Society Spotlight: The American Physiological Society
Created by lgreen on 11/21/2013

By Allison Lea

The American Physiological Society (APS) has a long and extensive history of fostering education and scientific research and disseminating information about physiology. APS was founded in 1887 with 28 charter members and today boasts over 10,500 members, about a quarter of whom are international. In 1912, APS along with the American Society for Biological Chemists (now the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics founded the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year.

The APS publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals, including the new open-access journal, Physiological Reports, published in collaboration with The Physiological Society in the UK. APS is one of the conveners of the annual Experimental Biology meeting, which will be held in San Diego in 2014. It also typically sponsors one or two specialty conferences each year. In addition, APS seeks to inform the public and policy makers about the value of physiology and all biomedical research, engage in educational outreach, and offer professional skills training.

Recently, APS launched a new website to make physiology more accessible to non-scientists. PhysiologyInfo.org features overviews of the body’s physiological systems, historical information, and links to APS resources such as blogs and press releases.

APS advocates for increased federal research funding and for animal research, both of which are critical to advancing physiology. This year the APS Science Policy Committee’s annual Capitol Hill day was scheduled for October 1, which happened to fall on the first day of the government shutdown. Nevertheless, the Committee managed to bring the message about the need for federal support of biomedical research to 17 congressional offices from 13 states. Committee members gave examples of the devastating effects that sequestration has had for researchers across the country and urged Congress to end the across the board spending cuts.

On October 16, the Society’s Animal Care & Experimentation (ACE) Committee met with 15 congressional offices to highlight scientists’ commitment to animal welfare and to underscore the pivotal role animal studies play in biomedical research. These meetings took place on the last day of the shutdown. In recent years, APS has created a number of useful resources about animal research, including a frequently asked questions brochure entitled Animal Research: Finding Cures, Saving Lives, which is available online with additional resources at a dedicated website. The purpose of these resources is to explain to the public the role animal studies play in biomedical discovery and to dispel misconceptions about research with animals.

APS is deeply committed to its role in increasing diversity and mentoring the next generation of physiologists. Since 1968, APS has focused on expanding the pipeline of underrepresented students in basic biomedical research degree programs. In 2003, APS was recognized by the White House for its 40-year commitment to diversity efforts and received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

The APS is involved in promoting education in the physiological sciences at every level.  Earlier this month, the APS Education Office coordinated its eighth annual “PhUn Week” for K-12 students. PhUn (Physiology Understanding) Week is a nationwide outreach initiative to increase students’ interest in and understanding of physiology, encourage teachers to incorporate physiology into their standards-based science curriculum, and involve physiologists in local educational outreach. In 2005, PhUn week reached just over 500 students in four states. This year, the program reached a record number of nearly 15,000 students at 72 locations.

Early next year, APS will offer two professional skills training courses: Writing and Reviewing for Journals and Best Practices for Publishing Your Work (January 16-19, 2014). The writing workshop is designed to help graduate students and postdocs improve their manuscript writing, reviewing, and submission skills. Small groups of participants with similar backgrounds work closely with an instructor who has extensive publication experience in a related research area. The Best Practices for Publishing workshop is a being offered for the first time as part of a new publication ethics curriculum that APS is developing. APS offers various Professional Skills Training courses throughout the year.

The APS Archive of Teaching Resources (www.APSarchive.org) was launched in 1998 as a way for physiologists to share resources and has grown into a collaboration among seven societies. The Archive offers a free online library of more than 6,000 peer-reviewed life science teaching resources.

Visit the APS website to learn more about its programs.

APS Science Policy Committee visits Capitol Hill on October 1, the first day of the government shutdown