Developing a Digital Chapter
Chapters provide a venue for researchers of all career levels from neighboring universities to come together and discuss topics ranging from experimental discoveries to lab techniques, outreach, and more.
Now, in a continuously digitizing world, there are new opportunities for chapters to step in and connect the scientific community even more than they already do — through establishing an online presence.
So, how can your chapter expand its impact beyond in-person meetings? As you develop a strategy to increase opportunities for networking and outreach online, here are three high-level principles to keep in mind.
Locate a digital content and community manager within your chapter and give that person a formalized position.
They should be able to create and manage a website for your local SfN chapter, which should be set up to house resources and provide benefits to members remotely. Ideally, the manager will also be the one to distribute resources, such as advocacy best practices, and facilitate online events to keep members engaged and create a strong network.
If nobody in your chapter has this specific set of digital skills, leverage chapter members’ professional networks to see who you know who may be interested in joining or helping the chapter.
Ensure content is relevant and clearly organized.
How can your website increase member commitment? By prioritizing user interests and needs. A purposeful website can be used as a way for your chapter to promote outreach year-round and to highlight labs and researchers who are going above and beyond to connect with audiences digitally.
Beyond having an event page with digital outreach and networking opportunities, you can also include scientific training content that covers many topics and career levels. There should be material for the beginner and seasoned scientist alike, and a user should be able to clearly navigate between training levels.
For example, Khan Academy is a trusted name in high-quality education overall and can be used to strengthen a researcher’s prerequisite knowledge. With a more specific focus, iBiology explains top-level research on a number of topics through engaging presentations.
Leverage your site to pursue university partnerships and reach the community.
A chapter’s website can also become a tool for high school and undergraduate students to understand what research looks like in their state and what a career in neuroscience there would entail.
Neuroscience programs and institutions must ask themselves, How do we demonstrate that our digital education is unique and a better fit than others when taught digitally? Make it easy for them to partner with your chapter to make your chapter’s website students’ go-to resource. Your website can connect students to individual lab pages, registration dates, and even template curriculums.
Not only will partnering in this way improve traffic to your website, but it could encourage all universities to create a stronger open education system with a digital-only infrastructure.
Neuroscience is an inherently collaborative field. People want to connect with one another, and the changing landscape of in-person meetings means that chapters will fill new roles. Building on the three areas listed above, your chapter can not only provide similar opportunities as meetings once did but leverage digital tools to create new ones, too.