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AMERICAN COLLEGE OF NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY
JUNE 2004 VOL 10 ISSUE 4

Letter From the President
Carol A. Tamminga , ACNP President

Dear ACNP Members,

It has been six busy months since I assumed the office of ACNP president. It is a privilege and honor for me to lead the College in 2004. I am grateful to all of you for your trust. We are a group of clinical and basic scientists who find pleasure and gain in each other's company and who work together to advance a critical body of knowledge important to medical neuroscience. The College tackles problems related to its science in the laboratory, the clinic, the classroom, and in society. It is a mission that all of us assume with enthusiasm and to which we commit considerable effort. You have my promise to exercise leadership opportunities on behalf of the ACNP in line with this vision of the College. This letter will detail the specific efforts that I am targeting during the 2004 year. With this, I request your advice, participation, and feedback in these activities.


One of the most pressing current challenges in the neuropharmacology of mental illness is to define the molecular bases for psychiatric disorders. Neuroscience is one of the last frontiers of medical research where the basic understandings of pathophysiology and etiology are still obscure for most illnesses. We all pay dearly for this lack of knowledge, in terms of imprecision in disease definition, lack of targets for drug development, even stigma in the community. Molecular targets have been identified in other medical disciplines through a variety of routes, some rational, others accidental. Brain diseases, especially psychiatric, are lagging in definition for a variety of reasons, most understandable. But now, given the tremendous gains in tools for investigating basic and human neuroscience, new opportunity is at hand to make critical discoveries. There is pressing need in the areas of clinical care to make the discoveries now.

Basic neuroscience has provided abundant and rapidly accumulating knowledge for taking the next steps in human disease definition. Creative human as well as animal models may be necessary in this discovery because of the paucity of currently known surrogate targets for psychiatric symptoms. Tools to define the in vivo function and chemistry of the human brain exist. And the exciting resources of the human genome as applied to brain research can be applied to pathophysiology. It is a time for creative thinking about approaches of a strategic and experimental nature for advancing cellular, molecular, and systems pathophysiology in our illnesses. And it is time for action in implementing these strategies and making discoveries.

To further these goals, I have appointed a task force headed by Dr. Raquel Gur to consider and advise the field on specific ways to make advances in the areas of pathophysiology and disease definition. This task force will consider the new tools of neuroscience (basic and clinical) and make recommendations about their use in medical research to define diseases. We may need more animal models, more human tools, more informed genetic approaches, more trained translational clinicians, but we certainly need more creative minds to think specifically about this problem and to generate new strategies for action. Of course, answers to disease pathophysiology would be able to be translated into novel treatment directions, clearer diagnostic categories, and better strategies for prevention. In some ways this is work that all of us do everyday. But the rapid pace of basic discovery in neuroscience has left a widening gulf between the clinical and preclinical scientist, making discovery harder, even while the field becomes richer. I would like to see the ACNP make an effective contribution and be a significant leader in these advances.

An aspect of Council's work this year will also be to focus on strategic planning for the College. The ACNP is an organization that all of us value greatly, have unusual affection for, and hope will provide guidance for neuroscientists far into the future. To make sure that our vision is clear, representative, and effective, the College is undertaking a dynamic strategic planning process this year to articulate a vision for its future. In early June the Council will meet, augmented by several persons representing esteemed voices within the College, to review and develop our orientation and goals for strategic planning. We have engaged a professional strategic planning partner, Kermit Eide at Tecker Consultants. The process will begin in June and continue through the 2004 Annual Meeting. Kermit Eide will be gathering information from the membership during this time through discussions with many of you. We hope to articulate our goals for advancing science, influencing public policy and promoting education in neuropsychopharmacology, as well as the practical goals of maintaining our Annual Meeting and actualizing scientific independence.

