As many of you know, in 2017 SOT joined FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. FASEB consists of 30 life sciences societies that collectively have more than 130,000 members. Among its many functions are science policy, advocacy, and education; in-depth science conferences; and awards for both scientists and policy makers. Joining FASEB has given SOT the opportunity to add its voice to those of many other life sciences societies on important matters of science policy. It is also increasing the visibility of our science.
Science policy and advocacy are some of the more important functions of FASEB. FASEB provides testimony to congressional appropriations committees on an annual basis with recommendations on funding levels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and other federal agencies that provide research grants in the life sciences. Historically, FASEB has been very successful in advocating for increased funding for health-related research. Another focus in the policy arena is to decrease the burden of regulation on researchers so that more time is spent on science and less on paperwork. FASEB also highlights for policy makers the use of appropriate model systems, including animal models, in biomedical research. As part of its policy activities, FASEB organizes visits to Capitol Hill, where members meet with members of both chambers and/or their staff. These visits establish connections between legislators and the life sciences community, increasing the likelihood that we will be asked for input on prospective legislation or regulation.
Additionally, FASEB supports a large number of focused, in-depth conferences in specific subject areas, particularly those where progress is rapid. These meetings are limited in attendance (100–150 participants) and are held over four to five days with morning and evening sessions to maximize interactions. This may be an opportunity for SOT, possibly in collaboration with another FASEB society, to organize a FASEB Scientific Conference on a hot topic.
FASEB also has an active education program, and we are finding that it has many of the same interests and goals as SOT. One FASEB activity is developing materials for teaching soft skills to graduate students—managing others, collaborating, resolving conflicts, and others—that are important for career success but are rarely taught in any formal way. FASEB, like SOT, recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in advancing science and provides support for diversity programs within its member societies.
Public education and outreach are another part of the FASEB mission. FASEB provides resources to the public that explain the importance of life sciences research. These run the gamut, from basic research that has health implications (e.g., the basics of gene editing) to matters of public health (e.g., the benefit of vaccinations). FASEB may be a useful portal for SOT to amplify its communications.
In preparation for the renewal of the SOT strategic plan, an ad hoc group within Council did a deep dive into FASEB activities to ensure that we make appropriate use of FASEB as we chart out our strategic goals for the next several years. The group did most of its work through interviews with our members who serve on the FASEB board or its committees, and with the FASEB executive director. Many thanks to the ad hoc group—Miki Aschner, Courtney Sulentic, and Anne Chappelle—and to the SOT members who serve on FASEB committees: John Morris, Bernie Goldstein, Donna Mendrick, Tao Wang, Tom Knudsen, Peter Goering, Mary Beth Genter, Aaron Bowman, Dave Dorman, Lauren Aleksunes, and Debbie Cory-Slechta. As Council continues to explore and enhance the Society’s presence in FASEB, SOT members are encouraged to take advantage of all the resources and opportunities available through FASEB.