The Animal Behavior Society
A Message from the ABS President
Dear Members of the Animal Behavior Society,
 
Despite the multiple challenges of the past year, I am delighted to see the large number of attendees and presenters at this year’s ABS conference. Huge thanks to Tim Wright (Program Officer) and Ximena Bernal (Program Officer-Elect) for their hard work, persistence, and vision to put together our second virtual meeting in the Society’s history. 
 
I want to take this opportunity to share with the membership some of the work that the ABS leadership (Presidents and Executive Committee) has been doing in the last 12 months in collaboration with multiple committees and members who volunteered their time. The overall goal has been to build the foundations to make our Society a leader in inclusion and diversity as well as in research transparency and reproducibility, while increasing its national and international profiles.
 
 
MEMBERSHIP
  • Our membership has been growing in the last few years. As of July 26, 2021, we have 1,976 members, with the following breakdown:
Regular: 590
Lifetime: 62
Emeritus: 59
Developing nations: 229
Post-docs: 175
Students: 855
Science writers: 6

It is exciting to see the high number of students, which should compel us to keep working hard on making our Society as student-friendly as we can to ensure a bright future for our discipline. 
  • We implemented free one-year membership for undergrad students. We hope this provides an opportunity for undergraduates interested in animal behavior to experience the benefits of being a member of a professional society and for ABS to recruit new members early in their careers. Please, encourage undergraduate students to join the Society. 

  • One source of pride for our Society is the group of Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists who work with professionalism and compassion to enhance the welfare of animals and their interactions with humans (https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-application.php). We have recently removed some bureaucratic barriers that prevented some highly-qualified individuals from around the world to be part of the program. We hope that the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists program grows in the next few years as they are very important ambassadors of the Society.
 
 
MEETINGS
  • Last year, we organized the first virtual annual meeting in the history of the Society due to COVID-19 restrictions. This meeting was attended by 1,990 people and the current meeting has an attendance of 1,483. To give some context, the last two ABS in-person meetings were attended by 599 people in 2018 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and 1,051 people in 2019 (Chicago, Illinois).

  • We developed and co-organized with the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (https://www.asab.org/) the First Global Animal Behaviour Twitter Conference (https://www.animbehav2021.org/). The conference ran via the hashtag #AnimBehav2021 over two days in January 2021. The hashtag generated 7,497 tweets with 17,267,691 impressions, reaching 3,836,496 unique Twitter accounts. This Twitter conference was a new approach for us, and included exciting talks from animal behavior researchers from all over planet Earth. The Twitter conference certainly raised the international profile of ABS, leading to about 800 new Twitter followers, and receiving inquiries from other international academic societies to learn from our experience.

  • The pandemic allowed us to explore and refine the virtual approach to annual conferences. Although there is no substitution to in-person meetings, we learned a valuable lesson from the 2020 conference: virtual meetings substantially lower the barriers for underserved groups to access the exciting science we share every year (e.g., https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.07.451408v1.full). The Society’s leadership has been building the foundations to develop hybrid meetings (with both in-person and virtual platforms) in the future. To that end, we secured a new deal with SPLTrak to make the on-demand component of these hybrid meetings affordable for ABS. This hybrid format will enhance the inclusion goals ABS is working towards. The leadership will be assessing different options for these hybrid conferences in the next few months.

  • In January 2021, the Education Committee ran a very successful free virtual workshop on Lessons from Online Teaching and Learning Animal Behavior focused on delivering lectures online, teaching field courses virtually, remote assessment, etc. You can watch the workshop via the ABS YouTube channel: https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/education-symposia.php

  • We developed a new program to run free virtual workshops on topics of interest to our members, including grant writing, experimental design and statistics, using specific hardware and software, etc. The workshops are taught live virtually by instructors from across the Americas, and recorded and later posted in the ABS YouTube Channel. We ran a first proof-of-concept workshop on mixed-models applied to animal behavior in November, and the second workshop will be on formulating hypotheses and predictions in animal behavior at the end of August. The registration for this second workshop is now open: https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/2021-workshop.php. If you have ideas for teaching a workshop, please, send an email to: president@animalbehaviorsociety.org

  • Members have suggested multiple times that the session labels in the annual conferences were too broad to make decisions about which session to attend. The Program Officers, the leadership, and some ABS members worked very hard this year to create new labels that allow authors to choose sessions that better represent the intellectual diversity of the Society. This is a work in progress. Next, we will try using some Artificial Intelligence algorithms to optimize session labeling based on the submissions we get every year. When you submitted your talks this year, you may have noticed we asked many extra questions whose answers will allow us to build these algorithms.   

  • We have worked closely with the National Science Foundation on the workshops they run during the ABS annual conference. This year, there will be two workshops devoted to early career researchers and principal investigators, and a brand-new information session where Program Directors from multiple programs and directorates will be available to answer questions about funding opportunities and potential grant proposal ideas. The following programs will be at the NSF booth: Biological Anthropology, Evolutionary Processes and Ecology and Evolution of Infection Diseases, National Ecological Observatory Network, Infrastructure Innovation for Biological Research, Mathematical Biology, Graduate Research Fellowship Program, Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology and Computer and Information Science and Engineering and Robotics. We hope members will find this new session useful to explore novel funding opportunities throughout the NSF.
 
