President’s Message: Statement on Social and Political Issues

By Michael Aschner posted 07-07-2022 14:11


Over the last few years, myriad events in the United States have resulted in hard conversations and self-examinations on many public and social issues: police procedure and black lives, LGBT+ rights and education, mandated vaccinations and public masking—to name just a few. More recently, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has brought discussions on women’s rights and abortions into this mix.

As an organization with science as its mission, SOT leadership focuses on providing tools, resources, and platforms for scientists to advance and share their research for the betterment of public, environmental, and animal health. With this, it is recognized that the Society must support its members to the best of its abilities, creating a safe and welcoming environment for sharing and discussing science and offering opportunities for people to do so.

Many of the topics previously mentioned invoke strong reactions—for all viewpoints of the issue. It would be a disservice to the SOT membership to let those reactions dictate the Society’s decisions and programs designed to further its scientific mission. But SOT does not operate within a scientific bubble, and social issues can and do have bearing on SOT members, which make them of concern to the Society. However, when necessary, we will continue to stand for scientific truth and support scientific credibility, as evidence-based informed choices are the only path forward.

It is not the place of SOT to tell you how to feel, but the Society intends to remain an organization committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to maintain a culture of respect among its members. In extension, it will make every attempt to ensure the safety and comfort of its members when engaged in SOT activities.

To this end, some members may be apprehensive about the future locations of the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. The SOT leadership is aware of these concerns and will take action to address them to the best of its ability. The reality is that meetings of the size of SOT are limited in where and when they can be held. Contracts for convention centers and hotels must be signed years in advance to secure the necessary space. These facts are not meant to excuse the Society from considering the political and social implications of meeting locations, but it does mean that political and social implications may arise after SOT financially committed to a course of action.

The 2023 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo is taking place in downtown Nashville, Tennessee—a state that some view as undesirable due to legislation associated with bathroom signage targeted at transgender individuals and a potential abortion ban due to the Dobbs decision. Each individual must make the attendance decision with which they feel comfortable, but it is important to note that the Nashville metropolitan area prides itself on being a welcoming community and supportive of rights for all. Through numerous resolutions and executive actions, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County has demonstrated that it does not support—and in some cases does not recognize—Tennessee legislative actions that could exclude, isolate, or harm specific communities or individuals. The same is true for prominent city officials, including Mayor John Cooper and District Attorney Glenn Funk. More details about the city’s views and laws will be available in August on the 2023 SOT Annual Meeting website.

As society and individuals grapple with these societal issues on a local and global scale, SOT wants you to know that it is a haven for you and for science, and SOT leadership welcomes your feedback.



07-09-2022 03:15

In a historical moment of strong national and international social tensions, scientific societies should continue in their mission and limit any interference with the political choices of governments. United in science, the theme of the next ICT / EUROTOX meeting should be our motto. IUTOX will support SOT decision to stand for scientific truth and support scientific credibility, as evidence-based informed choices as the only path forward.

07-08-2022 15:54

Perhaps already-planned meetings cannot be changed at this time.  But SOT needs to take the safety of women, LGBTQ+ folks, and black people into consideration when planning future meeting locations.  How can a pregnant female SOT member safely travel to a red state for an SOT meeting--if she suffers a miscarriage while there, she'll be left to die rather than provided medical care (this is a scientific medical issue, as well).  How can a transgender individual safely travel to a state that  has made their existence illegal?  It's about safety of SOT members.  Does not bode well for diversity, equity, and inclusion of SOT if these safety issues are ignored in future meeting location decisions.

07-08-2022 09:36

Thank you Sir for your constructive statement.  I appreciate the Society not giving in to political pressure.  In general, we should refrain from getting involved in cultural issues.  Boycotting cities only hurts small businesses and working poor.

07-08-2022 06:57

Thank you for addressing this political issue in such a constructive way on behalf of the society.

07-07-2022 20:31

Our solidarity with SOT. Our best regards to all of you at SOT.
Jayadev Raju
Society of Toxicology of Canada (STC)