SfN Council Reviews Finances, Global Partnerships
The SfN Council met for three sessions during Neuroscience 2023 in Washington, D.C. Council used its time to monitor SfN’s annual meeting programming, meet with committee chairs, review SfN’s financial position, and advance SfN’s global partnerships.
The total attendance at Neuroscience 2023 was 25,808, over one thousand attendees higher than Neuroscience 2022. This is about 90 percent of normal pre-pandemic attendance. Registration for the on-demand virtual component was open through December 15.
Trainees comprised the largest attendee category at Neuroscience 2023, continuing a trend that began in 2019. Non-U.S. attendees made up 27 percent of the total number of attendees. Council recognizes that varying circumstances including travel restrictions complicate many non-US based scientists’ ability to attend the annual meeting in person. SfN is committed to maximizing global representation in all events by prioritizing accessibility of events in person and virtually.
A total of 471 companies exhibited in 884 booths at Neuroscience 2023 and offered a wide range of perspectives on the latest technologies on the exhibit floor. Exhibitors also had the opportunity to hold a presentation or product demonstration in the new Product Theater. Immediate feedback indicated attendees were satisfied with the meeting with approximately 96% of survey respondents indicating that the meeting met or exceeded their expectations. The mobile app, which had been significantly updated after Neuroscience 2022, received positive reviews. SfN will continue to build upon the feedback received about the Q&A for lectures and virtual poster presentations to increase accessibility for Neuroscience 2024 attendees. The Program Committee planned three webinars this year aimed at helping abstract submitters to prepare their abstracts for submission. Two of the webinars were the Society’s highest attended of the year, both live and on demand. The committee will plan these webinars again for 2024.
SfN demonstrates strong financial responsibility and health and has been successful in supporting its mission in the face of a challenging funding environment for scientific research. At their November meeting, the SfN Council reviewed the results of Fiscal Year 2023 and progress to date in Fiscal Year 2024. SfN’s financial health is driven by consistent revenues, efficient operations, and controlled expenses. SfN’s Strategic Reserve Fund works to cover the future year’s operating budget and a percentage of other identified liabilities. Following a review by the Finance Committee on the Strategic Reserve Fund’s multi-year strategy, Council approved an expansion of the Fund’s assets to ensure the Society can overcome crises that threaten multiple fiscal years.
Council has been a supporter of the International Brain Bee (IBB) organization since its inception in 2018. The IBB exists to motivate students to learn about the brain and to inspire them to pursue careers in neuroscience. During the November 2023 meeting, Council reviewed the IBB’s progress report and renewed its commitment to the IBB’s success by approving funding support for the next three years.
Earlier in 2023, SfN and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) executed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formally document areas in which the two organizations had jointly been collaborating on and/or contributing resources to initiatives of mutual interest. At their November meeting, Council approved an amendment to the MoU providing for IBRO to be more involved in the promotion of SfN’s international abstract submission (ISM) program. ISM assigns designated “slots” allowing members of various international societies, who are not SfN members, to submit abstracts to the SfN annual meeting and register for the meeting at the SfN member rate. This amendment leverages IBRO’s connections to its regional committees and global partners to raise awareness and effectively distribute these opportunities.
SfN and the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) renewed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding in April 2023 to continue their partnership in supporting global neuroscience research. At their November meeting, Council approved an amendment to the FENS/SfN MoU formally codifying several already established activities between the parties aimed at supporting the participation of international scholars and researchers in their respective meetings.
Additionally, Council approved a proposal to create and execute an MoU between SfN and the Chinese Neuroscience Society (CNS) to facilitate travel awards to each Society’s annual meeting. SfN will send five awardees to the CNS meeting, and CNS will reciprocally fund five awardees to attend the SfN meeting beginning in 2024.
Council and the committees of the Membership Engagement Cluster – the Global Membership Committee and the Trainee Advisory Committee – recognize that the field of neuroscience has expanded greatly over the last 10-15 years and individuals with a degree in neuroscience now have more career options than ever before, including non-academic careers. SfN has been and continues to be seen as primarily an academic-focused organization, and as a result, may not currently be positioned to attract and retain individuals who are not on a career track in academia and/or who no longer see SfN as their professional home despite being a neuroscientist. Council moved to form a working group on SfN individual membership to revisit and review the current individual membership categories, nomenclature, definitions, new member application requirements, and benefit access.
In addition, Council is aware of the many pressures placed on its members and prospective members in the current environment. To help, Council moved to 1) create a financial incentive whereby regular members who joined/renewed by January 19 receive a 50% off coupon toward a 2024 student/postdoc membership and 2) reduce the number of required sponsors on the new membership application.
The Trainee Professional Development Awards (TPDA) are a key element of supporting the next generation of scientists. These merit-based awards are presented each year to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who demonstrate excellence in their research. These awards provide early career researchers the chance to present a scientific abstract, meet peers and senior scientists, and participate in learning opportunities at the annual meeting. TPDA recipients also have access to exclusive professional development opportunities throughout the year after their award.
In 2023, SfN brought a record-breaking 447 early career scientists to Washington, D.C., to take part in the annual meeting. These awardees represent 23 countries and over 260 institutions around the globe. Council is committed to stewarding the expansion of the TPDAs as interest grows year after year. Donations made to support the 2024 TPDAs through the Friends of SfN Fund are matched dollar for dollar by Council.