As I write this message, it is unseasonably warm in the US mid-Atlantic region, but there are still plenty of reminders that the holiday season is upon us. Before the year soon draws to a close, I wanted to share with you that your SOT Council has been working hard in 2015 (and that will not change in the coming year).
Every year, SOT Council keeps a close eye on the strategic plan as part of an ongoing, evergreen implementation process, but it also dedicates a significant amount of time to focus on a specific aspect of the plan. This year, SOT Council examined the SOT’s programs and activities in career advancement, recruitment, and education (CARE) to guide the implementation of key objectives of the 2015–2018 Strategic Plan. One of the SOT’s three strategic priorities for 2015–2018 is to Develop and Support Toxicologists to Capitalize on Future Opportunities. Two strategic objectives within this priority are to (1) Clarify/communicate the evolving roles and skill sets for toxicologists, and (2) Promote the recruitment, education, and development of a diverse and creative community of toxicologists.
To help the SOT fulfill these strategic objectives, Council identified the following goals:
- Increase education in toxicological sciences,
- Increase member engagement with mentorship at all career stages to advance careers in toxicology and strengthen the discipline, and
- Increase opportunities for training in skills that promote career advancement.
Using these goals as a guide, the year-long evaluation of CARE-related activities and programs, in which the Society invests significant resources, focused on the following considerations:
- Identifying new ways to accomplish an activity more effectively,
- Minimizing overlap and redundancy pertaining to similar activities across committees,
- Identifying what is working well and where improvements could be achieved, and
- Determining if SOT should be involved in the activity, especially if another organization is doing it better.
Council appreciates the strong efforts and commitments of the CARE-related committees: Education Committee, Committee on Diversity Initiatives, Career Resource and Development Committee, Postdoctoral Assembly, and Graduate Student Leadership Committee, and also recognizes the many benefits that each committee’s activities bring to building for the future of toxicology and SOT. I am pleased to report that the systematic review of CARE-related programs and activities reconfirmed the value that many of these efforts produce for the membership and other constituents. Further, Council identified opportunities to enhance some ongoing activities and changes in priorities for other endeavors. In the coming months, Council will work with the CARE-related committees to begin implementation of these priorities and opportunities. As these initiatives are incorporated into the committees’ workflow, blogs will be shared with the membership.
The Society continues to enhance the impact and relevance of toxicology with key audiences, an important part of our new strategic plan, by fine tuning our communications activities. This year, SOT Council refined the process for developing Issue Statements. Based on feedback from SOT members, Council formed an Issue Statement Review (ISR) Task Force to assess the SOT Statement Procedure. As part of this process, the ISR Task Force developed a new additional means for SOT members and groups to communicate topics of importance in toxicology to external audiences: Express Statements, replacing Tox Topics that were developed by the former Communications Committee.
With Express Statements, SOT members and groups are encouraged to develop short statements that discuss recent news, issues, and/or other activities that impact the understanding of toxicology. Issue Statements remain a means for communicating larger, longer-standing issues in the field. Any member, or non-member, can suggest topics for Issue and Express Statements and work on helping create them. For more information about SOT Statements, please visit the SOT website.
Beyond developing the process for Express Statements, the ISR Task Force engaged relevant Specialty Sections and Special Interest Groups to review the existing menu of Issue Statements and Tox Topics, making recommendations to SOT Council to retire, retain, or update them as needed. Moving forward, these groups will continue to make these recommendations by retaining ownership of these documents and reviewing them every year for accuracy and relevance. To continue the evergreen process of implementing the strategic plan over the next three to four years, SOT Council will continue, as needed, to refine additional communications activities and develop new strategies, as communications remains a priority for the Society. Members are always welcome to suggest new ways to improve our efforts.
Another SOT strategic objective is to foster interactions with toxicologists around the globe, including scientific exchange, education, and training. I was honored to be able to help represent SOT at the 9th Congress of Toxicology in Developing Countries (CTDC) held November 7–10 in the city of Natal, Brazil. This triennial conference was held in conjunction with the XIX Brazilian Congress of Toxicology, and the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) and the Brazilian Society of Toxicology (SBTox) collaborated to organize a superb meeting. Close to 400 attendees from 38 countries had the opportunity to listen to and engage with scientists from five continents in numerous scientific sessions each day. The scientific program spanned a range of toxicological topics, from molecular toxicology to issues of water and soil quality to risk assessment. A special networking session was held to discuss how best to use technology to both promote the science of toxicology and to share educational and training resources across the world’s time zones. The CTDC provided an important opportunity for many scientists from around the world to discuss pressing environmental and occupational health issues, especially those facing developing countries and Latin America in particular. I was strongly encouraged by the very high number of graduate and undergraduate students in attendance—their enthusiasm for their research was evident at their poster presentations each day.
After Brazil, my attention has shifted to the upcoming SOT Annual Meeting in New Orleans in March 2016. By all accounts, this meeting will be a good time that should not to be missed. I remind you that we again will be treated to an outstanding scientific program highlighting the breadth of toxicology as well as the latest advances; opportunities for networking and continuing education; celebrating member accomplishments; access to the largest expo of instrumentation, research supplies, and services; reunions with old friends and prospects for meeting new folks; and a meeting location full of culture, cuisine, and music. I am looking forward to seeing you in the Crescent City. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
In these final weeks of 2015, I wish for all of you a special time of reflection and meaningful celebrations with family and friends, and to begin dreaming and planning for 2016.
Peter L. Goering, PhD, DABT, ATS
SOT 2015–2016 President