The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) thirteenth annual meeting, hosted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, March 13 to 15, 2015, included several sessions emphasizing opportunities available to postdoctoral scholars through professional society membership. This complemented the findings and recommendations of the December 2014 National Academies’ study, The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited, which called for an increased role for professional societies in providing resources about career opportunities and assisting with the tracking of career outcomes of postdoctoral scholars.
During the first plenary session, representatives from the American Sociological Association, American Chemical Society, and the Association of Women in Science, discussed the role of professional and disciplinary societies in in fostering the future careers of postdoctoral scholars. They highlighted specific opportunities offered by their respective organizations. In addition, the presenters spoke broadly about ways individual postdoctoral scholars and even institutional postdoc offices could partner with professional societies and associations at the national, regional, and even local level. Specific opportunities included sessions devoted to career development during annual meetings, short- and long-term fellowships, and recurring networking events.
Two “Innovation in Action” sessions called attention to the important role of disciplinary societies in professional networking opportunities and engaging postdoctoral scholars in advocacy activities and featured several representatives from Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and member societies. Considered a hallmark of the NPA annual meeting, these sessions provided an interactive format between participants and moderators. Led by Jennifer Zeitzer, FASEB’s Deputy Director of Public Affairs, and assisted by Juliet Moncaster (NPA Advocacy Committee), Tracy Costello (NPA Advocacy Committee), Chris Pickett (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), and Yvette Seger (FASEB), participants in the session on advocacy worked in teams to develop strategy plans. These included the identification of goals, resources, targets, and tactics to advocate for specific postdoc issues at the national and local level. The second Innovation in Action session, which was co-moderated by Anne Deschamps (FASEB) and Melinda Lowy (American Physiological Society), engaged postdocs in a conversation about resources they would like to see offered by postdocs as well as preferred mechanisms of communication between societies and members. Monika Schneider (American Association of Immunologists) and Adam Fagen (Genetics Society of America) also assisted with the discussion.
Additional information about the 2015 NPA annual meeting can be viewed on the NPA website. When available, speaker presentations and handouts will also be posted to the site.