meeting, Council approved an additional investment to build out the TPDA curriculum to encompass a new Leadership Development Program that would offer year-round opportunities for a selected group of awardees to partake in career development training and exercises, culminating in a two-day, in-person training workshop in Washington, D.C. These opportunities will equip participants with knowledge necessary to any scientific career, covering areas such as management, budget planning, navigating career transitions, adaptive leadership, and more. Additionally, Council sees this program as an avenue for engaging trainees and students in leadership roles within the Society. Participants will be selected from the highest-ranking graduate students and postdoctoral fellows selected to receive a TPDA, including both U.S.-based and international recipients. Council strongly feels that this more robust TPDA Program structure will impart crucial knowledge to participants that will position them for successful careers and will build a supportive, long-lasting network between current winners and program alumni.
Building a Strong Future for Science
In a 2016 member survey, SfN members signaled their interest in science advocacy, and Council responded by creating strategies for cultivating neuroscience champions on Capitol Hill and galvanizing its base through empowering citizen scientists internationally. Regular engagement with Congress members led to stronger relationships, which has enabled SfN to share language for floor speeches related to science funding. Council’s investment also allowed the development of advocacy training toolkits, which walk an audience through best communication practices and how to persuasively campaign for science causes, such as robust funding for NIH, and can be presented in person or online. SfN is working with FENS on adapting these toolkits and collaborating on the development of new resources that can be tailored to support science advocacy occurring outside the United States. Council strongly believes that sustained advocacy activities, both within the U.S. and in collaboration with international partners, will enable SfN to help to advance neuroscience priorities around the globe.
Membership and Neuroscience 2018
The 2018 “We Are SfN” member campaign launched at the 2017 annual meeting and demonstrated Council and SfN’s deep commitment to providing year-round member value, promoting inclusiveness and representation across the field, and creating a supportive environment where members of all career stages and backgrounds can thrive. This campaign has driven membership-related communications throughout the year and reinforced the importance of SfN’s role as convener of diverse voices in science. Neuroscience 2018 will take place from November 3–7 in San Diego, and Council is preparing for another impactful gathering of the global neuroscience community with an extensive program of engaging lectures, workshops, networking events, and more.