Season’s Greetings 2022 from the FENS President

21 December 2022

FENS News, Neuroscience News

Dear colleagues, dear friends,

As we approach the end of an outstanding year, I would like to wish everyone a joyous holiday season. Since assuming the role of FENS President in July, it has been a privilege and enjoyable experience to have observed and participated in the federation’s service to the neuroscience community. 

We all started to find our feet again and re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with new norms and several important questions to address, such as: how we maintain the highest levels of scientific research and training while becoming more sustainable and inclusive; how do we respond quickly to crises such as the ongoing war in Ukraine to support scientists; and how do we become more effective in our advocacy efforts and ensure that we are paying attention to new areas, such as neuroethics and cross-disciplinary dialogue and knowledge sharing. FENS leadership took special advantage of this period to reflect on these and other issues through its first ever internal review and re-assessment of the strategic plan.  The administrative team has been spectacular supporting this process alongside their sterling work to service FENS committees and partners as we implement our regular and new activities and programmes. 

I have a rich bounty of activities to highlight and select from this year. Our whole community should take great pride and ownership. First and foremost, the 13th FENS Forum in Paris, France proved to be the largest ever neuroscience meeting in Europe. We welcomed more than 7,800 in-person participants from 92 countries and provided a stellar scientific programme composed of 56 symposia, over 4,800 posters and more than 400 international speakers. The meeting brought together brain researchers from around the world, alongside a whole new generation of neuroscientists, and provided a dynamic environment to share new knowledge, meet with peers and reunite with friends. 

After a 2-year hiatus, the FENS Summer School was relaunched and took place in Bertinoro, Italy in May. The students appreciated the diversity of the lectures and the interaction with the faculty and their peers, which fostered discussions on high-level scientific topics and research. MSc and PhD students benefited from short laboratory stays through the NENS Exchange grants, our intra-European mobility and training programme, and FENS webinars focused on developing scientific research knowledge and soft skills had a huge impact in the community by reaching audiences of over 200 participants per session. FENS also continued to administer the FENS-Dana Brain Awareness Week grants on behalf of the Dana Foundation and awarded 33 projects across 19 European countries.

Our FKNE and ALBA networks organised highly engaging events at the FENS Forum and other activities throughout the year. FKNE launched a series of short laboratory exchanges and, at the Forum, awarded Mentoring and PhD thesis prizes, held events about protecting European neuroscience in a turbulent world, sustainability in neuroscience and mentoring during the pandemic and beyond. They also joined ALBA in the Forum event ‘Colours of the Brainbow: From ethnic diversity to global inclusion in European Neuroscience’ and awarded the ALBA-FKNE Diversity Prize. The ALBA Network was focused in general this year on expanding definitions of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) by increasing community engagement and raising awareness of certain specific forms of bias and discrimination that have sometimes received less attention. FENS accomplished so much in 2022, and I congratulate and thank you – our membership and broader community – for your continued support and engagement. 

Looking ahead to 2023, we are planning another terrific and engaging agenda. The Sociedade Portuguesa de Neurociências will be organising the FENS Regional Meeting in Algarve, Portugal from 3-5 May. It will offer a scientific programme that focuses on chronic stress, neurodegenerative disorders and synapse and glia biology. I encourage you all to take part and take advantage of early bird registration open until 28 February 2023. The Brain Conference on “Establishment and Maintenance of Brain Cell States”, organised by FENS in collaboration with the Lundbeck Foundation, awarder of The Brain Prize, will take place on 23-26 April 2023 in Rungsted Kyst (Denmark). Brain Prize winners Professors Adrian Bird and Anne Schaefer will serve as co-chairs so apply now for this opportunity not to be missed.

FENS will also launch NEUROPE, a project that aims to centralise European neuroscience in an easily accessible online search engine. It will feature brain research opportunities across Europe based on institutional level, graduate education and Principal Investigators. FENS and the IBRO Pan-Europe Regional Committee (IBRO-PERC) will offer a new FENS/IBRO-PERC Exchange Fellowships Programme to foster and broaden the scope of methodological training by supporting goal-directed laboratory visits in established European laboratories. FKNE will launch its call for 15 new FENS-Kavli Scholars in early January so please check our website to submit your nominations. There will also be two new FENS Communication initiatives to showcase our membership and their success stories – FENS Voices and FENS Cast. FENS Voices has already been launched as a series of written interviews that aims to amplify the work and impact of our community members, and FENS Cast will be a podcast series beginning in January, featuring conversations on the important neuroscience research being conducted by our members.

The upcoming year promises to be another period of challenges but also of boundless potential in scientific discovery, innovation and collaboration. I kindly request our community beforehand to take a moment and acknowledge the continuing struggle faced by our colleagues in Ukraine. FENS stands in solidarity with the scientific community and all those who are suffering directly or indirectly from this tragic situation. We will continue to reach out to the neuroscience community to share resources and opportunities until the war has come to an end. Acting together will help us better serve the needs of our colleagues where and when they require support. FENS is a powerful voice when unified and I am proud to be leading our efforts for the next two years. I look forward to working with you all, and I send my warmest wishes for the holiday season.

FENS President 2022-2024
Irene Tracey