Associate Members

Summary of 2014 Survey of Past Travel Awardees and Associate Members

Daniel J. Mueller (Müller), M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Toronto

(PLEASE NOTE: The below summary is based only on associate member survey results and past travel award recipient survey results from early 2014.)

Sample Demographics
Surveys were sent via email invitation link to Associate members and Past Travel Awardees who attended one of more of the past three meetings. A total of 348 people responded, representing 46% of the targeted Past Travel Awardees (327 out of 713) and 64% of Associate Members (21 out of 33). Of the 1295 non-members invited, 191 (15%) completed the survey. For the entire sample of respondents, 46.8% were female and 16.6% identified themselves as members of an underrepresented minority group. 50% of the sample pool belonged to less than 3 professional organizations, 42% belonged to 4-6 professional organizations, and 7% belonged to greater than 6 organizations. 45% of the sample pool attended 1-2 meetings annually, 39% attended 3, 10% attended 4, and 6% attended 5-6 meetings. The majority of the sample pool was under 45 (67%), had children (72%), and had a partner/spouse who did not work fulltime (72%). Of those with children, 48% bring their child/children to the annual meeting (every time or sometimes).

Logistics for annual meeting
43% rated the location of the meeting as a determinant in their attendance. This was a 3% increase from the 2013 results. Interest in a potential program to match meeting attendees who might share the cost of the hotel room was low in both groups (29% of associate members and 30% of past travel awardees). Of those with children, 4.6% said that subsidized childcare services would impact their decision to bring their child/children.

Associate Members’ Feedback
The 2014 survey response rate for associate members decreased from 68% last year to 64% this year. Respondents included 6 women and 15 men. 62% were PhDs, 19% were MDs, and 19% had both MD+PhD degrees. 77% have a spouse or partner who works full time. 10% had applied for associate membership more than once before it was granted. The majority of associate members (57%) indicated that the price of annual ACNP dues do not influence their desire to maintain or acquire full membership.

With regard to perceptions about the college, 55% rated ACNP as “high” or “very high” on being “welcoming” to potential new members, 75% indicated they found ACNP staff “high” or “very high” on a scale rating “ease of contacting” when they had questions about the organization, and 66% endorsed a “high” or “very high” rating on “feeling comfortable asking more senior members about membership and participation”. Many felt neutral or indifferent about these items, and relatively few endorsed negative views, i.e., only 10% felt the college was not welcoming, 10% found it not easy to contact ACNP with questions, and 15% did not feel comfortable reaching out to more senior members with queries about the college. 71% say they visited the ACNP website to address questions (29% was indifferent). When asked if their academic institution placed high value on ACNP membership status when evaluating faculty, 52% responded affirmatively.

When asked to identify things that would make ACNP membership more appealing or valuable, over half (52%) of this group endorsed “not making attendance mandatory”, with a close second being “decreased dues and meeting registration cost”, endorsed by 47% of associate members.

The majority of associate members (67%) were aware of the work of the Membership Advisory Task Force. With regard to a projecting their trajectories toward full membership, 95% intend to apply for ACNP full membership in the future. While only 26% indicated they anticipated achieving full membership with the first application attempt, the majority (79%) of associate members indicated they do anticipate they will eventually be successful in becoming regular members (21% remained unsure). When asked why they have not yet applied for Full Membership, nearly all respondents indicated they felt they were not confident that they will be accepted. When asked what interests/needs/desires they have within the context of ACNP, the most-often endorsed item was “access to latest/most exciting research methods or findings)” (81% of the group), followed by “access with senior/accomplished researchers for 1 on 1 interaction” and “networking for potential scientific collaboration”(71% of the group for both responses). They also indicated a desire for “networking for career/professional development” (62% of the group) Current membership dues were perceived to be reasonable by 77% of the associate membership.

Past Travel Awardees’ Feedback
Data from 327 past travel awardees is summarized here. These include 55% PhDs, 22% MDs, and 23% with combined MD+PhD degrees. Data characterizing their sense of feeling welcomed was approximately 10% higher than the Associate Member respondents. Data for their feelings on easily able to contact ACNP or senior members with questions was very similar to that of the Associate Member respondents. 58% of Past Travel Awardees knew that about the Membership Advisory Task force.

