2017 Career Development Session

Establishing and Maintaining Scientific Collaborations
Christie Fowler, ACNP Membership Advisory Task Force Member

Scientific collaborations have become increasingly essential to promote novel discoveries both within and across fields. In-depth interrogation of research hypotheses often requires multiple technical approaches to ensure that strong conclusions may be derived. Further, collaborations can be an important factor to achieve success in obtaining extramural funding at any career stage. Indeed, if basic scientists seek to realize the translational impact of their findings in the clinical setting, collaborations may also need to extend beyond the academic realm and into industry settings. This year’s Career Development Session will focus on strategies and considerations for early career scientists to develop and maintain successful scientific collaborations. The panelists include scientists in government, academia and industry and were identified based on their involvement in highly successful, innovative collaborations. These individuals include: Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D. (Acting Deputy Director, NIMH), Ned Kalin, M.D. (Hedberg Professor and Chair, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health), Kay Tye, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Daniel Umbricht, M.D. (Roche, Translational Leader Neuroscience), and Colleen McClung, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine).  Speakers will address the following topics: approaching potential collaborators, setting expectations, distributing research responsibilities, establishing considerations for authorship, planning to manage conflicts, and devising strategies for transdisciplinary and translational collaborations. In addition to these primary discussion points, panelists will be asked to speak about considerations when collaborating in large group studies (e.g., consortiums), collaborating across career levels, or collaborating with scientists in industry. Thereafter, the session will focus on the potential challenges of collaborations, with a focus on the needs of early career scientists, from aspects of local institutional and departmental culture to concerns about the perception of independence. Finally, questions from the audience will be taken to promote discussion of this important topic and other related considerations for career development. Drs. Sachin Patel (Vanderbilt University) and Christie Fowler (University of California, Irvine), members of the Membership Advisory Task Force, will moderate the discussion. Please join us on Tuesday, December 5th from1:30 pm to 3:00 pm for this panel.  We plan to provide concrete insight into strategies, principles, and practical tips for both junior and senior investigators to effectively initiate and maintain positive academic relationships to promote scientific discovery.

Interview with Richard Keefe, Membership Committee Chair

Membership Considerations for Early-Career Scientists in Industry
Interviewed by James Murrough, ACNP Membership Advisory Task Force Member

The ACNP strives to promote the advancement of neuropsychopharmacology research and education, and to accelerate the advancement of CNS therapeutics. In the service of this mission, the College is rightly focused on promoting the best science among its membership and across the field at large, and admission to the College requires a track record of substantial contribution to neuropsychopharmacology research. While the ACNP membership is comprised largely of scientists from academia, it is recognized that scientists from industry play a vital, if at times underappreciated, role in the College. I sat down with Dr. Richard Keefe, chair of the ACNP Membership Committee, to discuss the role of members from industry in the College. Dr. Keefe has extensive experience with both academia and industry, and he has been instrumental in developing membership application resources for scientists who work in industry settings.

Dr. Murrough: In recent years, I understand that there has been an effort by the ACNP to reach out to scientists from industry to encourage them to consider applying for membership. What is the motivation for this?
Dr. Keefe: Starting in the 2000’s, the College decreased pharmaceutical industry financial support and there were fewer corporate representatives at the meeting. While the move toward greater financial independence was generally viewed as positive, the leadership of the College recognized that scientists from industry represent an important component of the ACNP membership. The Program Committee was seeing fewer and fewer proposals for posters and symposia that featured clinical trials, and this may have been a reflection in part of a withdrawal by industry from participation in the College. Our current president, in fact, Dr. Anissa Abi-Dargham, has expressed that recruitment into the College of regular members from industry is one of her goals.

