Professional Societies Alliance for Life Science Education (PSALSE)

a bright spot for Vision and Change

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What is PSALSE?

PSALSE is an alliance of professional societies in the life sciences working to improve undergraduate education. PSALSE particularly serves those societies promoting the call to action proposed in “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education (V&C).”

The purpose of PSALSE is to meet periodically to network, share ideas and resources, and discuss possible collaborations that emerge from our mutual interest to increase our collective impact. There are no plans to create an official PSALSE coalition or formal organization. PSALSE affiliates are expected to participate in group discussions via meetings (typically quarterly) and an online forum, and disseminate any pertinent information or suggestions from PSALSE to their individual communities. Participants may also take a more active, collaborative role if they so choose.


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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 550 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Tips for Requesting Collaborators

Collaborating means putting feet to the ideals of PSALSE. Collaborations can form among member of  this alliance as well as with others in an alliance member’s network. Here’s an easy process to ask for and organize the help your project needs:

  1. Define the project concisely. A web page is nice, but all you really need is a project title, brief mission statement (your primary goal), intended audience/participant base, 1-3 measurable objectives, and a timeline (or at least some initial, time-stamped milestones).
  2. Collect emails for direct appeal to folks you know have an interest or expertise in your project’s main elements. Include the PSALSE listserv in your appeal.
  3. Optional:  Contact PSALSE web manager or Beth ( to create a blog post to introduce your collaboration and broadcast your appeal.
  4. Prepare a brief message that includes a project overview, a distinct invitation to participate and a specific method and deadline for responding to the invitation.
  5. Share your confirmed collaboration with the PSALSE community. Request via to have a posting on this site’s Collaborations page.

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An Invitation to Collaborate

PALM logoA recent collaboration involving PSALSE affiliates and others interested in Vision & Change has resulted in the Promoting Active Learning & Mentoring (PALM) Network Grant Program. This program is funded by NSF Research Coordination Network in Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) incubator grant #1539870.

Now we will apply for a full, 5-year RCN-UBE grant; the deadline is 6 January. Please consider joining us as new co-PIs or steering committee members. Don’t be nervous! We are an efficient, cohesive team of the many-hands-make-light-the-work variety (whistling whilst working is optional).

To get involved in PALM, a program that provides wonderful professional development to your members or colleagues, please consider if you:

  1. Agree with the goals and logistics of the PALM program as noted on the website.
  2. Are available for periodic work now and through early January 2016 to offer timely comment and insight on the proposal in the editing phase.
  3. Can and also will identify someone in your organization to help monitor the PALM program.
  4. Will identify and help recruit potential mentors.
  5. Agree to advertise the program within your organization and related networks.
  6. Consider the option to direct some funds into a longer term, sustainable version of the program (post-grant; ~5 years from now).

We welcome any and all interest, including questions. To let us know you are interested, please complete this Google form, preferably by December 4. Preliminary questions to Beth Ruedi or me are fine, too.

Please note that there is an upper limit to the number of new partners we can accept (per NSF requirements). This means that those of you who say YES to most items on the checklist will be considered first.

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Professional Resource Links

vector-human-shape-with-social-icons_fJwFcmIuPSALSE resource inventory 2015

PSALSE member organizations have many programs and resources related to education, Vision & Change, and professional development. It’s difficult to know what each organization is offering, which can make it hard for educators and students to find the resources they are looking for, or for other society professionals to find components to help organize or manage life science education initiatives.

PSALSE is pleased to offer an inventory that distills how PSALSE affiliates organize and conduct their priorities. The spreadsheet lists program categories and activities with specific links (URLS or emails, where available) for more information that offers practical help to society professionals and easy access to resources for educators and students.

Examples of possible inventory use:


An undergraduate student (or her advisor) looking for financial support for undergraduate research or travel to a professional conference may use the PSALSE inventory to directly assess which societies provide research fellowships or travel awards. The societies with available support have also listed direct URLs to each program, providing the student (or her advisor) with more information.


An educator may be interested in finding vetted classroom resources promoting the principles of Vision & Change to use in their own courses (after all, why reinvent the wheel?). The PSALSE inventory provides direct access to resources from individual PSALSE member organizations as well as access to some of the larger repositories and partnerships (eg. Life Sciences Teaching Resource Community or CourseSource). Educators may also find resources related to the scholarship of teaching and learning via the PSALSE inventory.

Society Professional

If an organization’s leadership is thinking of establishing a new undergraduate faculty teaching award, the PSALSE inventory provides a snapshot of all PSALSE member affiliates offering such an award. Staff or leadership may then examine the award description and application of each currently available award while developing their own, and/or contact staff associated with the organizations offering awards to gather advice and information.

