In the final days of 2022, it is my pleasure to share with you the outcomes of the strategic meeting that the Executive Committee members had in Utrecht last week. In a forward-looking meeting, we were able to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the field of applied neuroscience, the plans to develop an ECNP career trajectory (from Early Career Scientist to Fellow member), the alignment of this trajectory with our educational offering, and the broadening of our educational programmes in terms of scope, aims and reach, as well as the facilitation of collaborative public-private research partnerships.
In light of the future challenges and opportunities for our field, several critical areas were identified where we feel that ECNP can make a difference.
First, the increase in technological and big data analysis developments in many research fields, including that of applied neuroscience, is opening up new possibilities to strengthen collaboration with other areas of expertise. Additional training will be needed to reduce the gap between the science-based innovations arising from interdisciplinary research areas and their clinical applications.
Second, in addition to psychopharmacology, alternative and add-on interventions, such as neurostimulation, eHealth, and lifestyle interventions, are gaining traction and may provide an opportunity to improve our ties with other fields, such as digital health, psychology and/or public health.
Third, patients more and more are taking a central place in research, and we need to consider how to further integrate them into our organisation and activities.
Finally, the inadequacies of the current classification scheme for psychiatric disorders was addressed. Research is pointing to biological and phenotypic heterogeneity as well as to the overlap of dimensions across disorders. We see it as essential to revisit the current classification scheme by considering a more mechanistic-based perspective that goes beyond the current nosological boundaries.
With the upcoming New Frontiers Meeting 2023 in Nice focused on the rapidly evolving area of psychedelics, the idea is to use the 2024 ECNP New Frontiers Meeting to discuss the implications and potential of these innovative views on classification, taking into account patient heterogeneity and transdiagnostic overlap from a biological perspective. We are now reaching out to sister organisations, regulators, patients and industry to start setting the agenda for this meeting.
To further enhance the ECNP community, the Executive Committee has now also started building a plan for an ECNP career trajectory to recognise and address the educational and networking needs of members in their various career stages. One of the ideas that is currently being worked on is to develop an ECNP Young Academy in which early career scientists can interact with mid-career and senior scientists to, for instance, organise events around dedicated topics through the ECNP Networks. It will also allow early career scientists to meet with the leading experts from these Networks and learn about the new developments in their respective fields. Furthermore, to enhance research collaboration possibilities for mid-career and senior scientists, we plan to facilitate public-private partnerships and develop a platform for identifying and initiating collaborative research projects.
By recognising the different stage-dependent career needs and the innovations relevant to the field mentioned above, we will also need to broaden the focus of our educational programme, and embrace online technologies to reach a larger number of our primary stakeholders with the high-quality educational content that we produce. Currently, an integral plan to align this career trajectory with our educational strategy is being developed and will be further discussed during the upcoming Executive Committee meeting in March.
With these plans we hope to capitalise on ECNP’s enormous strengths and history of outstanding achievement, and prepare the College for the changing demands and new opportunities of the world ahead of us.
As we are entering the holiday season, the time has come to enjoy the company of family and friends, and to look back, and celebrate what the past year has brought us. At the same time, let’s also remember spare a thought for those that suffer, especially during these days, due to situations that are beyond their control. In the end, it will be the feeling of cohesion that unites us and will hopefully bring a peaceful prospect for the New Year. Happy Holidays!
And, as ever, if you have comments or thoughts, do let me know.