Message From the President: A Wave of Success
It is a huge honor to join the ranks of SfN presidents in this second year of the second half century of the Society’s existence. I was elected as incoming president in 2020, but little did I imagine that officer and Councilor positions would be frozen almost immediately after my election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, I will (hopefully) forever hold the record for longest serving incoming president, Gina Turrigiano will hold the record as the longest-serving president elect, and Barry Everett will hold the record as the longest-serving SfN president. Our Society owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Barry, Gina, and the rest of the SfN Council for their steady leadership during a prolonged crisis that no one could have imagined.
"Our Society owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Barry, Gina, and the rest of the SfN Council for their steady leadership during a prolonged crisis that no one could have imagined."
My involvement in SfN began when I was a second-year graduate student and attended SfN's second annual meeting in Houston. When I took my first position as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, my faculty mentor was David Cohen. Dave was heavily involved in SfN and has volunteered with the Society throughout his career, serving on many SfN committees before joining Council, where he served as secretary and then as the 13th president of SfN; he continues to serve on the SfN Investment Committee. Dave encouraged me to become involved in SfN and undoubtedly nominated me for committee service, and my first service was on the Chapters Committee. I then served on various other committees including the Public Information Committee (now the Public Education and Communication Committee), the Finance Committee, and on Council. Serving as one of the volunteer leaders of SfN has been hugely rewarding and critically important for my career!
Gina officially passed the gavel to me at the end of Neuroscience 2022, where I and everyone else I met was riding the wave of a fabulously successful in-person meeting after two years of virtual-only programming. I can’t explain why science depends so much on mostly random in-person conversations — it just does — those random conversations that start at breakfast with someone you’ve never met that lead to collaborations and unexpected insights. We are social beings, and these serendipitous interactions are so critical.
As SfN continues to respond to a world still recovering from the pandemic, the entire Council and I are working to achieve a more complete understanding of what our members value and need now. An important part of this is the member survey, which closes January 31. Please check your email and take the time to fill this out! The more complete the response, the better we can respond to your needs.
Even in advance of the survey results, Council and I understand that SfN needs to make adjustments to increase member value for early and mid-career scientists and to enable this segment of our membership to participate in the Society’s governance. We also appreciate that there is a need to increase accessibility for members and potential members world-wide whose participation has become more difficult and sometimes impossible due to continuing impact of the pandemic, geopolitical issues, and increases in travel costs.
If there have been any positive outcomes from our collective pandemic experience, it has been in forcing our experimentation with virtual programming of scientific content and career development. The Program Committee and Council will be evaluating lessons learned to help us design better virtual programming to increase member value for individuals throughout the world. The other important lesson learned these past few years is that our in-person annual meeting is of immense importance for members at all career stages. It can perhaps be further enhanced, but never replaced!
"...our in-person annual meeting is of immense importance for members at all career stages. It can perhaps be further enhanced, but never replaced!"
Although SfN suffered a major financial loss due to the cancellation of two in-person annual meetings, we came through it in a good position to recover. In addition to the very astute pre-planning for potential natural disasters – including pandemics – the other pillar of successful emergence from the pandemic was proactive, astute management of the acute situation by SfN staff. Staff dedication to the SfN mission was essential during the worst of the pandemic shutdown and maintained the enthusiasm to rapidly adjust and then create the remarkable, well attended, and restorative annual meeting we enjoyed in November.
SfN is not out of the woods yet in terms of financial challenges. But everything done in the past by a dedicated, thoughtful, and active voluntary leadership team, our membership, along with the talented, dedicated, and thoughtful SfN staff, has positioned us optimally to rebound and expand all the activities that are of value to our community. I look forward to the coming year of continuing recovery, enhancing SfN’s global reach and value, programmatic innovation, and promoting diversity.
I could not be more excited!