This is the first year that the ACNP has set a goal of increasing interactions with media and the press. We have organized a new Media Committee lead by Ellen Frank. This committee will advise Council on issues that command media attention and strategies to advance the public contributions and reputation of the ACNP in the area of neuroscience policy and education. We are continuing to work with our policy advisor (Frankie Trull) in Washington and have engaged a public relations firm (GYMR) to help the College garner an image of leadership in the area of mental health and its research. So far this year, this effort has promoted a position paper on the use of SSRIs in children and adolescents (John Mann and Graham Emslie), which drew considerable media attention after its Hill presentation. And, we held another Hill conference on the psychological consequences of Terrorism and what psychological approaches are necessary with Steve Hyman, Rachael Yehuda, and Bob Ursano. These are efforts of our membership to contribute to public debate and dialogue on timely issues.

With respect to the governance of the College, I am putting in place mechanisms to make deliberations of Council and committees open information to the College membership. Already the minutes of the Council are posted on the ACNP website. The Chairs of the ACNP committees are writing reports of their year's activities in the ACNP Bulletin. Slides of the Ethics session at the ACNP meeting will also be posted on the ACNP website. I am hoping that these kinds of communications will stimulate all members to provide feedback to Council and leadership on ACNP priorities and College activities. Moreover, we are working to set up a member response site at our ACNP website to increase communication between Council and membership.

The plan for the Annual Meeting is going smoothly. The Program Committee will meet the first weekend in June to decide on the program from the 122 symposia and 14 workshop submissions it received. The meeting theme, "Cellular and Mechanisms of Brain Diseases" will be the focus of a talented group of translational neuroscientists for the Plenary Session and Distinguished Lecturer. The History Committee (George Heninger) has put together an outstanding session of neuropharmacologist for a "Pioneers Symposium." The Ethics Committee (Bob Freedman) has continued the tradition of a timely ethics topic of "Conflict of Interest: Beyond Disclosure." Sunday's Teaching Day chaired by President-Elect Dan Weinberger is on the topic of "Gene Expression Profiling." Many of the ACNP committees have already been working ahead so that projects can significantly advance during the Saturday Committee meetings at the Annual Meeting.

It has already been a rich experience to be the ACNP president. I appreciate your support in the work. Please do not fail to contact me with your thoughts, ideas, and comments, especially on the issues I have outlined in this letter.

Sincerely,


Carol A. Tamminga M.D.

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ACNP Annual Meeting Future Venue Survey Report

Executive Summary

Council has discussed the annual meeting venue at various times in recent years. Each discussion has reflected mixed viewpoints with some Council members favoring a change in the venue to a Continental U.S. location and others pointing to the long tradition of ACNP meetings in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. During our December 2003 meetings Council directed the Executive Director to conduct a survey of members about this issue. The results of that survey and other information from the member survey conducted in 2000 and from meeting evaluations from 2002 and 2003 are summarized in this report.

In 2000 we conducted a survey of the membership regarding a number of issues. The full report of that survey is included in the October 2000 ACNP Bulletin. We learned from the results of that survey that the membership was about evenly split on the issue of meeting location. Thirty-six percent (36%) of the respondents to that survey wanted to change the location of the meeting, while 43% did not want to change, and 21% were neutral. In 2002 and 2003 sentiment appeared to be growing for moving the annual meeting location from San Juan, Puerto Rico to a venue that is better able to accommodate member needs.

In the survey just completed a significant majority of members (66%) chose a location other than Puerto Rico as their first choice as a meeting destination. The key findings from our examination of feedback about the annual meeting venue from all the sources mentioned above are as follows:

  1. There is a substantial minority of members who have strong, positive feelings about meeting at the Caribe Hilton.
  2. There is also a substantial minority of members who have strong, negative feelings about meeting at the Caribe Hilton and about meeting in Hawaii.
  3. Many members would like more balance in the rotation of meeting locations.
  4. The most important criteria for meeting destinations include warm weather, good meeting facilities, convenient travel access, high quality hotels, and hotels that are large enough to accommodate all or most of our attendees.
  5. There have been enough comments regarding the time of year the meeting is held to warrant a discussion in Council about that issue.

