Looking at OHBM membership data and a new membership tier
OHBM transitioned to a scientific society in 2018 with the goal of delivering year-round engagement for the society’s members rather than being solely about the annual meeting. However, if one looks at the raw membership numbers over the last 17 years, the main perceived membership benefit remains connected to the annual meeting. In particular, yearly membership numbers fluctuate with meeting location, with highest membership numbers from the same geographic region.
Unfortunately, this means that the society-based aspects of OHBM and many of the benefits of being an OHBM member have been largely overlooked. Thus, OHBM leadership is introducing a new MEMBERSHIP+ initiative to create a greater engagement of members on top of the annual meeting, strengthening OHBM as a society.
OHBM can negotiate better conditions with service providers as an organization than are available to individual OHBM members. The introduction of MEMBERSHIP+ highlights this potential: For an increased annual membership fee, OHBM members will gain access to discounted or improved services. In 2023 – as a trial year of MEMBERSHIP+ – this will be access to unlimited space on Dropbox, for which OHBM has negotiated a 50% discount on Dropbox memberships and will pass along the reduced fee via MEMBERSHIP+ without any profit for the society.
Full access to MEMBERSHIP+ will cost an additional $144 USD, with 200 Dropbox licenses available - which is about $55 USD a year less than a subscription to the “Professional” Dropbox plan ($16.58 USD / month, annual subscription), offering 3 TB to individual users. For technical questions, please refer to the official support of Dropbox.
After this first year, the future of this new MEMBERSHIP+ membership type will be evaluated based on its popularity.
As neuroimaging datasets get larger and scientists become more committed to open science practices and data sharing, there is an increasing need to host data in the cloud. Unfortunately, not all institutions provide researchers with easily accessible hosting solutions. By subscribing to MEMBERSHIP+, members will get full access to unlimited space on Dropbox for a year, allowing members to share data and collaborate without worrying about running out of cloud storage.
Changes in OHBM membership over the years
In recent years there have been significant developments in the OHBM membership structure such as the changes for the 2023 annual meeting in Montréal: All OHBM members will now have access to the virtual part of the conference and do not need to register for the in-person event to access presentation recordings and virtual posters. Furthermore, members who cannot be present at the physical meeting can showcase their work virtually through the Fourwaves meeting portal.
These changes to the membership follow a general trend over recent years in fostering the engagement of members outside the conference, such as the career center and on-demand educational videos.
Additionally, in 2020 Aperture (now Aperture Neuro) was launched as an open-source publishing platform for and by OHBM members, where members of OHBM benefit from a reduced publishing fee of $800 ($1000 for non-members).
A closer look at OHBM membership data
In preparation for this post, I had a closer look at the global distribution of the members in the past 17 years, thanks to Beau and Beth in the Executive Office (see the analyses that reproduce these figures on GitHub/Binder). As mentioned earlier, the first thing that popped out to me is that the location of the conference is a major driver of membership numbers in that region. If we look at the panels in Fig. 1, we see that in years in which the conference was in North America or Europe, there are spikes in memberships for the corresponding regions.
The conference effect is most pronounced, however, for Oceania in 2008, when the annual meeting was held in Melbourne—the only time when there were more than 150 members from that region.
Somewhat surprisingly, the virtual conference mostly drew new members from North America (especially the US) and did not result in a more global audience. This is despite the efforts and emphasis of OHBM to be a global organization, ensuring diversity and inclusivity. These efforts included providing platforms (in both 2020 and 2021) that were globally accessible and using convenient time-zones, although they largely favored North America and Europe in 2021 working hours. It is possible that multiple factors contributed to this imbalance, as recent specialized online conferences seem to be more diverse.
As illustrated in Figure 3, the number of OHBM members has generally increased over the last 16 years. However, it is unclear whether this is an effect of the increasing benefits of OHBM membership or increasing popularity of human brain mapping research.
Moving from an annual meeting to a society
While becoming a member of OHBM still seems to be largely connected to the annual conference, the organization has been focusing on connecting and engaging members year-round. These efforts are not only through benefits tied to the membership, but also through initiatives often launched by the Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which have a special focus on connecting and engaging members of OHBM within particular affinity groups.
In 2017 the mentorship program was launched by the Student and Postdoc SIG and is still going strong, bringing together mentees and mentors from across the globe. (Indeed, this program was one reason for me becoming a member of OHBM in the first place!) Other initiatives include the OHBM hackathon, which started in 2012 and is now organized by the Open Science SIG.
Further efforts include special interest conferences, such as the recent virtual conference on qMRI in Neurodegeneration.
Moving the focus from the main conference and making OHBM engaging over the whole year has further benefits of inviting new members to join and be connected to the society, without the need to worry about visa restrictions, travel and accommodation costs, and might even reduce the climate burden of traveling.
Being a member of OHBM has become increasingly attractive over the years, with more and more benefits and avenues of year-round engagement. The MEMBERSHIP+ subscription is another important step, offering additional incentives to become more engaged in the community. While the exact impact on membership numbers in the coming years remains to be seen, expect to see additional year-round features added to OHBM membership to benefit the society’s members and the society as a whole.
Blog Post Lead Reviewer: Alex Samson