Dr. Murrough: Can you discuss some specific ways that membership from industry may benefit the mission of the ACNP?
Dr. Keefe: Well, one of the primary missions of the ACNP is to further drug discovery in CNS, and a rich cross talk between academic and industry researchers is critical in this regard. In some cases, the ACNP can provide a “pre-competitive” space wherein ideas can be shared in order to further the common goal of developing safe, more effective treatments for the disorders we study and treat. I think this inter-disciplinarily cross talk enriches both the College and its individual members. Ultimately, academic researchers need to be talking to the people that actually bring drugs to market in order to improve outcomes for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Dr. Murrough: What should applicants from industry know about the membership application process?
Dr. Keefe: Applicants from industry should know firstly that the ACNP appreciates their participation in the College and welcomes their applications. We also recognize that applicants from industry may be at a disadvantage compared to their peers in academia in terms of the opportunity to publish research articles. Other standard metrics used to measure success in academia, such as obtaining independent NIH funding, are not as applicable to individuals for industry. In response to a request by Council, we have drafted a guidance statement for the Membership Committee entitled, ‘The Critical Role of Industry Membership in the College.’ The idea is to provide education and guidance to the Membership Committee when it comes to considering applicants from industry. In addition, there is now a specific form that applicants from industry can use to describe their role in industry research and/or scientific program management.

Dr. Murrough: Are there specific benchmarks that the Membership Committee uses when determining acceptance into the College for applicants for industry?
Dr. Keefe: In some ways, it is a different language that is used to describe success for an industry scientist compared to an academic scientist. Some of the academic members of the Membership Committee were uncertain as to what constitutes success and productivity as an industry scientist, so we reached out to industry members, some of whom had significant experience as academic and industry scientists, to ask them how success criteria between the two differ. So right now, we are making an effort to educate the Membership Committee as to what constitutes a scientifically meaningful contribution in the context of industry research. Industry research is more team oriented, so when it comes to bringing a drug to market, it’s not as simple as asking “who was the PI?” since in some cases, hundreds of individuals may have contributed to that work. The committee has a better understanding of that now, and the new forms used in the application process are designed to help capture that information.

Dr. Murrough: Last question, since I have you here, what is your assessment of the current state of CNS drug discovery today?
Dr. Keefe: Well, it is changing quite a bit. The model of large companies doing all of the discovery and R & D, and bringing a drug to market is changing. More diverse, smaller biotechnology companies are now doing much of the basic and early phase work. Also, the use of technological innovation is increasing, and smaller, agile companies facilitate this. A place like the ACNP is a great environment to bring new ideas together and figure out how we can all benefit. The Membership Committee has been reaching out to scientists working in these areas, which I think is new.

Dr. Murrough: So you are optimistic about the future of neuropsychopharmacology?
Dr. Keefe: Absolutely – it’s essential, isn’t it? It has been said that a society can be measured by how well it takes care of its most vulnerable, and that would certainly include those with mental illness. These diseases aren’t going away any time soon, so our work in this area needs to continue to advance.

Dr. Murrough: Thank you so much for an illuminating discussion. I think this exchange will be informative for all of our membership. Thank you again.

For more information, please see the document: “The Critical Role of Industry Membership in the College,” available at https://www.acnp.org/

Summary of Membership Advisory Task Force Survey Results 2017

Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D. on behalf of the Membership Advisory Task Force

Overall, 48% of Associate Members responded to the survey request. Approximately equal numbers of male and female Associate Members responded, with the majority of respondents having PhD only degrees and being between 36 and 45 years of age. 69% of respondents have children. 13% self-identified as a member of an underrepresented minority. These findings are similar to those observed in previous surveys (2013-2016), except that in 2013 and 2014 the proportion of female respondents was significantly lower.

In general, 71% of respondents rated ACNP Very high, or High, in terms of being a welcoming society for early and mid-career investigators. Similarly-positive results were obtained when asking if respondents felt comfortable asking senior members about promotion and if they knew who to contact for questions about ACNP, while only 56% felt strongly that the web site was useful in answering questions regarding promotion. When asked what aspects of the meeting were unappealing or diminished value of the ACNP, a few respondents noted a continued (but improving) lack of diversity and “elitist milieu” at the annual meeting.

88% of Associate Members applied only once, while 13% applied twice, which is generally similar to previous years (2013-2016). None of the respondents have applied for full membership, but 87% plan to in the future. Only 24% anticipate they will achieve full membership the first time they apply, but 75% believe they will eventually obtain full membership. The majority of respondents (66%) indicated they feel they are currently too early in their career to apply for full membership or only recently became associate members. This is an interesting shift from previous years, in which the vast majority of respondents (63, 40 and 81% for 2013-1016, respectively) indicated the reason they have not applied is that they were not confident they would be accepted for full membership. This year, membership dues did not seem to significantly affect desire to acquire full membership, but in previous years >40% indicated membership dues would influence their decision. In fact, this year, 94% of respondents thought dues were reasonable, which is higher than in previous years. The top three reasons cited that would make membership more appealing included not making attendance mandatory, more transparent membership application process, and decreasing dues and cost. Lastly, only 60% of respondents indicated that the value of ACNP membership to their home institution was Very High or High.