Meeting Location Criteria

Based on the results of the recent survey, the criteria for a meeting location considered important by our members include:

  1. A warm weather location (Attachment 5).

•  This criterion is related to the time of the meeting. In early December we can only have guaranteed warm weather in a tropical location.

•  In the continental U.S. we can have pleasant, but not necessarily warm weather.

  1. Good meeting facilities (Attachment 5).

•  By going to other locations we can achieve big improvements in this area, and can resolve most of the complaints people have with the size of rooms, noise problems, and the lack of adequate space for posters and for meal functions.

•  If we continue to meet at the Caribe Hilton we can achieve some improvement in this area by changing the way we arrange the meeting. For example, by serving breakfast and lunch in tents outside the hotel we can eliminate some of the noise problems in the panel sessions. However, the basic issue at the Caribe is that the meeting space is not large enough nor modern enough in its design to accommodate us, and any measures we take to alleviate the problems we have will still result in less than ideal meeting facilities.

  1. Easy travel access, preferably in the continental U.S. (Attachment 5 and Attachment 9).
  2. A high quality hotel (Attachment 8).

•  In the continental U.S. we can negotiate lower rates at top quality hotels - at least at the same time of year.

  1. A hotel large enough for all or most attendees to stay in the headquarters hotel (Attachment 6).

•  On this point we can find hotels that offer some improvement. However, staying in locations that offer the best weather choices for early December and that offer a casual, resort atmosphere limit the options, and it is not likely that we can get all attendees in the headquarters hotel. If we move the meeting location, we will be able to improve the quality of the overflow hotels we use, and that will help with this problem.

•  The Caribe Hilton is building more rooms, and that will help some if we stay there. However, even after the expansion is complete the maximum number of sleeping rooms we will have available is about 100 rooms less than our current contract calls for, and would provide about 65% of the rooms we need during peak nights of our meeting.

Conclusions

The results of this survey and the meeting evaluations from 2002 and 2003 indicate significant objections from a large number of members and meeting attendees regarding meeting at the Caribe Hilton and in Hawaii. While there is no clear consensus for a preferred alternative location, there is substantial agreement on important criteria for meeting locations and hotels. Those criteria can be better met, though not perfectly met, in Continental U.S. locations.

Discussion

Feedback from meeting attendees:

On Attachment 1 we have copied the comments written on the CME evaluation forms turned in at the annual meeting during the last two years and the evaluation ratings of San Juan and the Caribe Hilton as meeting locations. In 2002 there was no discussion of changing the location of the annual meeting. In the written comments from 2002 there were 52 negative or critical comments about the meeting location and venue and only 3 positive comments. In 2003 there was considerable discussion during the meeting about a possible change of the meeting location. In that year there were 8 positive comments on the evaluations and 42 negative or critical comments. 403 people turned in an evaluation form in 2002 and 410 turned in an evaluation in 2003.

On those same evaluations the ratings given to San Juan and to the Caribe Hilton as meeting locations were significantly lower than ratings given to other logistical and administrative items on the survey. Specifically, the ACNP staff, registration process, and Program Book had ratings of 4 or 5 from 92% to 95% of the 403 respondents in 2002. However, San Juan and the Caribe Hilton had ratings of 4 or 5 from only 71% and 70% of the respondents respectively. In 2003, from 88% to 92% of the respondents rated the staff, the registration process, and the Program Book as 4 or 5. San Juan and the Caribe Hilton got equivalent ratings from only 55% and 57% of the respondents.

We have also copied in this attachment the written comments from the 2000 survey that related to the time of the meeting and the meeting location. There were 7 positive comments about the time of the meeting and 28 negative comments. There were 10 positive comments about keeping the current meeting locations on that survey and 35 negative comments about the current locations.

