I always get excited as we begin to approach the start of the Annual Meeting, which is now less than a month away! Not only do I look forward to the great basic and applied science and the technological advances that are a large part of our meeting, but also I look forward to reconnecting with former colleagues, lab mates, and friends I haven’t seen in a while. And it seems that the prognosticating groundhog (Punxsutawney Phil, who annually forecasts what kind of spring we will have in the United States) I mentioned in my first President’s Message got our memo, as he has recently forecasted an early spring!
30th Anniversary of the Undergraduate Diversity Program
This year, we are proud to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Undergraduate Diversity Program (UDP)! The program seeks to provide opportunities for students and faculty advisors from underrepresented groups to attend the Annual Meeting to learn about toxicology and to begin to network and develop mentoring relationships with other scientists. The events and activities planned each year are designed to provide a concentrated exposure to the discipline of toxicology so that participants can learn about the possibilities inherent in the pursuit of graduate studies in the biomedical sciences. At the beginning, the program focused on involving local students in the cities where the Annual Meeting was held, but with the receipt of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for the program, it expanded to include a national draw of applicants each year. Notably, SOT was the first professional organization to receive funding from the NIH to support this kind of activity!
Many of our members have been volunteers with the UDP, which is managed by the Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI), and more than 1,000 students from 380 institutions have participated. While it can sometimes be difficult to gauge the success of programs like the UDP, we know that the program is achieving its goals. Dr. Jennifer Rayner was a program participant and is now actively engaged in the program as a volunteer and mentor and shares her experience, along with a history of the program, in this issue of the Communiqué ("Participation in the 2001 Undergraduate Diversity Program and Follow-Up Mentoring Led Me into a Lifelong Career in Toxicology"). Additionally, you can read about other scientists who have participated in the UDP on the Eye on CDI web page. SOT is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all its activities because we know that embracing diversity and optimizing inclusion maximizes our range of creativity and innovation. I’m very proud of what all the volunteers and staff have accomplished with this program over the past 30 years and look forward to what the next years will bring. All meeting attendees are welcome to attend the CDI Reunion on Saturday, March 9, at 7:30 pm, which is being held at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore in Constellation A, to celebrate the program’s accomplishments, meet this year’s participants, and congratulate everyone on a job well done.
New Toxicological Sciences Editor-in-Chief
In addition to its routine business, the 2018–2019 Council started its administrative year with two primary objectives to accomplish: developing a new strategic plan and hiring a new Editor-in-Chief (EIC) for Toxicological Sciences. I’m pleased to say that we have achieved both objectives.
We recently announced that Dr. Jeffrey M. Peters will become the new EIC, effective July 1. I know Jeff is enthusiastic about this new opportunity and has some exciting ideas to continue the upward trajectory of the journal within the biomedical sciences. I encourage you to stop by and meet him in the SOT Pavilion (Booth #3864) between 10:00 am and 11:00 am Monday through Wednesday during the Annual Meeting. I also want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Gary W. Miller, who will be stepping down as EIC at the end of June after serving the journal for six years. We appreciate his leadership and stewardship under which the journal has flourished and continually evolved, including enhancements to further its mission of featuring the best research and discoveries in toxicology. Gary shares some of his reflections on toxicology and being the EIC for Toxicological Sciences in this issue of the Communiqué ("Reflections of an Editor"). Gary also will be available at the SOT Pavilion on Monday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm and Tuesday and Wednesday from 9:30 am to 11:30 am.
