Message From the President: Returning to Our Roots
Spring! A time of renewal and rejuvenation — and planning for Neuroscience 2023!
One of the special treats of assuming the role of SfN president is the meeting logo, which is designed based on the president’s research. The incoming president does not see the new logo until it is unveiled, with explanation, at the SfN Council meeting on Wednesday morning after the passing of the gavel at the Member’s Business Meeting Tuesday night. A major component of my research is on ways to regenerate the corticospinal tract (CST) after spinal cord injury, the pathway that controls our ability to move. The Neuroscience 2023 logo, designed by the incredibly talented SfN staff member Holly Herman, was inspired by the CST in the brain as it originates from neurons in the motor cortex and descends through the internal capsule and brainstem. For me, the logo also brings to mind the Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh), the many meanings of which revolve around how the Celts viewed trees as vital to their existence — true of the CST and true of SfN's annual meeting!
There was overwhelming enthusiasm for the return to the in-person annual meeting, and consensus that the in-person meeting is irreplaceable, particularly as a way of making connections with colleagues.
Neuroscience 2023 planning is well underway, and the input from the survey of Neuroscience 2022 attendees has been particularly important in guiding SfN’s planning process. The key take-homes from the meeting survey were very clear: 1) There was overwhelming enthusiasm for the return to the in-person annual meeting, and consensus that the in-person meeting is irreplaceable, particularly as a way of making connections with colleagues; 2) Virtual programming elements were appreciated by those who couldn't attend the meeting for economic reasons or inability to obtain a travel visa, as well as those who faced scheduling or other conflicts. All of this is being carefully considered by the Program Committee and Council as planning for Neuroscience 2023 moves forward.
Looking ahead, there are certainly growing challenges for the in-person annual meeting including increases in travel costs and ever-changing geopolitical issues too numerous to detail. Impediments and actual roadblocks to travel are increasing for scientists throughout the world, so increasing numbers of scientists will find it difficult to attend. A major challenge for SfN will be to develop new ways to engage those unable to attend in the scientific exchanges and sociology of science that drives advances. All of this is under consideration at the spring Council meeting including evaluations of which virtual components will best serve Neuroscience 2023 based on experience at Neuroscience 2022 and member input.
While the Neuroscience 2022 meeting survey results have already helped guide SfN’s planning for Neuroscience 2023, the results from the SfN member survey are being tabulated and digested. There will be more on the member survey to come — and thanks to all who participated in both these important surveys.
To prepare for Neuroscience 2023, the Program Committee met in Washington, D.C., on March 9–10 to select special lectures, symposia, and minisymposia — where I also announced my four Presidential Special Lecturers. Huge thanks to Program Committee Chair Haruhiko Bito, and all the members of the Program Committee who attended the committee meeting in person. It is difficult work to make selections from many excellent proposals while upholding the core values of SfN and its members. I can't wait until November!
The other important activity in March was the annual SfN Hill Days organized by the Government and Public Affairs Committee (GPA). This is our community’s opportunity to connect with congressional staff (and occasionally Members of Congress) on key funding issues as the new Congress develops the U.S. federal budget. Huge thanks to GPA Chair Lori McMahon and SfN staff members Katherine Bloom and Adam Katz for their hard work preparing our NeuroAdvocates for this opportunity. And when it came to the actual presentations to congressional staffers, SfN’s Early Career Policy Ambassadors were the stars of the show!
The annual meeting is back in Washington, D.C., for the first time since 2017, bringing us back to the site of the first SfN Annual Meeting in 1971. This return to SfN’s “roots” again brings me to the Crann Bethadh, which was planted whenever the Celts founded a village and acted as the site for public gatherings. It is highly fitting that again, we gather for the annual meeting that, like the Tree of Life, embodies for neuroscientists longevity, strength, wisdom, and rebirth.