Toxicology transcends many boundaries, but while the science remains the same in disparate locations, local regulations and concerns have international impact and influence on approaches used in research. To help maintain its awareness and involvement in toxicology around the world, SOT partners with other organizations, such as EUROTOX, on a variety of initiatives. EUROTOX has a long-term relationship with SOT. It is a federation of national societies of toxicology in Europe and has 31 societies representing around 7,000 toxicologists across Europe, as well as around 200 individual members from countries around the world.
SOT and EUROTOX share many common goals. Within both organizations, education, communication, integrity, and scientific excellence are key to the identity of the societies and to their individual members. These shared goals have translated into a number of activities over the years, some with a long tradition and others more recent.
Most notably, the SOT/EUROTOX debate has been held annually since 1993 and offers an interesting and interactive way to tackle an often controversial subject. Each year at the SOT Annual Meeting, the “home team” SOT debater argues in favour of the motion whereas the “away team” EUROTOX debater argues against. This is reversed at the EUROTOX meeting in the fall — quite a challenge for the speakers who must argue passionately for one side and then the other six months later! Topics tackled during the debate have included those that were hot at the time, such as “Apoptosis Is the Most Important and Critical Pathway in Toxicant-Induced Cell Death” (1994) and “Nanotoxicology: Is It Much Ado about Nothing” (2009), as well as perennial topics, such as risk assessment and the pros and cons of various methodologies aimed at replacing animal testing. Most recently, at the SOT 55th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in March 2016, Thomas M. Monticello, DVM, PhD, DACVP, Amgen Inc., and I tackled “Preclinical (Toxicity) Testing Predicts Clinical Outcome.” There was no clear winner, but let’s see what happens later this year in Seville!
Alongside their many similarities, there are some interesting differences in the two societies, mainly around their modus operandi. It’s useful to be aware of these as a backdrop for partnership.
For example, the SOT Council, officers, and members of elected committees are elected by the membership based on a ballot put forward by the Nominating Committee. In contrast, the EUROTOX Executive Committee (EC) members and officers are elected at the business council meeting from a slate of candidates put forward by the national societies, while members of subcommittees are proposed by the EC and ratified at the business council meeting.
Another interesting difference is how the annual meetings are organized — both in terms of location and programming. For the SOT meeting, the logistics are organized with the help of a professional association management company that works hand-in-hand with SOT Council and the Scientific Program Committee (SPC). For EUROTOX, national societies compete five years ahead for the honour of hosting the annual meeting, but the final choice is made by vote at the business council meeting. Meetings are then developed by a local organizing committee (LOC) from the host nation working with the SPC and the EC. There are advantages to both systems: The SOT way of working gives continuity and protects institutional memory, while the EUROTOX way empowers the member groups and ensures each annual meeting has a local flavour. Despite these differences, both societies are well known for their excellent annual congresses.
“The quality of the EUROTOX annual congress has been improving year-on-year with increasing numbers of delegates (~1,500 toxicologists) and with high-quality science,’” says EUROTOX EC and SOT SPC member Heather M. Wallace, PhD, FRCPath, FBTS, FRSC, FSB, FBPhS, ERT, University of Aberdeen.
As well as several long-standing collaborative activities, SOT and EUROTOX have just begun to plan for a first joint executive council meeting to be held in London in January 2017. Originally proposed by SOT President John B. Morris, PhD, ATS, University of Connecticut, the aim of this meeting is to identify shared goals and areas where pooling resources can assist in delivering our shared global aims. “We anticipate the agenda will be wide-ranging, leaving flexibility to allow a free exchange of ideas,” explains Dr. Morris. “The aim is for even greater cooperation and collaboration between our two organizations.”
One of the issues that will no doubt be on the agenda is the issue of the decline of toxicology as an academic discipline in Europe. “The EUROTOX EC has just published a position paper to draw the attention of universities and governments to the consequences of such a decline,” shares EUROTOX President-Elect Mumtaz Iscan, PhD, Ankara University. “Additional topics of mutual interest are a continuation of the harmonization and training standards for toxicologists and official recognition of toxicologists by regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere.”
Overall, the partnership between SOT and EUROTOX provides an unparalleled opportunity for both organizations to benefit from the transfer of expertise and knowledge and to increase our networking circle by bringing together a world-class group of toxicologists.