Size and adequacy of the hotel meeting rooms and sleeping rooms:

In 2002 - 2004 the contracts with the Caribe Hilton promised 815 sleeping rooms committed to the ACNP meeting. In 2002 and 2003 they were only able to provide 600 sleeping rooms. That has meant that on our peak nights we had over 500 sleeping rooms (about 45% of the total) in overflow hotels. In 2004 the Caribe has promised that the new villas will be available for us. The villas are designed as suites with two bedrooms and a parlor with a pullout couch. They can be rented as a two-bedroom suite, as a one-bedroom suite and a separate guest room, or as two regular guest rooms and one parlor room in which the bed is the pullout couch. Considering the maximum configuration the villas will add 112 guest rooms and 56 parlor rooms. Added to our current inventory we should have a maximum of 712 regular guest rooms and 56 parlor rooms available in 2004. This is an improvement over past years, but it is still not an adequate number of rooms for our meeting. We should note that it is likely that alternative sites for the meeting can offer an improvement for this problem but not a complete solution. It is difficult to find a hotel that will completely accommodate all our meeting attendees.

Even more of a problem than the number of sleeping rooms at the Caribe Hilton is the amount and the adequacy of the meeting space. We need to have a room large enough to seat 1200 - 1400 in our plenary sessions, at least seven rooms for concurrent panel sessions that will seat 150 - 200 or more, a poster area large enough to accommodate at least 100 six by four foot poster boards plus room for food and beverage serving areas, and an area large enough to comfortably serve lunch to our 1400 attendees. The problems we encounter at the Caribe Hilton include:

  • Size: None of the panel session meeting rooms will seat 200 people. In addition, some of the meeting rooms we use on the second floor have low ceilings, which means that people in the middle or back of the room cannot see the screens in the front. This reduces the effective seating capacity even more.
  • Noise: The attendees in the San Cristobal rooms have difficulty hearing the speaker because of noise from the hallway and from the adjoining rooms.
  • Lunch area: The only space we have to serve lunch is in Peacock Alley, and the only space to seat people for lunch is either the San Cristobal or the San Geronimo Ballrooms. This adds to the noise problem in the San Cristobal panel sessions, and it prevents us from using the San Geronimo Ballroom for panel sessions.
  • Posters: The current area for posters is just adequate in terms of size. However, the room has very bad acoustics that creates a terrible noise problem. The Caribe management is promising to help us with the noise by installing acoustical tiles and carpeting in that room, but they are also saying that at some point we will lose some of the poster space to their planned new casino.

Size and growth of the College and the annual meeting:

Some have responded to the problems with the size of the hotel meeting space, the number of sleeping rooms needed, etc. by suggesting that we make the meeting smaller. The growth rate of the College and the meeting, including measures to control the growth of the meeting, indicate that this is not likely to be an effective strategy.

In Table 1 , Attachment 2, we have listed the number of new members elected to the College each year from 1991 through 2003. During that time the membership increased from 449 scientific members in 1991 to 716 in 2003. That translates into an average annual growth rate of 5%. Over that period of time the total number of people elected to membership is 54% of the total number of people nominated for membership. The number of successful nominees as a percentage of the existing membership each year has ranged from 2% to 6%, but in only two of those years was the range outside of 3% to 5%. If future membership grows by 4% per year the number of scientific members will be up to 871 by 2008, and by the College's 50 th Anniversary in 2011 the membership will be 980. These numbers do not include administrative members, associate members, or corporate representatives.

In Table 2, Attachment 3 , we have listed the number of people attending the annual meeting each year from 1993 through 2003. During that time the total attendance grew from 1048 to 1623. That is an average growth in meeting attendance of 5.5% per year. Because of actions Council has taken to control growth of the meeting it is not likely that it will continue to grow at that same rate. However, neither is the meeting likely to be stagnant in terms of growth.

This year Council took action to decrease the number of international invitations and the number of corporate representatives allowed to attend the meeting. This one-time measure helped to keep the attendance stable from 2002 to 2003, however there are no other actions available to Council that will easily and effectively decrease the number of invitations to the meeting. And, in spite of efforts to control the growth of the meeting, there are always a variety of new initiatives being proposed by members that involve additional invitations to the meeting. For example, Council approved a proposal from David Kupfer and Alan Schatzberg this year to invite ten people who are involved in a Career Development Institute Research Grant special program. This is obviously a worthy proposal and the invitations are well justified, but in making plans for the future Council must be realistic in recognizing that there will always be some worthwhile initiative being proposed that will bring with it additional invitations.