40% of individuals from this group had applied for membership in the past. When asked about reasons they had not yet applied, 60% reported that they were not confidents they would be accepted, 30% also indicated they could not commit to attending meetings every year, and 29% indicated they were unsure of the requirements. There were 18% who indicated they do not ever intend to apply in the future. The survey showed that 53% of the group believed they will eventually achieve full membership status even if it requires several rounds (37% remained unsure). High value placed on ACNP membership for faculty evaluation and promotion within their academic institution was endorsed by 54% of past travel awardees.

Networking for potential scientific collaboration and mentorship were the most popularly endorsed areas of interest/need by the past travel awardees (67% of the group). While 34% of this group also endorsed a desire for a more transparent process for successful membership application, the most popular item for increasing the value of the college to past travel awardees was “decreased dues and meeting registration cost” (reported by 39% of the group) as well as “not making attendance mandatory” (reported by 37% of the group). A slight majority of past travel awardees (55%) indicated that the cost of the hotel did not affect their decision to attend the meeting, and 59% also indicated the cost of registration did not influence their attendance.

Overall most respondents were positive about the value of ACNP membership, with high costs and an unpredictable standard for achieving membership identified as notable negatives. Meeting attendees, consistently identify the opportunities for networking and exposure to the latest, exciting research as attractions of the college. Almost all of the associate members (95%) intend to seek full membership. The need for reduced costs (meetings and dues) and removal of mandatory meeting attendance were identified by a majority of associate members and past travel awardees as things that would make membership more appealing.

Interview with Raquel Gur

Interview with Raquel Gur, President-elect of ACNP
Raymond Cho, ACNP Membership Advisory Task Force member
RC: What are the benefits of attending ACNP meetings? 

RG: The ACNP provides an unprecedented opportunity for individuals at multiple levels, junior, mid-career and senior people, to interact with top scientists both in the basic, translational and clinical sciences. Such interactions are done in a relatively small and collegial setting with a program carefully selected to reflect progress in the field.  The duration of the meeting and the relatively small size are ideal for informal interactions.  So the benefits are enormous. And for young people, it is a learning and networking opportunity that is truly unprecedented compared with other neuroscience meetings because it's a relatively small meeting with a top program. 

RC: Any advice for successfully networking with ACNP members and other colleagues at the meeting? 

RG: Participants already established know how to network with colleagues in their field. For more junior people, look at the program, see who is attending…it might be from outside the ACNP, since we have a significant number of investigators who are coming for presentations. The effort in our program is to select top people in the field--regardless of membership. Some preparation can help with successful networking. For junior people, attending the meeting provides the opportunity for meeting mentors, travel awardees, attending special sessions geared towards career advancement such as journal publications and Institutes' Directors meetings. Preparation before the meeting can include establishing contact, introducing themselves, state they would appreciate the opportunity to meet. Taking the initiative will open the opportunity to meet people at different levels.

RC: Ok, great, so taking some initiative before the meeting to establish contacts and set up meetings. Next, how can trainees and junior faculty get involved in the ACNP?

RG: Learn more about the organization. Email the ACNP and if they see committees of interest and when the call comes for committee membership, to volunteer when there is an opportunity. Taking the initiative is the most important step. Many times committees would like to have the input of junior investigators who are vital for our future. The ACNP is eagerly taking the role of mentorship and educating the new generation of basic and clinical neuroscientists. This is part of our mission. In addition to interacting with ACNP committees of interest, letting the faculty in their own department know of their interest can be helpful as they can advocate for them. 

RC: Are there benefits to becoming an ACNP member? 

RG: I see tremendous benefits. In addition to a great meeting, the people that you meet—across the membership, will help you throughout your career. These are going to be people that you can turn to for letters of support, when you put in a grant or for promotion. They are going to be the colleagues that review your grants and papers (when there is no conflict of interest of course). You are joining a highly respected organization and it helps you professionally.
Besides, it's commonly done in nice and warm places and it's a welcoming atmosphere and a great opportunity to interact outside a structured academic setting. I think it's one of the best things that I've done. 

