"As part of my continued commitment to the Society of being as transparent as practicable, and with the support of the President of the Society, I use this vlog to update on the various Trustee, Council and Committee meetings highlighting the key discussions and decisions....
I wanted to take this opportunity, on behalf of the trustees, to have a quick look back at 2021, because we undertook some work during the year that has laid some important foundations for what's coming up in this year in 2022.
When we have had a quick look at last year, I’ll then take you through some of the plans, ideas, concepts and and activities that are going to take place this year.
So, let's start with conferences.
Having hoped that 2020 was a year that we would never have to live through again, we were hopeful that conferences in 2021 would return to normal. However, that was initially not the case! We had to initially continue with delivering virtual online conferences. For those, the spring (341 delegates) the Irish Section (247 delegates), and the summer meetings (421 delegates, conferences did attract record numbers of delegates and some very positive feedback. It did enable you, the members, to continue to discuss your emerging research, debate current issues of concern and, although difficult in an online format as we've all been finding, you have continued to develop important collaborations.
But, in September, the position had improved and we were able to launch our first hybrid conference, and we used Nutrition Futures, the annual student conference, to test that format. We met at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London and there were 92 face-to-face delegates and 81 joining us online. I did attend that event and I spoke to many who were there, and I can say the event was a great success. Importantly, we learned several lessons about the complexity of delivering one of these hybrid style conferences. And clearly, they're not as easy or straightforward, as I think we would have hoped.
However, we did carry those lessons forward to our winter conference, which we held in December at the Royal Society. We had 175 face-to-face delegates. It was a sellout event. Nearly as many joined us online (158 delegates) from across the world over the course of two days. It did really feel like a sense of normality had returned to our lives. The live streaming for the hybrid worked extremely. We now do have a sense of the strong platform that we need to make hybrid a success, if we decide to continue to use the hybrid format for future conferences. The marker, I would put down here on behalf of the trustees and the science committee is that not all venues can facilitate hybrid.
I think we will see in 2022 a mixture of face-to-face, some online, and some hybrid.
In other developments the trustees launched their new strategic plan for five years in July. It's based upon four key priorities:
PRIORITY 1: To enhance the Society’s promotion of high-quality evidence-based nutritional science and keep the Society at the leading edge of nutritional science, which is essential to its prosperity and competitiveness.
PRIORITY 2: Support the careers and interests of the membership.
PRIORITY 3: Strengthen the impact and visibility of the Society and its members’ contributions to global nutritional science.
PRIORITY 4: Enhance the governance and management of the Society.
Regular updates on the progress of the plan are going to follow in this Vlog, in The Gazette and in other formats. The most important part of having a good strategy is it does provide the trustees with a strong sense of the direction to follow and a chance for them to monitor that progress and adapt as they go along.
After considerable research and debate, the three Themes that have been in existence for some years were replaced in 2021 with four new Themes.
- Food Systems
- Novel nutrition research methodologies and technologies
- Nutrition and optimum life course
- Nutrition in the treatment, management and prevention of disease
New Theme Leaders were recruited and appointed to those four positions. And then towards the end of the year, after some debate, the Theme Leads launched a new initiative called Special Interest Groups, and these will be operating under each of their respective Themes to enable the members to join a specific area or even develop a group in a specific area, to develop an idea of a niche or particular interest in delve very deeply into those areas.
On the publishing front, our journals continue to perform extremely well, Impact Factors rising.
But, the most significant event of the year without doubt was the decision to flip Public Health Nutrition journal from its traditional hybrid, subscription model to a Gold Open Access and we did that on the first of April. Now, early indications are that it has been successful and the number of papers submitted under the new Open Access model is ahead of where we would normally find the number of papers submitted Year-to-date. We're going to continue to monitor this closely, because the lessons we learn from this flip will apply to the far more I think challenging and difficult flip which will be the British Journal of Nutrition sometime in the next four to five years.
Details of the wider Journal strategy for the Society is detailed in the Strategic Plan and you can find that on the website.
Because of several delays resulting from covid never seeming to go away, we finally reopened the Society's refurbished offices in London in July. We did so on the exact date of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Nutrition Society. We were delighted to be able to name the office building Boyd Orr House after the first President of the Society Lord Boyd Orr. Even more exciting saw his granddaughter and grandnephew able to join us. They took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony, with our local MP for Hammersmith and Fulham leading the ceremony,
A number of guests and members were also able to travel up and join us for that event in the height of Summer. These refurbished offices now include a fully stocked Library containing all of the Society's Publications. There's a range of other books and journals in there as well. The library is open for any member to stop by at any time and use it for a meeting or just a period of reflection or study. We've built an improved Conference Centre which has excellent supporting breakout areas and kitchen facilities. And we've made some upgrades on the upper floors to improve the staff working areas.
I have now worked in this building for seven and a half years, I can really genuinely say, it does now feel very much like the home of the Nutrition Society. I know that was the original vision of the trustees when they set out on that refurbishment programme.
Foundations for 2022
So, looking forward into 2022, some foundations were laid, as I mentioned earlier, during 2021.
