In May 2014, the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the KAVLI Foundation joined forces to establish ‘a prestigious European network of outstanding young to mid-career neuroscientists who represent the most talented scholars among their peer group’. The first 20 scholars of the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence were selected in December 2014, and include clinicians, experimental and theoretical neuroscientists, covering neuroscience across levels and disciplines. Geographically they range widely across Europe, from Turkey to Iceland and from Norway to Crete.
FENS Communication Officer Michela Pichereddu spoke to two Network members -Yiota (Panayiota) Poirazi, a research director at the FORTH Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Heraklion, Crete and Carlos Ribeiro, a group leader at the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme in Lisbon, Portugal – about how they feel about the Network, and about the outcomes of its first meeting, held in London in April 2015.
“Our vision is to shape the future of neuroscience by putting young researchers in the driver’s seat” says Poirazi, chair of the FENS-KAVLI Network of Excellence. “We plan to achieve this goal through a number of activities that aim at improving neuroscience in Europe and where young neuroscientists are the key players.” These activities include providing opportunities for young scientists, influencing science policy, and facilitating the exchange between science and society.
Strikingly, she says, the first issue that rose unanimously during the first meeting of the scholars was a great concern about the prospects of young neuroscientists in establishing a successful career in Europe and beyond. “The struggles that a young neuroscientist has to endure in order to establish excellence, independence and recognition touch upon many different aspects of scientific careers, ranging from publication issues to grant application procedures, things like setting up a lab and attracting qualified people, balancing career and family life, and so on,” says Poirazi.
Network members decided it would be useful to share their individual experiences and the lessons they learnt in a series of articles that will be published monthly in the European Journal of Neuroscience. “The articles will serve as a roadmap towards a successful career in the amazing field of neuroscience,” says Poirazi, because they will identify problems and offer solutions for young neuroscientists in a wide range of career matters. The first - "Your ticket to independence: A guide to getting your first Principal Investigator position" - has already been published online (19 August). In this piece four members of the Network provide an overview, based on their personal experiences, of the process of securing one’s first independent position. It also offers key advice about what the authors think matters the most during the process.
“Already writing the articles highlights the attractiveness of being part of the network,” comments Ribeiro, who co-ordinated the first article. “Exchanging ideas and learning from each other’s experiences has been a tremendously enriching opportunity. In the short time in which I have been part of the network I have learned a lot. I also feel that my contributions have made a difference. This is especially true given the diverse scientific and geographic background of the scholars. I would never have thought to be able to interact with such a set of gifted young scientists who share a true passion for neuroscience and for improving the standing of young neuroscientists in Europe.”
The Network also decided on other future activities. One of these it to extend its own reach by selecting between ten and fifteen additional scholars whose names will be announced at the FENS Forum in July 2016.
More generally the Network will  promote collaborations and scientific exchange among the scholars by organizing meetings featuring the work of young postdocs and students;  promote science outreach and scientific excellence by organizing several events to take place at the FENS Forum 2016 in Copenhagen, including the inauguration of two types of awards recognizing mentorship and scientific excellence, diverse outreach activities such as pub talks and socials, women-in-neuroscience lectures; and  improve the situation of young neuroscientists in Europe by directly influencing science policy through meetings with high-level science policy figures such as Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation.
The EJN opinion articles:
1. Your ticket to independence: A guide to getting your first Principal Investigator position
FENS-Kavli Scholars: Karadottir R.T, Letzkus JJ, Mameli M, Ribeiro C; Eur J Neurosci. 2015 Aug 19. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13048 (PMID: 26286226)
2. You are not alone: putting together a lab, selecting team members and leading a team
FENS-Kavli Scholars: Hanganu-Optaz IL, Mameli M, Karadottir R.T, Spires-Jones TL; Eur J Neurosci. 2015 Oct 23. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13109
3. The road to independence: how to get funding in neuroscience
4. Getting published: how to write a successful neuroscience paper
5. The power of collaboration: why, when and how to work with other neuroscientists
6. Open access, data sharing, and other "alternative metrics" facilitating a neuroscience career
7. Balancing family with a successful career in neuroscience
8. Mobility: a prerequisite or just an aid towards a successful career in neuroscience?
9. Ethics in neuroscience: from animal research to plagiarism and team member abuse
10. How to write a constructive peer-review
A relevant article co-authored by FKNE scholars:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to a Neuroscience Career Joëls M, Hoogenraad CC, Poirazi P, Di Luca M; Neuron. 2015 May 6;86(3):613-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.04.002. (PMID: 25950630)
The web site of the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence