I have had the honor and pleasure to serve on the SOT Council twice—first from 2008 to 2010 as a Councilor and now as the Society’s President and a member of the Presidential Chain. During my first tenure, under the leadership of my good friend and colleague Michael Holsapple, 2010–2011 SOT President, Council deliberated extensively whether SOT should become an international or a global organization, the distinction being that as a global organization, the Society would expand its outreach and influence through partnership and collaboration with other organizations rather than taking on international initiatives alone. The decision, and one that I think was correct, was to strive to become a global organization.
Nearly a decade has passed, and as I began my second Council tenure, I was struck by how much progress has been made toward that goal:
- Our membership includes more than 1,500 members from outside the United States, representing 77 countries.
- Through the SOT/SOT Endowment Fund/IUTOX Travel Awards, over 130 scientists from underrepresented countries have had the opportunity to participate in and enrich our annual meetings.
- SOT has continued and expanded the Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program (GSSEP), which supports collaborative efforts between distinguished toxicologists in developing countries and SOT members from established toxicology programs.
- SOT has supported over 30 global meetings and/or initiatives to facilitate global collaborations since 2012.
These are impressive accomplishments, but perhaps less visible are the exchange programs that have been developed between the Society and both EUROTOX and the Japanese Society of Toxicology (JSOT).
As part of a collaboration that began a few years ago, the SOT and the EUROTOX leadership meet at the SOT Annual Meeting and the EUROTOX Congress each year to exchange ideas and discuss opportunities and challenges. In addition, EUROTOX and SOT sponsor a joint debate at each annual event on a key topic in toxicology and annually exchange award lectures, with a Bo Holmstedt Memorial Award Lecture at the SOT meeting and a Merit Award lecture at the EUROTOX conference. Similarly, JSOT and SOT sponsor an exchange each year through which two scientists from each organization participate in a Symposium focused on a topic of global interest at each Society’s annual event. For example, last month in Tokushima, Japan, the topic of the Symposium was progress and challenges in integrating new approach methodologies into the decision-making process. There was standing room only throughout the Symposium, and it was an excellent discussion.
Council continues to look for opportunities to expand the Society’s global efforts. Although there is yet work to do, much of which is included in the new Strategic Plan, SOT members should be proud of the Society’s progress in becoming a true global organization and its successes in creating a safer and healthier world through its partnership and collaboration.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to inform the membership of two exciting outcomes from the July SOT Council meeting. For the start of this fiscal year, which began on July 1, Council pledged $45,000 in matching funds for Endowment Fund donations to any fund approved as of the start of the fiscal year but not yet in permanently restricted status. There was a flurry of highly generous activity starting July 1, such that shortly thereafter two of the six approved funds still in temporary status reached permanent status (the Yves Alarie Scholarship Fund and the Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkatti Research Excellence in Immunotoxicology Award Fund) and the $45,000 available in matching funds was exhausted. In recognition of this benevolence on the part of our membership and considering the original intent of the matching fund program—to help temporarily restricted funds to reach permanent status—Council approved the allocation of additional matching funds for donations to the remaining four approved funds still in temporary status. These additional matching funds will immediately convert two of the four remaining temporary funds to permanently restricted status (the James A. Swenberg Carcinogenesis Merit Award Fund and the Legacy Travel Award Fund). The Dr. William M. Baird Travel Award Fund and the Future of Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Endowment Fund remain in temporary status, but matching funds will be provided for donations made through the end of the quarter (September 30), giving the membership additional time to garner donations in their efforts to achieve permanent status for these two funds. Donations to these two funds will be matched up to the point at which they reach permanent status.
Council also has been evaluating ways to ensure all SOT members who are interested are able to participate as fully as possible in the Annual Meeting. In reviewing the 2019 Annual Meeting Survey, Council perceived a need to support members with caregiver responsibility for younger children, as the absence of organized childcare services at the meetings was a significant deterrent to attendance for a portion of the membership. In June, Council approved a new child policy for the 2020 Annual Meeting and distributed a survey to better understand the childcare needs of its members. Those survey results were reviewed at the July Council meeting, and options for providing childcare at the 2020 Annual Meeting were discussed. A motion was approved to establish a pilot program to provide childcare services during the 2020 Annual Meeting and to provide a voucher to cover the cost of one day of care per registered attendee (details will be available later this year). We are excited about this pilot program and hope it will facilitate the ability of SOT members with young families to participate and benefit from our annual meetings.
In additional Annual Meeting news, the 2020 SOT Annual Meeting website is live. Chaired by Dr. George Daston and co-chaired by Dr. Myrtle Davis, the Scientific Program Committee has put together an outstanding program for Anaheim. I encourage you to visit the website to review the list of Scientific Sessions, register for the meeting and Continuing Education courses, and reserve your accommodations for the meeting. On the website, you also can find information on submitting Platform and Poster Session abstracts by the October 18 deadline.
Finally, SOT offers many opportunities to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of our members. The deadline for the major SOT awards is October 9; please consider nominating your deserving colleagues.