 
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

  • We are making some important modifications to our policies and procedures, with the goal of improving the reporting and processing of alleged misconduct cases. Our aim is to standardize the procedures and bring them up to speed to match what other academic societies have done recently. We all want a scientifically vibrant society that is free of any kind of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or abuse so that our members can feel a safe and respected. We will soon share these policy changes with the membership.

  • The Weaving the Future of Animal Behavior group conducted a professional development workshop for graduate students in May. The workshop consisted of three plenary talks by BIPOC scientists and mentors who discussed strategies for responsive mentoring and networking, Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) work in animal behavior research, and ways of navigating dysfunctional environments. Additionally, a panel with animal behavior leaders in industry, academic, NGO and governmental organizations shared their perspectives and strategies for success in diverse career paths. At the end of the workshop, peer mentoring circles were developed to empower graduate students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds and graduate students of color. A total of 61 graduate students attended the workshop, with the majority being BIPOC students from across the Americas.

  • The very first workshop of the 2021 conference was a JEDI mentoring workshop. The workshop consisted of a lecture on inclusive mentorship practices, discussions between workshop attendees about mentorship practices, and a panel discussion with prominent leaders in animal behavior and JEDI minded mentorship.

  • The Latin American Affairs Committee developed a new mentoring program, whose goal is to enhance opportunities for professional development and career advancement of Latin American students. The program consists of regular virtual meetings of a grad student with their thesis advisor and an ABS mentor. We conducted a very successful pilot over the last few months and we are officially launching the program on Wednesday (website to submit applications: https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/laac-mentoring.php). 

  • The Social Media Committee has been supporting JEDI initiatives via different types of Twitter campaigns (e.g., Twitter take-overs, #BlackinAnimalBehavior campaign, citations practices, safety in fieldwork, etc.) and promoting talks from the 2020 conference from members of underrepresented groups via the ABS YouTube channel.
 
 
RESEARCH TRANSPARENCY AND REPRODUCIBILITY
Our discipline has begun to face the challenge of enhancing its research transparency and reproducibility. The leadership took this very seriously and has been working on different strategies.
 
  • In the 2020 conference, we organized a symposium with six speakers from North America and Europe who explained the reasons behind the reproducibility crisis, the challenges in collecting behavioral data in a reproducible manner, making behavioral data management reproducible, the value of replicating studies in Animal Behavior, the value of synthesis and meta-analysis, and how Animal Behavior journals can change their editorial policies to enhance reproducibility and decrease publication bias. The symposium was one of the most attended and watched events of the conference.

  • The ABS leadership held several conversations with the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, which fully owns the journal Animal Behaviour (ABS partners with ASAB in the management of the journal), to explore ways in which the journal can adopt practices that minimize publication bias, increase research transparency, and promote diversity and inclusion. Although very productive, the conversations have not yet translated into the editorial changes ABS aspires to. In response, members of the ABS Executive Committee began exploring the potential development of a new journal in Animal Behavior. We set-up an ad-hoc committee that produced a thorough report whose results will soon be shared with the membership for feedback. Importantly, even if ABS decides to pursue a new journal, we will stay committed to partnering with ASAB in the management of Animal Behaviour.

  • The Executive Committee is in the process of modifying our code of conduct to explicitly encourage ABS members to engage in research practices that are open, transparent, and reproducible. The changes will be soon shared with the membership for a vote.
 
 
COMMUNICATIONS
  • About three years ago, we started a new communications strategy focused on growing our Twitter presence. We set up a Social Media Committee, which spends a considerable amount of time keeping the ABS Twitter account active by highlighting recent animal behavior papers, the research of early career and under-represented groups, and efforts to enhance diversity, inclusion, and research transparency in our field. The ABS account (@AnimBehSociety) gets a lot of attention, with our Twitter followers growing from an initial 400 to the current 8,846 followers. Our ABS Twitter account has become a great platform to highlight the work of our members, and we are very grateful for the hard work of the Social Media Committee. If you are not following ABS on Twitter, please, consider doing so.

  • Last year, we launched the ABS YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSdEzohEiS_1eFGAnEp0z8Q/featured). The channel is organized in playlists with a synopsis of recent animal behavior research, videos on specific behaviors of animals, scientific presentations from ABS annual conferences and workshops, etc. The channel has 370 subscribers with most views (76%) coming from non-subscribers.

  • ABS supported the launch of the Animal Behavior podcast, which involves conversations “with leading researchers in the field of animal behavior, merging science and stories” (https://theanimalbehaviorpodcast.buzzsprout.com). Three episodes have been released so far from season 1 with 1,780 downloads and about 500-600 subscribers.
 
 
FINANCES

  • ABS is in a good financial standing at the moment, because of the annual earnings provided by Elsevier, the publisher of our journal. This input of funds is critical for us to keep the society going, run all the activities associated with the annual conference, and provide grant support to our early career scientists. However, the leadership is also aware that the scientific publishing market is likely to change over the next few years, which brings uncertainty as to whether the earnings from Elsevier are sustainable. The leadership is considering increasing the savings from these yearly earnings with the medium-term goal of becoming financially independent from our publisher. We are in the process of re-assessing our stock investment strategy so that we can establish how much money we should save to accomplish this goal in a reasonable amount of time.   
 
I cannot be more excited about the bright future of our Society. Please, do not hesitate to contact the leadership to suggest ideas or communicate concerns. We need your voice to keep growing our beloved ABS.
 
I hope you all have a great meeting! 
 
Sincerely yours,
 
Esteban
 
 
Prof. Esteban Fernandez-Juricic
Purdue University
President of the Animal Behavior Society
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