Accurate projections are always difficult. However, we have included in Table 3, Attachment 4 a projection of annual meeting attendance through 2011. The assumptions in the projection are: 1) a membership growth rate of 4%; 2) an assumption that 64% of the members will attend the meeting, which is the historical average; 3) an assumption that 51% of the members will invite a guest to the meeting, again the historical average; 4) an assumption that 174 corporate reps will attend the meeting, the average from the past 4 years; and 5) an assumption that all other categories of attendees stays stable with our current levels. Based on those assumptions the attendance at the 2008 meeting is projected to be 1819 and the attendance at the 2011 meeting is projected to be 1967.


2004 Survey

Analysis of current information

Council instructed the ACNP executive director to survey the membership regarding the annual meeting location. A survey form was developed and mailed to the membership on January 23, 2004. The intent of the survey was to determine the criteria in an annual meeting location that members think are important, to allow the members to indicate their preferences for a variety of potential meeting locations, and to allow the members to make comments or add additional location preferences. The results of the survey are reported in Attachments 5 - 12.

Important criteria:

To better understand what our members think is important in annual meeting locations we asked five questions on the survey.

The first survey item listed nine criteria to consider in selecting an annual meeting location, and members were asked to rank order those items from 1 to 9, with 1 being the most important and 9 the least important. The average rankings for each of the 9 criteria are reported in Attachment 5 . The top three items in that rank order list were warm weather, functional meeting space, and easy travel access.

The second item asked how important it is to stay in the headquarters hotel. Eighty-four percent of the respondents considered it important to crucial to be in the headquarters hotel. This indicates that having an adequate number of sleeping rooms is very important, and unfortunately that is one of the biggest challenges to find for a meeting of our size. See Attachment 6 .

The third item asked for respondents to rate the quality of overflow hotels available in recent years, if they have stayed in one. Fifty-one percent of the respondents rated their experience in overflow hotels as poor or unacceptable; thirty-eight percent rated their experience as good; and eleven percent rated their experience as very good or excellent. The fact that only eleven percent rated their experience as very good or excellent leads to the conclusion that our current overflow hotels do not meet our needs. See Attachment 7 .

The fourth item asked the respondents to rank order five criteria they consider important in choosing a hotel for the meeting with 1 being the most important and 5 being the least important. The respondents ranked the overall quality of the hotel most important, followed by room rate, hotel services such as high speed Internet and the business center, hotel staff and service, and food quality and cost. See Attachment 8 .

The fifth item on the survey asked, "Do you think that the convenience of a continental U.S. destination (in terms of travel time) is important to the overall success of the meeting? Forty-one percent rated this as very important or crucial and another 28% rated it as important. Only 31% rated this item as not important or somewhat important. See Attachment 9 .

 

 

Destination preferences:

The central question of the survey asked for respondents to rank order five possible locations for the annual meeting with 1 being the respondent's first choice and 5 being the respondent's last choice. The average rankings for the 5 locations are reported in Attachment 10 . Puerto Rico was ranked number one, followed by Florida, Southern California, Arizona, and Hawaii. However, the rankings were spread fairly evenly among the five choices. In terms of first-choices, 34% of the respondents chose Puerto Rico as number one, leaving 66% who prefer some alternative. Twenty-four percent chose Hawaii as number one with 76% preferring an alternative. However, Puerto Rico and Hawaii also received the largest number of last choice (Number 5) votes at 35% and 19% respectively. It is this sharp contrast that leads us to the conclusion stated in the executive summary that there are strong minority opinions both positive and negative about our current meeting locations. The tables and charts included in Attachment 10 demonstrate the position taken in this report that there is no clear consensus for a preferred meeting location.

