Analysis of the discipline of physiology is extended to its global state in 2017

In July 2016 The Physiological Society launched a report, Health of Physiology, which looked at the state of the discipline in the UK and Ireland in terms of physiological research and teaching, observing historical trends and suggesting where improvements could strengthen the discipline in future. The report was well-received by the physiology community and has spurred others on to action. Now, the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) has conducted a similar exercise but with a global scope, and partnered with The Physiological Society to determine recommendations and release its report. The product is Physiology  Current Trends and Future Challenges. Input was sought from all member organisations of the IUPS, with the report being the distillation of the 27 responses received. These cover all six inhabited continents and physiological societies large and small, with memberships ranging from tens to thousands.

Physiology  Current Trends and Future Challenges considers the different atmospheres in which research is carried out, with different national regulations, availability of funding for basic research, and public support for scientists. It also investigates the teaching of physiology and its identity as either a separate subject or sub-discipline of other biological and medical courses. Finally, the potential career routes for physiology graduates are examined, including the need for physiology skills outside of the academic career pathway.

The recommendations of the report are targeted towards physiologists and physiological societies, as they will need to support change in their own countries if physiology is to be bolstered worldwide. New networks and partnerships will be instrumental in sharing successes and propagating the resurgence of physiology as a vital discipline in the modern research landscape.

The recommendations made in Physiology  Current Trends and Future Challenges are:

  1. Societies should advocate for continued funding of basic research and collect evidence to document its state in their country.
  2. Networks and working groups should be created, domestically and internationally, by IUPS and member societies to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practice in teaching and research.
  3. Societies should continue the efforts of the IUPS Outreach Programme to increase support among physiologists for IUPS initiatives and furthering of the World Health Organization’s Health for All agenda.
  4. Societies should implement outreach activities to raise awareness of and interest in physiology among the public, and encourage the uptake of physiology and related subjects by prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students.
  5. Societies should develop resources to improve the teaching and learning of physiology, and to ensure graduates have a full appreciation of the complexities at all scales of physiological understanding.
  6. IUPS must oversee a new Global Mentorship Building Platform to facilitate Mentor/Mentee relationships among physiologists at various career stages, and in academic and clinical settings, to promote dialogue and aid career development.
  7. Societies should explore new means to leverage funding from government and private sources, to aid the development of new initiatives designed to strengthen the discipline.

Download the report here.

A series of companion essays have also been produced to complement the report, being authored by the Chair of the Board of the General Assembly of the IUPS, as well as Chairs of the IUPS’s three Committees (Education, Ethics, and Physiome) and four Commissions (Locomotion, Circulation & Respiration, Secretion & Absorption, and Cellular & Molecular Physiology). These give more detailed overviews of the research situations in the specific areas, and the direction of the IUPS going forward. The companion essays can be read here.