President's Perspective: April 2021
After a year dominated by working from home and virtual meetings, neuroscientists are heading back to the laboratory and realising the importance of social interaction. With national vaccinations commencing, attending a scientific conference with lively discussion and new ideas is again a reality. I encourage you to start planning to "Reconnect the Network" in December in Melbourne.
While 2020 will be remembered as a year of uncertainty and change, we have been fortunate to have limited the worst impacts of COVID-19 in Australia and New Zealand. I hope we can all look forward to a progressive return to normality in 2021 as our national vaccination strategy commences and expect that you will be relishing getting back to the lab and interactions with colleagues.
To our members, I hope that your research, teaching or study has not been too badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am particularly mindful of the financial impacts of the pandemic on jobs in the university sector and the continued low success rates of investigator-initiated NHMRC and ARC grants. It has been a challenge for many, and our collective advocacy is required to ensure the importance of neuroscience is properly valued and supported.
I would like to pay tribute to President Cliff Abraham for his strong leadership over a challenging two years and to Treasurer Brian Dean who helped the society grapple with its desire to support neuroscience activity around the country from a limited budget. While some tough decisions were required, we now have a strong base on which to grow. Thanks to Thomas Fath for his organisational prowess and untiring work as Secretary and thanks also to departing State Representatives Yazi Ke (NSW), Ethan Scott (QLD), Alison Canty (TAS) and Kristin Hillman (NZ) and Student Body Committee Chair Amr Abdeen. It's a pleasure to welcome new Secretary Michael Lardelli and new Treasurer Jana Vukovic to join Conference Executive Chair Kaylene Young and myself on the Executive and Nicole Jones (NSW), Tara Walker (QLD), Lyndsey Collins- Praino (SA), Cathryn Blizzard (TAS) and Johanna Montgomery (NZ) as new State Representatives and Ashleigh Geiger as new Student Body Committee Chair who form the Council. Together with our continuing members, the Executive and Council look forward to serving you, the members of ANS.
Since 2005, the Australasian Course in Advanced Neuroscience (ACAN) has been held on Stradbroke Island where an outstanding intensive three-week course has taught early- and mid-career researchers the theory and practice of electrophysiological recording and optical imaging techniques. While Stradbroke Island is a lovely venue for such a course, its isolation presents a number of logistic challenges. The ACAN Committee, now led by ACAN Director Chris Reid, decided to move the meeting to the mainland, but their best laid plans were thwarted by the pandemic and the 2020 course had to be cancelled. However, it's now ready to return, being held at the Florey Institute from 25 July to 14 August.
Council took the difficult decision that we would not be able to conduct our 40th anniversary Annual Scientific Meeting in Perth in December 2020. I want to pay tribute to the entire Local Organising Committee's efforts and especially the co-convenors Julian Heng, Stuart Hodgetts, and Ann-Maree Vallence. We truly appreciate your hard work and look forward to returning to Perth when we are able. However, as an example of the incredible pivot of activity that we have seen during the pandemic, we held a very successful one-day virtual meeting featuring ANS prize recipient presentations, an exciting 3 Minute Thesis final, and the Annual General Meeting.
"Reconnect the Network" is the theme for our next Annual Scientific Meeting to be held from 6 to 8 December 2021 at the Pullman Albert Park in Melbourne. I encourage you to start planning and submit your symposium proposals, and later, submitting an abstract, and attending. By December, with the national vaccination rollout completed, we should all be returning to being able to enjoy each other's company, having a stimulating scientific exchange, and with international speakers attending virtually, there should be more opportunity than ever for members to present their world-class neuroscience research findings.
Wishing you the best for a productive and successful 2021 and to Reconnect in December in Melbourne.
Prof Peter R Schofield AO
President's Perspective: January 2019
It is an honour to be serving a term as President of ANS. ANS is the peak body for neuroscience in Australasia (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) and with that role comes a responsibility for it to promote and support excellence in neuroscience across the spectrum of the field. ANS does this in multiple ways: perhaps most importantly through its annual conference and associated prizes and plenaries, but also through its long-standing and internationally acclaimed Australian Course in Advance Neuroscience (ACAN), its various active and enthusiastic committees as listed on this website, its deep support for the Australian Brain Initiative (and who knows, maybe a New Zealand Brain Initiative in the future), and its engagement with a host of international neuroscience societies and groups such as SfN, FENS, JNS, FAONS, IBRO, and the International Brain Bee Committee. Many benefits and opportunities are now accruing to our members as a result. Overall, this means we have an impact on the teaching and research in neuroscience in schools, at universities and institutes, and internationally. Our work means that society as a whole benefits.
