SfN Council Reviews Shift to Digital-First Programming
The SfN Council held its fall meeting over three virtual sessions on October 26 & 28 and November 4 to dialogue with committee chairs and review planning efforts for the upcoming Global Connectome event. Council typically meets with committee chairs at the SfN annual meeting to discuss outcomes of the previous year’s initiatives, opportunities to better engage members and the scientific community in the upcoming year, and how programming goals align with SfN’s mission and Council priorities. This meeting allowed Council to hear feedback about how SfN’s programs are being transitioned to virtual formats and discuss opportunities to leverage virtual activities to support and engage with members.
Leveraging Technology to Convene the Global Neuroscience Community
SfN has planned a cross-cutting, digital event, Global Connectome, for January 11–13, 2021 that aims to facilitate scientific exchange among scientists of all career stages anywhere they are in the world. After making the difficult decision to cancel Neuroscience 2020, Council authorized the Program Committee to plan a digital event that would bring the neuroscience community together and offer an interactive format to present abstracts, professional development curricula, and opportunities to network with fellow researchers. The Program Committee Chairs joined the Council meeting to share the list of speakers confirmed for the event, which encompass a wide spread of scientific topics and feature several speakers based outside North America. There are twenty-seven lectures occurring over the three days of Connectome which include plenary lectures, scientific panels from junior & senior scientists, Neuroscience in Society, Storytelling, Dual Perspectives, and Ask Me Anything. Additionally, a digital poster floor allows for scientific exchange and networking, along with a virtual Exhibit Hall and a job and grad fair. Each day of Connectome will begin and end with the opportunity to participate in socials.
Fostering Inclusivity within Neuroscience
The Professional Development Committee (PDC) led the organization of a webinar titled Black Lives Matter and Neuroscience: Why This Moment Matters that was hosted on Neuronline in July. This webinar had a record-breaking number of registrants that exceeded 5,500 individuals. The webinar was extremely well received and resulted in a follow-up live chat also hosted on Neuronline. The Trainee Advisory Committee (TAC) assisted PDC in developing the webinar curricula and is also involved in fostering SfN’s partnership with #BlackinNeuro. Council is committed advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives for the Society and will continue seeking guidance from its committee representatives in these efforts.
Advocating for Sustained Support of Biomedical Research
The NIH budget increased by $11.6 billion since FY 2016 to total $47.1 billion in FY 2020. While this period of sustained growth has been positive for the neuroscience community, a challenge of the upcoming year will be Congress negotiating the path forward after expiration of budget caps approved in 2011. Spending for COVID-19 research is anticipated to increase and Council is resolved that SfN will continue advocating that this does not come at the expense of additional of robust funding for NIH and NSF.
The Government & Public Affairs Committee (GPA) are planning a virtual Hill Day in March 2021 to coincide with Brain Awareness Week. Both Council and the GPA Committee are looking forward the event format, buoyed by recent successes with a virtual congressional briefing on recent breakthroughs in neuroscience research and the possibility to engage a larger portion of SfN members, including those who live outside the U.S. The congressional briefing held on October 26 was co-hosted with the American Brain Coalition and took the place of the Public Advocacy Forum that is typically held at the SfN annual meeting.
Recognizing Scientific Achievement
Despite the cancellation of Neuroscience 2020, SfN moved forward with its 2020 awards and prizes program. A virtual Awards Announcement Week was held October 26–29, 2020 and recognized the 26 winners of SfN’s 16 awards. This cohort of winners is the largest in SfN’s history and represents a wide range of talent across neuroscience. Each day of Awards Announcement week was dedicated to the winners in SfN’s four award categories: Outstanding Career and Research Achievements, Promotion and Mentoring of Women in Neuroscience, Young Scientists’ Achievements and Research in Neuroscience, and Science Education and Outreach. Congratulatory videos narrated by SfN’s President Barry Everitt and press releases were issued on SfN.org and shared on SfN social media channels.
At this meeting, Council also approved a slate of new Award Selection Committee members proposed by the Committee on Committees who will review nominations and select winners of SfN’s awards. Council is confident these new members will contribute positively to the committees in their work to recognize excellent scientists around the globe.