Annual Meeting
In terms of meeting location, 39% of respondents preferred the Florida, followed by Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and California locations. Only 1.5% preferred the Arizona location. As noted above, 69% of respondents have children, but only 6% bring them to the meeting, while 40% indicated subsidized child care would affect their decision to bring children to the meeting. Networking, access to senior researchers, and access to most recent research and methods were cited as the most common reasons for interest in the ACNP Annual Meeting. Several respondents noted increased emphasis on career development and networking opportunities for women would strengthen their interest in the meeting. A desire for a more diverse array of venues for the annual meeting were also noted by many respondents.

Overall, 45% of Past Travel Awardees (PTAs) responded to the survey request. Approximately equal numbers of male and female Past Travel Awardees responded, with the with the majority of respondents having PhD only degrees and being between 36 and 45 years of age. 47% of respondents have children. 22% self-identified as a member of an underrepresented minority. These findings are similar to those observed in previous surveys (2013-2016).

Overall, 60% of respondents rated the ACNP Very High or High in terms of being a welcoming college for potential members. The remaining 40% rated ACNP as indifferent, little, or very little in this regard. 75% of respondents rated their comfort level with regard to being able to ask more senior members about ACNP membership and participation as Very High or High. 66% rated the web site highly as a place to find information about the College. Several respondents commented that the ACNP seemed “exclusionary” and “too selective”, and that the application process was difficult to navigate.

Only 3% of PTAs had applied for Associate Membership, while 85% plan to apply for full membership in the future. The majority of PTAs are unsure if they will achieve full membership the first time they apply. The vast majority of respondents that had not applied for associate membership indicated that they have not done so because they are too junior to apply, 37% also indicated they were unsure of they could pay the dues, and 24% indicated they were not confident that they would be accepted – this response has trended down from 44% and 60% in 2013-14. For those PTAs who have not applied for membership and do not intend to, the primary reason given was that respondents were not confident they would be accepted, while other important factors included being unable to commit to attending the meeting annually, and the high costs of membership and meeting attendance. The most common answers given to the question “What would make ACNP membership more appealing”, were 1) decreasing dues and registration costs, 2) more transparent membership process, 3) increased likelihood of acceptance, and 4) not making meeting attendance mandatory.

Annual Meeting
47% of respondents have children, but only 8% bring them to the meeting, while 46% indicated subsidized child care would affect their decision to bring children to the meeting. PTAs interests in the ACNP Annual Meeting were driven primarily by opportunities to interact 1:1 with more senior scientists, access to latest scientific and methodological presentations, networking, and mentorship on scientific work, grant funding, and career development. Lastly, only 31 % of respondents indicated that the value of ACNP membership to their home institution was Very High or High.

Summary and Discussion
Approximately 50% of those asked completed the survey. Associate members were more likely to view the ACNP as welcoming relative to PTAs, and PTAs were more likely to comment on the perceived exclusivity of the ACNP. Associate Members and PTAs in this cohort generally considered themselves too early in their career to apply for full/associate membership, but the vast majority planned to apply and were relatively confident in their chances of eventually obtaining full membership or associate membership, respectively. Cost of the ACNP meeting and annual dues seemed to be more of a deterrent for PTAs than Associate Members. Both groups felt reducing the mandatory meeting requirement and dues/meeting costs would increase their interest in the ACNP. Both PTAs and Associate Members indicated that 1:1 interaction with senior colleagues, professional networking, and access to high-quality scientific presentations were the major draw to the Annual Meeting. Interestingly, only 60% of Associate Members and 31% of PTAs indicated that the value of ACNP membership to their home institution was high or very high, suggesting the ACNP needs to increase efforts to inform a broader base of the value of membership and attendance at the ANCP Annual Meeting.