The new partnership with IFIS to develop the nutrition searchable database is coming to fruition and we're hoping to launch that project in Spring of this year.
We've commenced the recruiting process looking for members of Parliament, both in the Commons and the House of Lords to help us launch an All-Party Parliamentary Group to focus on nutrition science and health.
We have identified that there is a niche need there within Parliament. Ambitions for that are hopefully towards the second half of 2022. We've also joined a number of other existing all-party, parliamentary groups to make sure that we can continue to keep the profile and visibility of nutrition science as high as possible in front of Parliament and policymakers.
Member Development Fund
We are gathering data and looking at the financial viability of whether it's feasible to launch what we're calling a Member Development Fund in 2022 where we can draw on income from the year, income from some of the reserves to fund a range of travel grants, Summer studentships and development grants for other activities that members may wish to bring to our attention and apply for.
We will relaunch our summer studentships in early 2022. And, then we're looking at travel grants. The idea is they will not just be for international conferences, they will cover UK conferences, European conferences. But also, what can we do to support members, who are based on the mainland of the United Kingdom, to travel, to the island of Ireland, to attend the Irish section conference, and vice versa, Irish section members, who want to come over to the mainland of the UK and attend conferences? What can we put in place to support this? We will also be looking at building into this Member Development Fund support for members who want to go to IUNS and also in 2023, if I can go even further ahead, it's the FENS conference and there will obviously need to be a grant process in place for that.
So, with those foundations in place on the conference front, as we launch into 2022, we're going to start with our spring meeting, which we will hold at the Royal Society in Edinburgh 4-5 April. The Irish Section hosting their postgraduate conference in Portrush 10-11 February, and then their summer meeting being held in Cork 15-17 June. The main summer meeting for the Society will at Sheffield University on 12-24 July. And then the Nutrition Futures student conference will take place, being hosted at Coventry University in September.
I should flag up at this stage there isn't going to be the traditional winter meeting in the first week of December this year. We are moving that until the middle of January, 2023. We are committed to supporting the IUNS Congress, which is taking place in Tokyo that first week in December and we obviously can't be in two places at the same time! This winter meeting will be held at the Royal Society as it was in 2021.
I mentioned the All Party Parliamentary Group and our work to find MPs to sponsor that and that's ongoing. I'm really confident that we'll get the APPG going in the Autumn. Staying on the political front, we are supporting STEM for Britain in the House of Commons again, in March of this year. It's an annual poster competition. I think from what I saw a couple of days ago just looking online we do seem to have attracted a record number of applicants this year, which is good news. The Society will be sponsoring the annual Nutrition Society prize. And this year we're also picking up supporting the Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes for chemistry. Then in June, we will be back in the House of Lords for the annual Links Day where we bring together scientists from across STEM to debate a topical area.
On the international front, we are continuing to develop our International Partnerships. A lot of that work has been going on in 2021 getting ready for many conferences, as many were postponed and delayed in 2021, and will now take place in 2022. We're helping the Georgian Nutrition Society establish their first Caucuses International Conference. Probably in May of this year. We will be supporting the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetics Society with their second International Conference in March, and then in a new partnership with the Foundation Sabri Ulker, we will be supporting their conference, being hosted in Istanbul. Members of our Themes, and our science committee, have helped build that conference programme for them.
We actually start the international year in a couple of weeks time with our colleagues from the French Nutrition Society. We're hosting a joint conference with them on Sustainability. It was going to be face-to-face in Lille. But obviously with the pandemic we've had to move that in the last couple of days to an online conference. Registration is now open. It's a fabulous couple of days 27th 28th of January - do go to the website and register for that.
BJN 75th Anniversary
The most significant milestone for 2022 is the 75th anniversary of our flagship journal, The British Journal of Nutrition. A range of activities are going to take place across the year, led by the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Professor John Mathers. We know we're having a reception and an event at the Irish meeting in June. There will be events at the summer meeting, and the anniversary will be culminating with a significant event at the IUNS Congress in Tokyo in December to an international audience.
Interspersed across all of these major events will be all of our usual other activities and opportunities such as Member-Led One Day Meetings, for which several requests for 2022 have already been received. We are also hoping to see a number of Special Interest Groups form and start to map out their focus and areas of interest. I'm looking forward to continuing to see the membership levels increase – under Dr Eileen Gibney’s leadership we are going to be introducing some new membership categories this year to help align the facilities and support you can obtain from membership to the levels that you will find in your respective careers.
The Strategic Plan contains a number of very exciting ideas, and I know the trustees will be laying the foundations for a number of those which they expect to see delivered throughout 2023 and 2024.
So, all that remains is for me to welcome you to 2022. As you can see. It's a busy schedule, we are very excited about the opportunities. On behalf of the trustees for I would like to thank all of you for your support in 2021, and we look forward to meeting you and supporting your careers your research, aspirations and collaborations throughout 2022. As always, if you have any questions or you’d like to become involved in the wider work of the Society please do not hesitate to contact me - I'd be very pleased to hear from you.
Happy New Year, and a prosperous one, to you all. And let's hope we return soon to a strong sense of normality!
Thank you very much."
Mark Hollingsworth, CEO.