ANS is only as strong as its active membership. I’m delighted but also very thankful that so many ANS members continue to volunteer their precious time and effort to serve on the ANS Council and its many committees. As important, though, is the ongoing membership in the Society and attendance of members at the annual conference which continues to be a wonderful celebration of the excellence of neuroscience in Australasia, as well as an opportunity to learn about new ideas and techniques and to form new collaborations. The ANS Council and Local Organising Committee continue to be mindful of constraining costs while offering a superb conference to its members.
With this in mind, I encourage all members to remember to renew their memberships for the coming financial year, and of course to come to the neuroscience party in Adelaide in December. And encourage your colleagues to do the same! Our new website should make it so much easier to do both.
I am always available to discuss any issues, concerns or suggestions regarding ANS.
Professor Cliff Abraham
President's Perspective: April 2017
Our work as scientists is very occasionally celebrated by the wider community. Recently, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was awarded the Australia Day Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his work on neural stems cells. In addition, Professor Colin Masters was awarded an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his work on Alzheimer’s disease, and Professor Richard Faull was made a Knight Companion of the Order of New Zealand for services to brain research.
“The love for and dedication to my work seems to me to be the basis for happiness. As a research worker, the unforgotten moments of my life are those rare ones which come after years of plodding work, when the veil over nature’s secret seems suddenly to lift and when what was dark and chaotic appears in a clear and beautiful light and pattern.” Professor Gerty Cori, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1947, for understanding glycogen and energy metabolism. Source: http://beckerexhibits. wustl.edu/mowihspwords/CoriEssay.html
ANS Council is very pleased to announce that the new annual meeting plenary lecture to be named after a female neuroscientist will be named after Professor Elspeth McLachlan, FAA. Professor McLachlan made seminal discoveries in the autonomic nervous system (see https:// www.science.org.au/fellowship/fellows/professorelspeth-mary-mclachlan), was the first woman president of ANS (1996-1997), and held a number of senior management roles both at The University of Queensland and The University of New South Wales. In addition, Professor McLachlan’s contributions to Australasian science endure in her mentorship of a number of highly successful neuroscientists. The inaugural Elspeth McLachlan Plenary lecture will be held at the annual ANS meeting in Brisbane in 2018. Nominations for the speaker (male or female) will be made through the usual plenary speaker nomination process.
At the ANS AGM meeting in Hobart, ANS Council and members raised the possibility of having the AW Campbell and Nina Kondelos medal winners give talks in the meeting in the year following their award. ANS Council has now agreed that these significant awards should include a lecture by the awardee. Both medal winners from 2016, Dr Stephen Abbott (AW Campbell winner) and Professor Naomi Wray (Nina Kondelos winner) will be invited to give talks at the annual ANS meeting in Sydney in 2017.
The local organising committee (LOC) for the annual meeting in Sydney has been working extremely hard. The final program for the meeting will be available shortly. A significant issue the LOC and the ANS Executive have had to deal with are the significant cost increases arising from holding the meeting in Sydney. The LOC has managed to retain the registration cost at the same rate as the 2016 meeting in Hobart, partly by making the lunch costs optional, but also through other cost-saving measures, while retaining all the features of what will be a truly excellent meeting with an outstanding scientific program.
ANS Executive met recently for a full-day workshop to discuss strategies for maintaining the upward trajectory of the Society that will allow it to remain financially stable while providing the best possible support for our members as the peak body for neuroscience in Australia and New Zealand. This is a work in progress and the full ANS Council will meet in July to discuss developing a five-year strategic plan for the Society. Full consultation of this process with all ANS members will occur once Council has developed a draft plan. A major goal of the strategic plan will be to continue to provide an outstanding annual meeting and to develop a range of year-round benefits for the membership of the Society that will provide significant value.
Some of the ANS member benefits are detailed further in this issue of the newsletter with the new committees beginning their work to promote areas of interest to our members. In addition, the ANS Executive has negotiated some reciprocal benefits with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) for travel awards and conference attendance at local membership rates. These will be advertised in the ANS newsletter and on our website as they become available. In this issue, we are promoting ANS-FENS travel scholarships to attend Cajal courses in Europe for PhD students and early career researchers who are ANS members.
Your membership of the Society is crucial and ANS cannot exist without it. ANS provides your collective voice for science advocacy and the funding of neuroscience and represents your interests across a range of national and international science organisations. With so many areas of science competing for limited resources, it is imperative that the Society has a strong voice and this can only come from demonstrating our influence through membership numbers. We are grateful that many people have already renewed their membership for 2017, with the option of both 1 and 3 year memberships. The three-year membership option provides a saving of the consumer price index increase over three years.
If you have not renewed your membership, please do so by logging into: https://www.ans.org.auhttps://tas.currinda.com/register/organisation/172. Don’t delay, renew today!
Professor Linda Richards AO
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.
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.
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.
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 AO