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Tips for Helping Members Find Funding and Write Grants

There are many different funding mechanisms available, and it can be time consuming for members to identify which are applicable to their research. In addition, grant application success is low, and members need and want resources for developing their grant writing skills. Professional societies are uniquely positioned to address both issues.

Objective:  Clearly communicate funding opportunities to members and provide them with resources to improve their grant writing skills.


  • Developing and executing a grant writing workshop:
    • Determine the goals of your workshop, your target participants and the budget.
      • Do you want participants to develop grant ideas at the workshop or come ready to receive critiques of their pre-written proposals?
      • The NIH and the NSF have many funding mechanisms. Do not try to cover every type of grant or funding agency during a single workshop.
      • How many participants can you support?
    • Form a selection committee and determine how applications will be evaluated.
      • Develop a scoring rubric before evaluating the applications.
      • Pair attendees with potential mentors as you select them.
    • Develop the agenda.
      • Recruit speakers to address different aspects of the grant process (e.g. elements of a successful proposal, the review process).
      • Vary the session formats, rather than lecturing all day.
      • If mentors will be critiquing applications, we recommend that participants have 20min to present their specific aims and 10min for questions. We recommend one mentor for every 3-4 participants.
      • Ensure the agenda encourages peer-peer mentorship and feedback.
      • Recruit speakers from different perspectives (e.g. program officer, successful PI).
    • Market the workshop to target participants.
      • Begin marketing well before the application deadline.
      • Develop a website, which clearly explains the cost, participant expectations (including any pre-workshop requirements) and travel details.
      • Utilize past participants and speakers to further your marketing campaign.
      • In our experience, most candidates are advised to attend by their department chair or mentor.
    • Share workshop materials with participants.
      • Google Drive or Dropbox are good methods of sharing.
      • Develop a confidentiality policy and inform all participants and speakers of it before the workshop since speakers may be presenting unpublished data.
    • Establish an evaluation strategy before the workshop.
      • At a minimum, we recommend pre- and post-workshop surveys.
      • Establish a system for tracking attendees and recording their successes.
  • Publicize funding opportunities to members.
    • Follow and re-tweet @NIHFunding on Twitter.
    • Notify members about funding opportunities through your website, social media, newsletters or other platforms well before the deadlines.
      • Consider establishing a dedicated page on your website if this can be maintained on a regular basis.
    • Target these announcements to members’ career levels and research interests.
    • For society-sponsored funding, list staff contact information.

Contributed by Erica Siebrasse and Andrew Macintyre

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Tips for Engaging Postdocs

Postdocs are an important demographic to serve because they are productive researchers, regularly attend society meetings, and are preparing for future careers. We have found that they are generally receptive to professional development because it is so important to finding the next job opportunity.

Objective: We facilitated an “innovation in Action” discussion section at the 2015 National Postdoctoral Association meeting (Baltimore MD). Around 20 representatives from societies, representatives from postdoc offices and associations, and postdocs were present. Below, we share the most significant of the ideas and thoughts generated at the session.Overall, the attendees thought that there is a general lack of awareness by postdocs with regards to the importance and utility of professional science societies.


  • Communicating with postdocs about professional development opportunities
    • (Most important idea arising from the session) Work with the National Postdoctoral Association and/or campus postdoc offices/postdoc associations to disseminate flyers, bulletins, articles for their newsletters. Almost all campus postdoc offices/postdoc associations have a weekly or monthly newsletter, and postdocs commented that they are more likely to read that newsletter (from a local representative) than a notice from a national society (from an anonymous person)
    • Educate, inform, and encourage principal investigators to send their mentees to offerings from professional societies (direct email to PI’s about postdoc programs)
    • Require LinkedIn profiles or other permanent contact information when registering for membership. Postdocs change affiliations regularly and it can be difficult to keep up membership if the society can no longer be in contact
    • Postdocs generally prefer email and twitter for science-related promotional campaigns
    • When using email as the communication tool, make the message as personal as possible. This may mean sending out messages to smaller subgroups of interested parties.
    • It is best to start communicating with postdocs as early in the postdoc experience as possible.
  • Services/resources that postdocs really want from professional societies
    • Career resources, such as stories, mentoring, pathways, workshops, cover letters/resumes, experiences outside lab about careers outside academia
    • Assistance with immigration issues. This may be an opportunity for a collaborative effort by societies because the majority of them are international
    • Opportunities to serve on society committees. Consider having trainee representation on all committees


Contributed by Rachel Horak

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A New PSALSE Tip Sheet: Promoting the Alliance’s Success

vector-human-shape-with-social-icons_fJwFcmIuCollaborations among science membership organizations matter.

Be sure your members know that as a bright light for Vision & Change, PSALSE demonstrates ever-increasing collaborative powers and offers specific resources for enacting V&C priorities. Endorse PSALSE as one definitive outcome in your organization’s quest to collaborate. Try these easy ideas for sharing the good work of PSALSE with your members.