International Society for Autism Research News


One of the joys of being President of INSAR is working with a small board of fantastic colleagues and a large number of wonderful Committee Chairs and Members, all of whom give their time for free to make this society a success. At the start of November, the Board held the first of its twice-yearly in-person meetings and, with the help of the committees, we agreed to put into place a number of new initiatives and changes that we hope will benefit our members.

When I took over from Helen Tager-Flusberg, our last President, I had the benefit of inheriting a Strategic Plan. Given that the President's term is two years, it seemed wise to focus on one or two aims in that plan. My priorities, with the support of the Board, are Training and Global Reach.

Regarding training, the Student Committee has recently completed a survey to gather members' views on a possible INSAR summer institute. The Board discussed the pros and cons of different formats, and specific concerns that an in-person summer institute might be accessible only to those students in large, well-funded labs. Our current proposal, which will be developed with the Student Committee, is to address training with two new initiatives. First, we aim to launch an IMFAR pre-meeting half-day workshop aimed at early career scientists and students, which will focus each year on a specific topic and maximize networking possibilities. This year, we plan a workshop on grants and funding to take place in Atlanta on the afternoon of Wednesday May 14th. Second, we aim to start (probably in 2015) a virtual summer institute, which will provide high-level, interactive training that is globally accessible at minimal cost.

Regarding INSAR's global reach, we will soon announce a call for proposals for INSAR satellite meetings, the first to take place in 2015/2016. These would be held in partnership with local research, clinical, and stakeholder groups. If you or your colleagues know of an ideal location outside North America and Europe, where there are local groups keen to partner with INSAR to hold such a meeting, we will be pleased to hear your proposals in response to the open call. We will announce the open call, and further details of how to make your proposals, in the next few months.

In addition, to broaden our global membership, we agreed at the November meeting to offer nominal INSAR membership fees and reduced IMFAR registration fees to members from low income countries. We also plan to increase the value of the developing countries travel awards. The number of diversity awards will also be increased with the specific aim of encouraging the attendance at IMFAR of scientists with autism spectrum conditions.

Finally, I hope INSAR will be developing an initiative for open-access autism research tools, made accessible to the global community—watch this space!

I look forward to hearing your views on these new initiatives, and seeing you in Atlanta for IMFAR 2014.