Comparison of survey and evaluation results:

The current survey results are overall pretty consistent with the results of the evaluations turned in at the meeting in the last two years and with the results of the member survey conducted in 2000. We encourage you to browse through the written comments in Attachment 11 . The responses to specific items on both the 2000 and 2004 surveys demonstrate that there is a substantial minority of members and meeting attendees who like Puerto Rico as a meeting destination, but the majority of respondents would prefer a different location. The ambiguity only comes in trying to build consensus for a specific alternative location.

Does location really matter?

The last item on the current survey asks an important question. "How important do you think the location of the meeting is in regard to the overall success of the meeting?" Forty-five percent of the respondents said they think it is not important or somewhat important. Twenty-two percent said it is important, and thirty-three percent said that it is very important or crucial. We believe that the quality of the meeting is a result of the quality of the science, and as long as the College protects the quality of the science the meeting will be successful no matter where it is held. See Attachment 12 .


2004 SURVEY

386 responses out of 791 (49% response rate)

  1. "What would be most important to you when considering the ideal destination for the ACNP Annual Meeting? Please rank the following criteria in order of importance, 1 being the most important." The answers to this question were compiled by adding all the rankings for each item listed. For example, if one person ranked "warm weather" as 1 and a second person ranked it as 5 those two would total 6 for that item. Thus, the lower the total for each item the higher it ranks. The results are listed in rank order:

•  Warm weather

•  Functional meeting space (room size, ability to hear and see)

•  Easy travel access

•  Adequate poster space

•  Beach location

•  Reasonable pricing

•  Adequate meal function space

•  Fine dining access

•  Access to golf, tennis, spa, etc

  1. "When choosing a hotel, how important is it that you stay at the headquarters hotel?" We asked respondents to answer this question on a 1 to 5 scale. The results are as follows:

•  Not important 16 4%

•  Somewhat important 42 11%

•  Important 74 20%

•  Very important 121 32%

•  Crucial 122 33%

  1. "If you have stayed at an overflow hotel in the past, please rate your experience:" We asked respondents to answer this question on a 1 to 5 scale. The results are as follows:

•  Unacceptable 32 10%

•  Poor 123 41%

•  Good 115 38%

•  Very good 22 7%

•  Excellent 11 4%


  1. "When considering a hotel, please rank the following criteria in order of importance, 1 being the most important:" The results in rank order are as follows:

•  Quality of the hotel

•  Room rate

•  Services such as high speed internet and business center

•  Hotel staff and service

•  Food quality and cost

  1. "Do you think that the convenience of a continental U.S. destination (in terms of travel time) is important to the overall success of the meeting?"

•  Not important 23 6%

•  Somewhat important 91 25%

•  Important 99 28%

•  Very important 110 31%

•  Crucial 37 10%

  1. "Please rank the following U.S. destinations as a possible location for the ACNP annual meeting in order of preference, 1 being your favorite choice." The results in rank order are as follows:

•  Puerto Rico

•  Florida

•  Southern California

•  Arizona

•  Hawaii

  1. "How important do you think the location of the meeting is in regard to the overall success of the meeting?"

•  Not important 72 20%

•  Somewhat important 91 25%

•  Important 82 22%

•  Very important 87 23%

•  Crucial 37 10%

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Important Dates

The ACNP, through the Education and Training Committee, has made discretionary funds up to $5000 per year available for public outreach initiatives in neuropsychopharmacology. For details click on the Awards and Fellowship tab at www.acnp.org . The deadline is AUGUST 1.

The poster abstract submission site opened on JUNE 2. Poster abstracts are due online on AUGUST 16 . Please go to www.acnp.org and click on Annual Meeting then poster abstract submission to submit your poster abstract. Paper abstract submission (via email) are due AUGUST 9 .

Membership applications are due SEPTEMBER 1 . Please go to www.acnp.org for the online version or call the Secretariat for an application to be sent to you.

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Upcoming Meetings

FASEB Summer Research Conference July 17-22, 2004, For more information about the meeting, visit http://src.faseb.org/2004_programs/tuc5.pdf, To register, visit http://src.faseb.org/prog.htm

CINP 2004 Meeting June 20-24, Paris, France

ACNP 2004 Annual Meeting December 12-16

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