President's Perspective January 2017

President's Perspective: January 2017

As scientists facing major funding challenges, it is easy for us to lose sight of the sheer joy and intellectual comfort we are afforded in our profession to pursue questions of importance. 2016 certainly presented some great uncertainty in the world of international politics with significant surprises including Britain voting to leave the EU and the spectacle of the US election.

More than at any other time in history, science is now globally connected in a way that was impossible before the world wide web. Neuroscience is rising to the forefront of global science with major initiatives to understand the brain under way that are funded by Governments around the world (see Neuron 92, issue 3, 2016).

In early 2016 the Australian Academy of Science began to develop the Australian Brain Alliance (ABA), with the society and ANS member scientists as leading contributors. In the past year the ABA has grown to include scientists from most universities, institutes and departments where neuroscience research is being performed throughout Australia. The goal is to develop a major funding strategy to present to the Federal and State Governments to boost funding for neuroscience in Australia. Although still in its early stages, the ABA plans to release a series of discussion papers in the coming months where ANS member feedback will be sought. All ANS members are encouraged to participate in this process so that a plan is developed that will be transformative for Australian neuroscience. The ABA effectively constitutes a Government lobbying arm of ANS, without investing in our own lobbyist.

Our recent scientific meeting in Hobart demonstrated the incredible depth and quality of neuroscience research in Australia. Outstanding international scientists also travelled to Australia to participate in our meeting. (Please see the meeting report in this issue). I would like to thank the members of the local organising committee and the Chairs, Associate Professor Tracey Dickson and Dr Kaylene Young, for their tireless efforts in preparing and running such a successful meeting. In addition to the exciting science presented, a highlight was the conference dinner held at MONA in Hobart. The event was memorable for the gallery exhibitions, the light show put on by the beautiful night sky, and the warm collegial atmosphere of the evening. Our thanks again to all those involved in organising the meeting, symposia and social events.

The ANS 2017 meeting will be held in Sydney on December 3 to 6. Plenary speakers are Professor Huda Zoghbi (Baylor College of Medicine), Professor Jürgen Götz (Queensland Brain Institute), Professor Andrew Lawrence (Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health) and Professor Kathryn North (Murdoch Childrens Research Institute). Symposium proposals for this meeting are closing on January 27 so please consider submitting a proposal to ANS Editor, Associate Professor Helen Cooper, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Sydney local organising committee is chaired by Associate Professor Thomas Fath, University of Sydney.

At the ANS annual general meeting in December 2016, a number of new initiatives were approved which I would like to further outline here. In brief, these include the establishment of three new national committees, new additional members on ANS Council and new plenary lectures at our annual meeting.

Inclusion and representation of all members of our society is important for the success and longevity of ANS. At present, ANS has two named plenary lectures – named after Sir John Eccles and Professor Lawrie Austin – and it was decided at the Council meeting to include two additional plenary lectures at our annual meeting. The first will be given by the winner of the AW Campbell award which recognises a young ANS member scientist for their work within five years post-PhD. In addition, ANS will now honour a female scientist from Australia or New Zealand by naming an annual plenary lecture after her. As is the case for the other Plenary lectures, the choice of speaker for the annual lecturer is not restricted. ANS Council is now calling for nominations for the naming of this lecture. Please send your nominations to ANS Secretary, Associate Professor Kay Double at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by March 3. Nominations should include a brief paragraph describing why your nominee should be considered for this honour.

The quality of Australian and New Zealand science will depend on the promotion and support of scientists from all backgrounds, providing diverse ideas and approaches to the scientific challenges and questions we strive to solve. In this regard, ANS has adopted the Science and Gender Equity Athena SWAN principles at https://www. and is establishing a national committee on Gender Equity and Diversity. This committee will be chaired by Dr Karin Nordstrom (Flinders University) with Dr Marta Garrido (QBI) as deputy chair. The remit of the committee will be to develop ANS policies for gender equity and diversity in all of our activities and to provide support and training to ANS members on these issues. If you would like to be involved in the gender equity committee or have a comment on this topic, please email Dr Nordstrom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It has been suggested that a plenary lecture at ANS should be given by the winner of the Nina Kondelos award and ANS Council will consider this suggestion. The Nina Kondelos Prize was made possible by a donation to the Society by Professor George Paxinos, and it is named after his late sister.

Another issue facing ANS members is the growing need to advocate for the use of animals in research. ANS is establishing a new national committee on animals in research chaired by Professor Marcello Rosa (Monash University). At the meeting in Sydney, one ANS symposium will be devoted to this topic with international experts speaking about their experience and approaches to advocacy. The remit of this committee will be to establish a strategy with other national and international organisations to advocate for the use of animals in research. If you would like to be involved in the animals in research committee or have a comment on this topic please email Professor Rosa at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In addition to research, many ANS member scientists are engaged in teaching neuroscience. A wealth of resources is available that could be shared amongst our members, as well as new materials developed for teaching and outreach. ANS is establishing a new national committee for teaching resources and education chaired by Dr Matthew Kirkcaldie (University of Tasmania). The remit for this committee will be to provide a source of information-sharing, via the ANS website, of teaching materials for ANS members to use, and to establish new ways of engaging with teachers and neuroscience-related professionals, perhaps through running courses or producing new materials on Australian and New Zealand neuroscience. Please email Dr Kirkcaldie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in being involved in the education committee or have suggestions.

Related to this, it is my pleasure to announce that the ANS Council has decided that the new headquarters for the Australian Brain Bee Challenge will be the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function, based at Monash University. The new Australian National Coordinator is Professor Ramesh Rajan and the new Australian National Administrator is Dr Maria del Mar Quiroga. Please email Mar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions regarding the Australian Brain Bee Challenge. They will be working closely with the new National Coordinator for the New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge, Associate Professor Maurice Curtis (University of Auckland). The team has some wonderful new initiatives planned and we look forward to watching them build this outreach program.

The future of Australasian neuroscience is our students, and so ANS student members have established a new national ANS student body. The chair of this student body will sit on ANS Council to provide a voice for students at the highest level of the Society. I am delighted that Mr Tom Burns (Monash University) has been nominated by the student body as their inaugural representative on ANS Council. We look forward to hearing the views of students and providing support for activities that will help build the careers of ANS student members. If you have ideas for student activities or would like to provide input please email Tom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The ANS Council is also seeking nominations for a representative on ANS Council from postdoctoral fellows, early career researchers or neuroscience research technicians/laboratory managers etc. The ANS Council is keen to hear how ANS can best support these members and therefore this representative will hold a national role and will engage in the activities of the Council to help run the Society. To nominate for this position on ANS Council please send an initial expression of interest to ANS secretary, Associate Professor Kay Double at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by March 3rd, 2017. Only ANS members will be eligible to nominate for this position. An expression of interest should include a brief CV and statement of why you would like to be nominated and what you hope to achieve. ANS will then hold an election for this position in April with all ANS members eligible to vote.

These initiatives are to enable ANS to provide more for our members. In addition, we have been negotiating with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) to provide member rates to attend their annual meeting for ANS members. We are also negotiating a reciprocal agreement with FENS for student/ECR travel awards to attend FENS or neuroscience courses within Europe for ANS members and similarly for FENS members to attend ANS or courses in Australia.

In closing, I wish you all a very productive year of scientific discoveries and advances in 2017.

Professor Linda Richards

President, ANS