Spring Council Roundup
From May 6–7, SfN Council met at SfN headquarters in Washington, D.C., to assess opportunities to support students and trainees at the annual meeting and beyond, to discuss the next phase of BrainFacts.org and the search for its next Editor-in-Chief, and to evaluate the success and expansion of advocacy efforts and celebrations for fifty years of scientific progress as a Society in 2019 and 2020.
Leveraging SfN’s Financial Strength to Give Back
SfN’s business model was formulated with the intent to proactively build a robust reserve fund to ensure the Society’s ability to weather unforeseen turns in the broader economy and protect its ability to carry out its mission of advancing the understanding of the brain and the nervous system. As the reserves have grown, Council has consistently utilized surplus funds for growing sets of initiatives to alleviate financial pressures on the field and ensure all members are able to enjoy their benefits to the fullest degree. This year, Council voted to freeze annual meeting registration at the 2017 level for Neuroscience 2018. Council is deeply committed to making attendance to the annual meeting a realistic option for the global neuroscience community, and this decision directly reflects that value.
At the 2017 Members Business Meeting in D.C., Council was made aware of the pressures young attendees face and the financial burden of additional costs associated with attending the SfN annual meeting not related to travel or housing. The costs of drinks at social events were brought up as a specific example that incites financial strain, as these events are quintessential networking opportunities for young attendees seeking to make lasting connections with established scientists. SfN is dedicated to creating an annual meeting environment in which it is possible for everyone in the scientific community to thrive, regardless of their career stage, and thus Council programmed social support funding into the 2018 budget to directly address these concerns. SfN will dedicate $50,000 this year to buy down the costs of drinks at SfN-sponsored socials and the Graduate Student Reception at Neuroscience 2018 in San Diego this November to make drinks more affordable for trainees. These funds will reduce the costs of drinks and mitigate the financial burden of attending these socials.
Furthermore, in order to grow the support provided to neuroscience trainees through its Trainee Professional Development Awards (TPDA), Council has announced it will match up to $100,000 in individual donations given to the Friends of SfN Fund, along with a commitment of an additional $150,000 to match donor gifts of $25,000 or more. Additionally, SfN Council will provide $100,000 in direct support to the TPDA program, as it did in 2017. The total available funds for 2018 could be nearly $600,000, which represents a significant increase in funds for TPDAs over previous years and a strong commitment to the future leaders of neuroscience.
Growing BrainFacts.org 2.0
After relaunching in October 2017, the second iteration of BrainFacts.org boasts a modernized design and a host of innovative multimedia site features, most notably an anatomically accurate 3D model of the brain. The new site continues and expands the original site’s reputation as an authority on the brain and accessible resource to effectively engage and educate the public on the wonders of neuroscience. Council was informed of the Lundbeck Foundation’s decision to sign on as a Supporting Partner and award SfN $750,000 over the next five years to support continued content development of BrainFacts.org. This significant new partnership speaks volumes about the value placed in the site by the neuroscience community, and Council is keeping this in mind as it works to identify the next Editor-in-Chief of the site. Council recently convened a Search Committee to recommend high-caliber candidates who are both leaders in the public outreach space and innovative leaders in online education. The new Editor-in-Chief will be confirmed at the summer Council meeting in August.
Championing Neuroscience for Policymakers
Over the last year, Council has dedicated significant investments to position SfN to expand its advocacy activities in response to rising concerns about funding for science. Council heard reports on SfN’s successful Hill Day activities, in which 52 scientists participated in 93 meetings with various congressional offices and 12 with elected officials. SfN has also ramped up advocacy communications, including placing 3 op-eds since December 2017, the last of which was a direct response to the president’s budget. SfN leaders began hearing murmurings of a potential funding increase for NIH during their day on Capitol Hill. Soon after, it was confirmed that NIH would receive a $3 billion increase in federal funding. As FY 2019 begins, Council plans to continue its advocacy efforts and seek additional opportunities to lead advocacy activities in collaboration with its partners around the world.
Celebrating 50 Years of Scientific Advancement
Neuroscience 2019 will kick of the yearlong celebration of SfN’s 50th anniversary, which will culminate in Washington, D.C., at Neuroscience 2020. A dedicated working group has been convened to plan the celebratory events, many of which were presented to Council with the request for additional subcommittees to ensure events in each area involve the proper experts to ensure strong execution. The concepts that have guided these committees are that the activities should touch all subsets of the membership and yield tangible outcomes for the benefit of the field. Such plans include curating meeting curricula around artificial intelligence, incorporating a lecture with notable leaders in the field to discuss the past and future of neuroscience, deploying a special issue of JNeurosci, and much more. These commemorative meetings will be forward-looking but also honor historic achievements, while reflecting on and reaffirming the mission of the Society.