SfN Council Stabilizes Society’s Finances in San Diego
The SfN Council met for three sessions during Neuroscience 2022 in San Diego, California. This is the first time Council was able to hold its fall meetings in person and in conjunction with the SfN annual meeting since 2019. Council used its time to closely monitor SfN’s return to in-person meetings, meet with committee chairs, review SfN’s financial posture, and advance SfN’s international partnerships.
Welcoming Back In-Person Programming at Neuroscience 2022
Annual meeting attendance exceeded SfN’s expectations and affirmed the value SfN’s in-person annual meeting offers to the global neuroscience community. Neuroscience 2022 was the first SfN annual meeting to include both in-person and virtual attendance options to enable broad participation for neuroscientists anywhere they were in the world. Virtual registrants were able to view live streams of the featured lectures and participate in the virtual poster floor. Council feels that the virtual product is a meaningful addition to SfN’s annual meeting and will continue discussing ways to leverage this component to increase the value of the annual meeting.
Trainees made up the largest attendee category at Neuroscience 2022, and non-U.S. attendees made up just under 30% of the total number of attendees. Council recognizes that ongoing and varied travel restrictions complicate many international scientists’ ability to attend the annual meeting in person. SfN will continue striving to maximize international representation in all events by prioritizing accessibility of events and investing in virtual programming. A total of 425 exhibitors purchased booths at Neuroscience 2022 and offered a multi-dimensional perspective of the latest technologies on the exhibit floor.
Immediate feedback on Neuroscience 2022 indicated that attendees thoroughly enjoyed program adjustments, such as the addition of the SfNova lecture and offering the Meet-the-Expert series virtually throughout the meeting. The Neuroscience Meeting Planner app was also updated this year to enable live Q&A with lecturers to enhance event engagement. This addition is intended to be a permanent staple of future annual meetings. The Program Committee will use additional feedback from the post-event survey circulated to virtual and in-person meeting attendees to guide preparations for Neuroscience 2023.
Stewarding Financial Stability Amid Ongoing Uncertainty
The cancellation of Neuroscience 2020 and transition of Neuroscience 2021 to a virtual-only experience has had ongoing and significant financial ramifications for the Society. The loss of meeting revenue from the absence of in-person programming in back-to-back years has caused SfN to operate on a deficit that has compounded since the end of FY20. SfN is forecasting the deficit to continue through the current fiscal year, FY23, though the success of Neuroscience 2022 could lessen the difference between revenue and expenses.
A significant part of SfN’s financial strategy relies on the size of its Strategic Reserve Fund. Per the guidance of the Investment Committee, SfN makes an annual draw on the fund to support operations and programs. This draw was especially critical during the height of the pandemic when revenue sources were drastically reduced or flattened. The size of the reserves also enabled SfN to access lines of credit at low interest rates during the pandemic and its aftermath to cover ongoing expenses. The Finance Committee has spent much of the pandemic strategizing ways to reduce and eventually eliminate SfN’s deficit. After careful consideration and deliberation with Council, a set of modest price increases was approved across SfN’s operations. Membership and abstract submission fees will increase by $10 in each of the next two years and meeting registration will increase by $60. Council also approved increasing the amount of the annual draw from the reserves by $250,000 over each of the next two years, which will make the draw total $2.25 million in 2023 and $2.5 million in 2024.
These actions have a cumulative impact on SfN’s financial posture that positions SfN to continue stewarding its current slate of programs and scale up initiatives to ensure its membership value proposition remains strong.
Supporting Neuroscience Around the World
SfN and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) have long supported one another in achieving their mutual aim of strengthening the global neuroscience community. At the fall meeting, Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that formalizes the partnership between IBRO and SfN. This MOU commits SfN to annual funding for 15 fellows selected by IBRO to attend the SfN annual meeting and 15 fellows selected by SfN to attend the IBRO World Congress. SfN will continue to pay annual membership dues to IBRO as it has for years, which is now captured in the MOU. This is a significant milestone in the partnership between SfN and IBRO because it solidifies the initiatives already carried out between the organizations and lays the foundation for future collaboration to enhance the partnership. The MOU captures priority areas for supporting global neuroscience where new initiatives may be developed such as training, public outreach, national advocacy, and more.
Entering a New Chapter of JNeurosci
Sabine Kastner was named as the incoming editor-in-chief of JNeurosci earlier this year and her term began on January 1, 2023. Council met with Kastner in person for the first time in San Diego for an annual report from the current publication leadership, including outgoing editor-in-chief (and President-Elect) Marina Picciotto, and discuss ideas for what’s to come for JNeurosci. Kastner is committed to increasing transparency around the journal’s publishing process and engaging trainees at the appropriate level of editorial review. The editor-in-chief of eNeuro, Christophe Bernard, will be a close collaborator of Kastner as they work alongside the Scientific Publications Committee to carry forth SfN’s publishing strategy. Read more about Kastner’s plans as EiC in the Q&A included in this NQ issue.
Nurturing the Next Generation of Scientific Leaders
Trainee Professional Development Awards (TPDA) are a staple of the annual meeting that are widely acknowledged as a key element of supporting the next generation of scientists. These merit-based awards are presented each year to deserving undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who demonstrate excellence in their research. These awards provide those in the early stages of their careers the chance to present a scientific abstract, meet peers and network with senior scientists, and participate in the wealth of learning at the annual meeting. Recipients of a TPDA have access to exclusive professional development opportunities throughout the year following their award.
In 2022, SfN was able to bring a record-breaking 272 trainees to San Diego to partake in the annual meeting. These awardees represent 18 countries and over 100 institutions across the globe. Council is committed to continuing to steward the growth of the TPDA program as interest grows year over year. Donations to support 2023 TPDAs can be made online to the Friends of SfN Fund until June 30, 2023.