RC: What makes for a strong membership application and what might help to distinguish an application from the others to make it a successful one?

RG: Reading online what is required is important; sometimes people apply a bit prematurely. They are excited, they get a few papers, they don't have an R01 yet. So clearly, it is important to know what is required. To prepare a strong application and have members who strongly advocate for the candidate. Working together on the application well before the deadline is necessary. In the process a decision may be made to wait as a few more papers can strengthen the application. Attending the meetings and networking prior to application for membership also facilitates interacting with established ACNP members from other institutions. Common research and knowing members leads them to advocate for you, do not hold back and look for input.

RC: How could one get feedback on readiness to apply for membership? Are there drawbacks to submitting applications multiple times?

RG: The application for membership is a process that builds on career development. Getting input from members in the applicant's institution is very helpful as is guidance from individuals in the applicant's field who are at other institutions. If  rejected the first time, which may happen, take a deep breath. Look at it carefully, get more input, and wait a couple years—after you've more papers and opportunity for more grants. Submitting applications too early in an individual's career, or not waiting long enough for re-application, without evidence of significant progress, reduces the likelihood.   It should be a thoughtful process and with input from established members locally and from outside the institution. 

RC: Are there ways in which the ACNP encourages the participation of women and minorities? 

RG: We are working on it diligently. There has been a big effort to create opportunities for women. Such efforts have included the women's lunch as an opportunity to discuss barriers, increased participation of women as members on committees, encouraging women to apply for membership. Similar efforts are done for minorities. And so, the number and involvement of women and minorities has increased, but not sufficiently. We will vigorously push towards more diverse representation with an additional sponsorship slot for a minority candidate. It will take time, but as we examine our efforts annually, we can move forward in the direction we have already taken faster. It is for our collective membership to send out the word and encourage those with expertise within the scope and mission of the ACNP to apply. 

RC: Any personal anecdotes or remarks about your earlier growth as a scientist and how ACNP may have played a role in this process?

RG: The ACNP played a major role in my professional development. Some people are more nuanced about what you need to do. I didn't have this mentorship when I was starting out. The first time I came I was invited as a discussant, I was writing grants and papers, I had young children, I felt overwhelmed. I had so much to do and I didn't think! 
Becoming a member significantly impacted my career development. Not that it changed my life, but it definitely enriched it. The opportunity to meet people to write collaborative grants. In the Society for Neuroscience, it's do-able, but it's so, so large…less opportunity to network. Here, it's easy to approach people, I think we strike just the right balance between stimulating scientific sessions and the ability to talk to people: 'I'm working on this…I'm replicating…can you send me this?…we're not replicating this…' It's a wonderful opportunity.

RC: So it sounds like you're highlighting the relative intimacy of the meeting. Any thoughts about the potential tension between making it more open and accessible vs. retaining the smaller, more intimate nature of the meeting? 

RG: Something that is a continuous challenge. So one thing that has been done successfully: senior members that are not academically active—and for some of them, they're not attending—is to offer them emeritus status. And with this status they don't have to pay the membership but they can come to the meetings. A growing number have chosen to do that. It's changing some of the rules of engagement and has opened up slots for new membership, without a marked increase in the numbers so that the intimacy, the ability to network and meet new colleagues is maintained. Within this framework we can also increase women and minorities resulting in a more diverse society while maintaining its size, and high scientific quality doesn't have to be compromised.

RC: Are there any new initiatives or existing directions for the ACNP that you would like to highlight?

RG: We spoke about women and diversity. Increasing involvement of junior people is important. And also considering new initiatives—perhaps some more global where it aligns with the NIH, and with the government, related health outreach and to increase quality of science as well. These directions will be further discussed, and probably after the summer meeting more will be formalized. 

RC: Ok, I think in a relatively brief period we've covered quite a lot. Thanks so much sharing your thoughts, insights and advice. 

RG: I think your questions were very thoughtful. My pleasure.