Exploring the Changing Needs of SfN Members
SfN understands the importance of gathering input from its members to ensure they are receiving the best value for their membership. To that end, the Society recently completed its 2016 member survey.
Over the past 14 years, SfN has conducted a survey every four to five years to collect feedback on SfN’s existing strengths and potential areas for growth. The Society uses this feedback to inform future priorities. To develop the 2016 survey, SfN’s Global Membership Committee and Trainee Advisory Committee led a task force that provided strategic guidance and input.
The member survey results show that SfN members are largely satisfied with their membership, and going forward, SfN plans to use the results to continue to create effective and engaging programming.
In fact, 90 percent of respondents rated their satisfaction with their SfN membership as either extremely satisfied, very satisfied, or satisfied. And those members involved in their local SfN chapters had a slightly higher level of satisfaction (93% vs. 89%).
In addition, a majority of respondents felt positive about the scientific potential for neuroscience (92%) and were optimistic about the overall future of the neuroscience field (82%) on a global level. However, only a little over one-third were optimistic about the neuroscience funding outlook in their country or globally (39% and 38%, respectively). Three-quarters of respondents also noted that obtaining grants, fellowships, or other funding was one of the top challenges to advancing their scientific career, followed work-life balance (53%) and getting research published (41%).
Global Membership Committee reviewed the survey results and identified the following areas of opportunity for SfN to explore.
Building Awareness of Membership Value
Many members’ first experience with the Society is through either publishing in SfN’s journals — JNeurosciand eNeuro — or the annual meeting. SfN is recognized as a respected organization through which neuroscientists can share their research with the field. As evidence, of survey respondents who had submitted to JNeurosci, 88 percent rated their highest level of satisfaction with the journal’s reputation, and almost all survey respondents (94%) said they attend the annual meeting.
However, a subset of survey respondents (22%) indicated they would most likely only renew their membership when attending the annual meeting. This number was even greater (47%) for younger respondents (ages 18-35).This indicates an opportunity for SfN to build awareness among these members about the array of member benefits SfN offers outside this yearly event. To continue to maintain a robust membership, SfN seeks to build year-round member value and increase awareness of benefits outside the annual meeting, including SfN’s in-person and online professional development and scientific training resources, and opportunities to connect with a respected, global community of scientists and academics.
One-quarter of respondents indicated they access professional development tools and scientific information online daily. Specifically, they said they were most likely to use online resources to access information on news and developments in the field (70%) and scientific skill-based resources and education (51%). This data supports SfN’s efforts to continue to expand its digital professional development and scientific training offerings through Neuronline and the webinar program, with the aim of providing valuable resources that members around the world can access from their homes, offices, and lab. For example, SfN recently hosted its first virtual conference on glial cells, with nearly 2,500 SfN members logging in to take part.
Balancing the Neuroscience Career Landscape
While an overwhelming majority of SfN members are in academia (74%) and intend to maintain their academic career path, less than half of the undergraduate and graduate student respondents (48%) anticipated being research faculty at an academic institution after completing their degree. This indicates a great opportunity for SfN to continue to expand its professional development and training resources focused on career paths inside and outside of academia.
Neuronline already features information on the many career paths open to neuroscientists — both at the bench and beyond — and SfN is looking for new ways to provide scientists at all career stages with the scientific training and professional development tools they need to succeed. SfN strives to balance the academic core of the field while recognizing the evolving neuroscience career landscape. By supporting scientists in a variety of career paths and at all career levels, SfN is contributing to both the present and future of the field.
Fostering Community-Building and Engagement
While SfN members are engaging with their peers from around the globe at the annual meeting, the survey indicates local engagement as an area ripe for growth, as membership in SfN chapters among respondents was relatively low (24%). Nearly 56 percent of respondents not involved in a chapter indicated that they didn’t know how to join or were unaware of their local chapter. This shows that opportunities exist for SfN to increase awareness of chapters and their activities.
SfN’s more than 150 chapters around the world provide additional channels for members to participate in advocacy and community outreach, as well as connect with colleagues locally. In particular, many SfN chapters engage in activities for Brain Awareness Week each year to educate their community about neuroscience. By encouraging members to engage at a local level through their chapter, SfN can help ensure that members are more connected with both one another and the Society.
Growing Science Advocacy
The survey also revealed that respondents viewed scientific advocacy as the most important area for SfN to focus on, including informing policymakers about the importance of science funding (83%) and scientific policy considerations (81%).
As a pillar of SfN’s mission, advocating for the field has been and will continue to be an SfN priority. Through activities such as Capitol Hill Day and the Early Career Policy Ambassadors program, SfN seeks to engage its members in advocacy efforts as a unified voice. Based on the survey results, SfN has already begun to explore opportunities to enhance its advocacy activities and increase engagement with members on science funding and policy issues.
Moving forward, SfN will continue to use the 2016 member survey results to refine programs, create strategies for improvement, and expand membership value opportunities.