2019–2023 Strategic Plan
The new Strategic Plan is complete and ready for your feedback. As part of the development of the plan, Council received coordinated feedback from multiple stakeholders, including individual interviews and multiple small focus group discussions, as well as a stratified random survey that was sent to 2,000 members of the Society (stratification by length of membership and residence in the United States versus outside the United States). An additional 500 Student members were randomly surveyed. Council also requested that in their annual reports, the SOT Component Groups (Regional Chapters, Special Interest Groups, and Specialty Sections) provide input on specific questions. Based on this wealth of information, Council developed the strategic plan for 2019–2023. The plan will focus on strengthening SOT’s impact on science and public/environmental health (the central challenge). To support the central challenge, four strategic priorities have been defined. Strategic priorities are the few critical things we must do in order to meet our central challenge. Strategic priorities are considered necessary and sufficient (when taken together) to meet the central challenge. Under each strategic priority are four specific objectives that are considered critical actions in support of each strategic priority.
The plan extends several aspects of the 2015–2018 plan, including sustained focus on maximizing scientific prominence and promoting transdisciplinary science and collaborations across the biomedical sciences, as well as building the capabilities and effectiveness of our members, including focusing on the pipeline of scientists engaged in toxicological sciences. Our science and our members are critical pieces to the success of our discipline and the Society. We also heard from many sources urging the Society to take a more active role in science communication and promoting the appropriate use of good science. You may recall that Council made several decisions around communications several years ago. We do not intend to reverse those. Rather, we are looking to develop a strategy to help us better engage with and influence the influencers and to promote the use of science in decision-making. Our new relationship with the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) may prove highly useful as we strive to accomplish this priority, and it also affords us an additional avenue to amplify our message. This may be the most challenging priority we have but also may be the most transformative. Finally, we are a large organization with many members, volunteers, and moving parts. We are aware that there are opportunities to improve our effectiveness and efficiency while continuing to enhance the engagement of our membership. The last strategic priority addresses this, and one of the objectives has already begun to be implemented.
Council seeks your input on the plan that has been developed. I have recorded five presentations (each six to eight minutes in length) describing the new Strategic Plan and its priorities; the recordings are available on ToXchange to be listened to at your convenience and can be accessed by logging in with your SOT credentials. To aid in your understanding of what was considered during the development of the plan, we also have posted the executive summary of stakeholder input as well as the summary of and data from the online surveys.
IUTOX 15th International Congress of Toxicology (ICTXV)
Finally, I want to take a moment to remind you that SOT is hosting the IUTOX 15th International Congress of Toxicology (ICTXV) in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 15–18, 2019. The theme of the meeting is “Toxicology Solutions for Global Public, Environmental, and Personal Health.” Together with IUTOX and other sister societies, the ICTXV Scientific Program Committee has created a program highlighting excellence in science and the practice of toxicology around the globe. There are 20 Symposia, 4 Keynote Lectures, and 8 Continuing Education Courses. If you have late-breaking research that fits the meeting theme, the deadline for submitting a late-breaking abstract is March 21. In addition, housing and registration are open now. Importantly, early-bird registration ends on April 15, so I encourage you to register soon for the best rates.
I mentioned at the start of this message that I always look forward to our Annual Meeting. While feeling that excitement again this year, I also know that it signifies to me personally that my time as your president is coming to a close. It seems like only yesterday that it started. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you, and I am grateful to you for putting your trust in me to lead this auspicious organization. I am thankful to have served with all the members of the SOT Council, a group of hard-working and highly dedicated individuals who also know how to have fun together. Thank you to all the volunteers on our committees, those involved in our Component Groups, everyone who submitted an Annual Meeting proposal and those who are chairing and speaking in sessions, and those who work on meetings outside the Annual Meeting. We (Council) may set strategic direction, but you make things happen. Thank you to everyone who has donated to the SOT Endowment Fund this year and in years past—this issue of the Communiqué features an article on Visionary Endowment supporters Daniel and Patricia Acosta ("Giving Back to Support Diversity Initiatives and Enhance the Society"). The proceeds from the endowment fund are allowing us to provide many opportunities to individuals in a variety of areas of interest to keep the Society vibrant both now and in the future. And a tremendous thank you to all the members of our SOT Headquarters staff who also are key partners in the success of SOT.
I look forward to seeing all of you in Baltimore!