By Karen K. Szumlinski

The President’s Advisory Task Force sought to enlighten ACNP members about the in’s and out’s of Council.  Who better to ask than the ACNP President and former Council member Dr. Peter Kalivas and who better to ask him but a former post-doctoral fellow (has it been 10 years already?!?), Karen K. Szumlinski. Dr. Kalivas took time out of his very busy summer schedule (which included a Council meeting) to answer a few questions….

Q:  What is the purpose of Council?

The role played by council is two-fold.  First, the president charges the committee with global college priorities and answers questions from the committee; for example, one priority over the last few years is to increase diversity.  Council’s other role is to receive and approve the oral and written report from the membership committee chair and co-chair.  The committee may ask council to make decisions (for example there may be a split committee vote or an ethical issue to consider).  In my 3 years on council I have not seen council adjust the conclusions of the committee, and have seen only two issues that the membership committee brought for council to decide on.

Q: What do you, as President, view as the most important responsibility of Council?

There are two general categories of responsibility.  The first is to maintain the quality of scientific discourse and mentoring that marks the ACNP as a leadership scientific organization.  The second is to construct reasoned and successful responses to changes that affect the organization and its membership.  The latter requires that council maintain strong two-way communication with the membership in order to continuously sculpt the ACNP to fit our needs.  In my opinion, great strides have been made over the last 5 years towards greater transparency and communication between council and the membership.  This has led the awareness and subsequent efforts to increase diversity in our membership and our program, and to promote participation and membership of younger scientists.

Q: Who constitutes Council? A: I assume you are asking who votes.  This is the people you elect, and includes six council members, the two past presidents, the incoming president, the current president, and secretary and treasurer; for a total of 12 members.

Q: Who attends Council meetings? A: Of course all the voting members of council listed above attend.  Also, the two newly elected council members attend, but are not able to vote.  Others in attendance who cannot vote include the Project Manager Laura Hill, Director Ronnie Wilkins and Deputy Director Sarah Timm.

Q: Does Council also meet outside of the Annual meeting? What is discussed at “extra-curricular” Council meetings? A: Council meets in the summer.  Again the agenda varies, but the main reason for the summer meeting is to approve the program for the annual meeting.  Thus, this meeting is held right after the program meeting, and the program chair and vice-chair attend the part of the meeting dealing with program.

Q: Does Council decide the number of membership slots available in a particular year? A: Council does not decide.  There is an algorithm that is applied every year that the membership committee uses as the maximum number of available slots.  The membership committee does not have to fill all the slots.  Each year 45 new slots are created (total number for both Associate and Full Members, how many for each type of membership is determined by the membership committee and the relative quality of the roster of candidates).  In addition, a member leaving the ACNP or moving to emeritus status frees their membership slot to be filled that year.

Q: Does Council also discuss and vote upon ACNP-related financial decisions regarding the cost of membership dues, annual meeting etc.? A: Yes

Q: Are there currently any proposals regarding the constitution or rules of ACNP that are being discussed in the area of membership? A: No constitutional amendments that I am aware of.  We have changed the nominating rule such that a member can nominate two individuals if one is a woman or under-represented minority.

Q: What does Peter see as important strategic plan initiative on the horizon for ACNP? A: I think there are two main initiatives.  The first is to continue to explore mechanisms to increase diversity in our membership and on panels at the annual meeting.  Given the demographic imbalance, this will be on our horizon for a while.  The second initiative is to determine how we will promote the importance of research on neuropsychiatric diseases and neuroscience in society at large and to the government.  Both of these are embodied in task forces that council has created for diversity (Women, Minorities and Membership Task Forces) or in a subcommittee of the Liaison committee that is devoted to developing advocacy strategies.

Q: Do current Council members possess any secret powers and if so, how close to radiation, venomous spiders or poisonous gases do younger members of ACNP have to stand to obtain such secrete powers? A: Funny!  If I can make it, anyone can.  Council members are people who have been going to the ACNP for many years as members, sat on and sometimes chaired committees and are generally really good scientists.  So, participation in ACNP and national recognition as a scientist are the two key ingredients.   As you know, council is elected by ACNP members and serve 3-year terms, so two new members on a slate of 4 are elected.  The slate of 4 is chosen by a committee separate from council, the Nominations Committee, that also chooses the other elected official ballot, e.g. President, Secretary, etc.

Q: How is the nominating committee selected by Council? A: At our July meeting each year, council gets a list of all members who are fellows and eligible (for example, a council member is not eligible).  We then each select our top 10-15.  Our lists are compared and the top 10-15 are entered onto a ballot for the membership to vote on.  We have an ex officio previous chair of the committee who joins the committee meeting to provide continuity, and the immediate past president also attends as a non-voting council liaison.

Q: How do members of ACNP find out about the goings-on at Council meetings?  Are the minutes posted or available to the membership? The minutes are posted on the members only section of the website.  The minutes are posted once they have been approved by all council members.