In the winter of 2017, as part of our Strategic Planning process, Teratology Society members were surveyed on a variety of topics regarding the current and future direction of the Society. Results of the survey were used to inform topics and discussion at a Strategic Planning meeting which convened April 2017 as well as further discussions at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Denver.
One area which the survey and further discussions explored was that of the name of the Society. As reported at the 2017 Business Meeting, the member survey and further discussions identified concerns that the term “teratology” is not well known among policy makers, funding agencies, students and trainees. It was felt that the term teratology may no longer represent who our current and potential future members are and what they do.
Subsequently, we conducted a second member survey in the Fall of 2017 to delve into this issue further. A summary of the survey results is as follows:
- There were 185 respondents (representing a 28% response rate).
- Feelings about current name: 51% like very much or somewhat, 34% neutral, 15% dislike somewhat or very much
- How name relates to career: 66% relates very well or somewhat well, 15% neutral, 19% does not relate so well or at all
- Effectiveness at describing Society: 31% very or extremely effective, 41% somewhat effective, 28% not effective or not so effective
- Do scientists outside Society relate to name: 19% yes, 44% no, 37% unsure
- Would you like Society to consider rebrand that involves a name change: 59% yes, 41% no
- Suggestions for alternative names included in full survey report
- Fifty-nine members indicated a willingness to participate in a working group to explore potential rebrand/name change.
- The full report is available HERE.
In January 2018, each of the 59 volunteers (#8 above) was invited to participate in a focus group to further explore a potential name change, specifically to discuss what a good alternative name might be, in the event a name change is pursued. A message also went out to all Society members about the rebrand/name change discussions inviting any member who wished to participate in a focus group to do so.
In February 2018, six focus groups were convened via conference call, involving a total of 46 members. One focus group was made up exclusively of trainees and was led by an early career scientist. The other groups were made up of a cross section of the general membership, and these groups also included some newer investigators.
The focus groups were charged with discussing the full survey results and proposing a potential new name for the Society. It was made clear to the focus groups that no decision to pursue a name change has been made, but that this was the next step in exploring concerns noted during Strategic Planning and in the survey results, including the interest among the majority of respondents to explore a rebrand involving a name change.
During the focus groups there was some inconsistency in thinking about who the target audience would be for the Society name. Council provided the following clarification:
- Our primary audiences for the branding/naming of the Society are:
- Scientific community
- Funding agencies
- Policy makers
- Prospective members, including trainees
- The primary audience is not the general public or pregnant women, though having a name that is readily understood by the general public, including the media, could be helpful.
- The name should indicate that this is a group of people doing research in the same/related disciplines. For example, Society for Birth Defects Research would be better than Society for Birth Defects in this regard.
- The name should capture our focus on factors that lead to abnormal development and differentiate us from more general development and reproduction societies.
After the focus groups and the clarification of the target audience, the list of proposed alternative names was narrowed down to:
- Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
- Teratology Society for Reproductive and Developmental Research
- Birth Defects Research Society or Society for Birth Defects Research
- Birth Defects and Developmental Health Research Society or Society for Birth Defects and Developmental Health Research
Interestingly, it was our early career/trainee focus group that proposed a variation on the existing name: Teratology Society for Reproductive and Developmental Research.
Following the focus group conference calls, participants were asked to complete a follow up survey ranking the proposed alternative names. The top two names that received the most #1 and #2 rankings were “Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention” and “Society for Birth Defects and Developmental Health Research” (or its variation). Full results may be found HERE.
At this year’s Annual Business Meeting on June 27 in Clearwater Beach, FL, we will discuss this topic further. We hope to have a friendly and productive discussion about which of the following is the best name to position our Society for growth and success into the future:
- Our current name, the Teratology Society, or
- One of the preferred alternative names:
- Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
- Society for Birth Defects and Developmental Health Research
If you will not be at this year’s Annual Business Meeting, please feel free to send your comments via email to Heather Carskaddan (email@example.com) no later than June 20, 2018, and they will be shared at the Annual Business Meeting.
In the months following the Annual Business Meeting, Council will decide whether to pursue another survey of the membership asking members to choose between the existing name and one alternative name. This would not be an official vote and would include all members, including trainees, with results differentiated by membership type. Results from this survey would then be used to determine whether a name change should be formally proposed to the voting membership via the process outlined for Constitution and Bylaws Amendment.
Alan M. Hoberman, PhD, DABT, ATS
President, Teratology Society