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A Q&A with FASEB President Kevin Kregel

Tuesday, July 26, 2022
FASEB President Kevin C. Kregel, PhD, recently spoke with the FASEB team about the organization’s future and to offer insights and ideas about how FASEB can better serve its member societies and their members. Kregel, Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Iowa, took office on July 1. 

What are your strategic priorities as FASEB president? 

Kregel: I first want to note how honored and excited I am to be stepping into the role of president of FASEB. I appreciate the considerable responsibility in leading what is acknowledged to be the nation’s largest biomedical coalition. FASEB is considered the foremost voice around advocacy and policy for biological and biomedical researchers, and its impact at the national level cannot be underestimated.

Regarding strategic priorities, one of the primary goals embedded within FASEB’s strategic plan is to “Expand efforts and enhance excellence in public affairs and science policy.” I believe that these are key strengths of FASEB, and continuing to expand efforts in public affairs and science policy in support of our members and member societies will be a high priority that I plan to aggressively pursue as FASEB president.

How would you work to broaden the scope of FASEB’s advocacy?

Kregel: FASEB has an extremely strong team within the Office of Public Affairs, and these individuals are critical to our advocacy efforts going forward. The biological and biomedical research community finds itself in a very unique and uncertain period, and we face many challenges.  However, there are also numerous opportunities available, and FASEB can play a leading role in implementing change through our advocacy efforts. The Federation is well positioned to leverage its member societies and resources to positively impact science policy and the support for science in this country. Our FASEB leadership, along with the member societies, must play an important role in these efforts.

Why are diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) initiatives important to FASEB?

Kregel: In many respects, DEAI is at the heart of FASEB’s mission, and initiatives that we have undertaken are a high priority for our leadership team and Board of Directors. We now have an implementation plan in place, as well as dedicated resources, and this plan will allow us to work with our member societies and federal agencies to support and advance DEAI activities. For instance, it is critical to establish and maintain an inclusive environment within the FASEB umbrella, and my hope is that these types of efforts will permeate throughout the biomedical research community.

A place where we are also trying to shine a light is on equity issues more broadly, including considering something as simple as addressing how some smaller universities and colleges, which are doing great work in the area of biomedical research, have difficulties in accessing federal research funding opportunities. We want to make sure they are not left behind, nor are the scientists who work in those environments. We are focused on providing equity in terms of the ability to access resources in biomedical research arenas for everyone.

What do you see as the value of FASEB Capitol Hill Day and similar events?

Kregel: Given the high value that FASEB places on advocating for continued strong federal support for biomedical research, I think it is safe to say that Capitol Hill Day is the single most important activity of the year for the Federation. Capitol Hill Day is an opportunity for our Board of Directors, as well as scientists and staff members from FASEB member societies, to interact directly with members of Congress and their staffers. These in-person engagements provide FASEB with a great opportunity to discuss federal policies that impact our advances in biomedical research and highlight the advancements being made by our member societies.

With COVID-19 having transformed traditions in work and learning, does FASEB need to be particularly responsive to the coming post-COVID era?

Kregel: From my perspective, it is critical that FASEB is proactive in responding to current conditions as well as the coming post-COVID era. FASEB’s Executive Committee and entire Board of Directors have been actively engaged in efforts around this very important topic. Frank Krause (FASEB’s Executive Director) and his team have worked extensively with staff members to come up with working arrangements that are most efficient and productive for each individual. Looking more broadly, there are some very tangible impacts to FASEB post-COVID. How will in-person attendance at our members’ scientific conferences play out over the coming years? Society revenues will likely be impacted by potential declines in meeting attendance. And there may be fewer opportunities for trainees to have in-person experiences with the colleagues, which is a critical part of their professional development. 

How do you think your position as a University Executive Vice President and Provost help illuminate your role as FASEB President?

Kregel: There are several aspects of my current position at the University of Iowa that translate well to my role as president of FASEB. As provost, it is essential to take a very broad view of the entire university and weigh different perspectives as part of the decision-making process. There needs to be prioritization in terms of effort and resource allocation, and decisions need to be made that are strategic and in the best interests of the institution, while balancing both internal and external forces. This approach can directly carry over to a large federation like FASEB. I think it gives me the ability, as well as the necessity, to see the whole broad operation. And it's not just advocacy and policy, but there are so many other ongoing programs that are important assets, whether it's publications, DataWorks!, or Science Research Conferences. It's a multifaceted organization, and it helps to know how they work independently but also collaboratively as well. 

FASEB has a strategic plan in place, and we are focused on accomplishing those tasks that are the highest priorities. These decisions are made within the structure of the Board of Directors. We also depend on input from our outstanding staff and our broad array of volunteers who serve on multiple FASEB committees (e.g., Science Policy, Finance, DEAI, Publications). And while these decisions get weighed based on feedback from our member societies and scientists in the biomedical ecosystem, we must also be aware of other constituent groups that may have an interest in activities we are pursuing (e.g., federal funding agencies, congressional members).

What do you think is the value of FASEB’s Science Research Conferences (SRCs) and Catalyst Conferences to principal investigators and early-career scientists?

Kregel: These specialized conference offerings are important to the overall mission of FASEB and can certainly be beneficial to both principal investigators and early-career scientists. The Catalyst Conferences are short, virtual conferences, designed to explore new topics and provide researchers of any career level with the opportunity to gain experience in organizing a conference. SRCs are designed to be larger and more complex meetings spanning several days. Both of these conference series are important opportunities for the exchange of cutting-edge scientific information and provide both early-career and established investigators with invaluable opportunities for career development, networking, and mentoring.

SRCs and Catalyst Conferences are critical to the development of our workforce pipeline, but also for the exchange of ideas. We really need to figure out how to maintain support and make these opportunities to network and share research financially viable because this is evolving to be a challenging situation in the post-pandemic environment.

How might FASEB support training and career opportunities for students, postdocs, and early-career scientists?

Kregel: FASEB has a long history of providing a range of supports for students, postdocs, and early-career scientists in the biomedical research community. Recognizing that these early-career scientists make up a significant portion of the biological and biomedical sciences community, FASEB leadership has placed additional emphasis on these cohorts over the past years with the development of new programs and leadership opportunities and the infusion of new resources.  For example, three voting positions on FASEB's Board of Directors and Science Policy Committee have been established for early-career scientists. An Early Career Representative Task Force has also been created with a goal of identifying areas in which scientific and professional societies can better support early-career scientists in their professional growth. The future of biomedical research hinges largely on the training and successful development of our early-career scientists, and FASEB is at the forefront of efforts to lead in this area.

What is on your wish list for FASEB? 

Kregel: My wish list is pretty long, but I’ll highlight a few of the items that are priorities. First, I want to continue building on the outstanding efforts of FASEB’s recent past presidents – Patricia Morris, Lou Justement, and Jim Musser – who helped guide the Federation through significant challenges around the FASEB campus sale and the COVID pandemic. FASEB is now positioned to be more proactive in efforts to support our member societies and the biomedical research community in terms of advocacy, policy development, inclusivity, workforce development, and resources for scientists. I am also excited to see how DataWorks! matures over the next year. DataWorks! is FASEB’s new initiative that brings the biological and biomedical research communities together to advance human health through data sharing and reuse. This is another opportunity for FASEB to lead, and DataWorks! should be a great resource for scientists within our member societies. It is an exciting time to be leading FASEB.