President’s Column

Authored by: Niels Kuster

Published on: Jul 01, 2009

Reflection on the past provides a path for the future

Niels Kuster, outgoing BEMS president

As your outgoing president, I want to thank you for the privilege of allowing me to chair the Society this past year. To the best of my ability, I have sought to initiate together with the Board new strategies that will prepare the Society for the changing needs of its members and external conditions. I have also tried to provoke vital discussions about the future direction of the Society in my President’s Column. Of course there are those who do not agree with me, but I have tried to offer my view on the values and principles that formed our Society and that have bound us together for all of these years.

There were six agendas that I sought to move during the past year:

  1. to initiate and implement the Best Bioelectromagnetics Journal Paper Award and the Most Influential Bioelectromagnetics Journal Paper by Citation Award,
  2. to initiate a dynamic planning effort to insure the future viability of the Society,
  3. to initiate and test several new organizational tactics to improve our annual meeting
  4. to develop effective strategic relationships and collaborative initiatives with other scientific societies, educational institutions, etc.,
  5. to allocate additional time and meetings for the Board of Directors to discuss pressing issues facing the Society at the Winter Workshop and in additional web meetings and
  6. to openly communicate with our members through the newsletter on issues, problems and opinions about our Society and the field of bioelectromagnetics.

My overall message was that it is important that we implement these agendas and posture ourselves in such a way that we are continuously recognized as the premier international society on bioelectromagnetics and its allied fields.

Since Bioelectromagnetics [journal] remains the primary vehicle to disseminate bioelectromagnetic research results, the Board initiated and approved the implementation of two new awards, the Best Bioelectromagnetics Journal Paper Award and the Most Influential Bioelectromagnetics Journal Paper by Citation Award, to attract more high quality submissions from those in the field and in related fields and to increase its impact factor. The first ever awards [for most influential paper by citation] were presented at BioEM2009 (see front page of this newsletter for list of winners) with the hope that the journal will reach a larger audience across multiple disciplines and interests.

The second important contribution made during this past year was our focus on identifying and serving the evolving needs of the Society as well as the needs of the field of bioelectromagnetics. With declining membership, annual meeting attendance and worldwide funding in bioelectromagnetics, and increasing management costs, we had to start building a consensus on changing environmental conditions that may require dynamic new initiatives and strategies to insure the future viability of the Society. In doing so, the Long Range Planning Committee was expanded this year to also include members from EBEA and emerging societies, such as BEMS China. Various recommendations for changing the Society’s structure and management were proposed, all of which will be published [when they are made available]. Our incoming president, Michael Murphy, has already formed a new committee to expand and act on these recommendations.

Several new organizational tactics were implemented and tested [at] this year’s annual meeting. Before preparations begin for the next annual meeting in Seoul, we should reflect on the changes made at this year’s meeting and weigh their advantages and disadvantages.

Changes [at] this year’s meeting included:

  1. significant involvement of the Local Chair in organizing the meeting, potentially substantially reducing the management costs and increasing the local aspects of the meeting,
  2. the inclusion of a 100-word abstract summary, graphical representation of the program and blank pages for notes in the program book,
  3. a comprehensive meeting website with regular email communication announcing website updates, an interactive online program with links to the full abstracts instead of CDs,
  4. free internet service,
  5. an eco-friendly approach, i.e., no bags, CDs, etc,
  6. introduction of new types of sessions, such as Topic in Focus and Special Sessions, and
  7. longer discussion times during most sessions.

Over the next few months, we will assess the responses to the meeting survey and discuss how we can further improve the annual meetings scientifically and socially. With decreasing interest and funding for risk assessment related research, declining participation of interest groups and declining membership, it has become essential to develop effective strategic relationships and collaborative initiatives with other scientific societies, educational institutions, etc. with mutual interests. The multidisciplinary nature of bioelectromagnetics affords us the opportunity to find new ways to further develop the strengths of BEMS by broadening the scope of research topics at the annual meeting and to attract a high level of expertise from various scientific fields and backgrounds. Expanding on the efforts of Past President Ewa Czerska, first steps were taken this year at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Thermal Medicine (STM), where it was decided that both societies will organize one session at each other’s annual meetings next year and further collaborations will be discussed on a continuous basis. In addition, talks with the European Society for Hyperthermic Oncology (ESHO) were initiated. We should continue to adopt a multidisciplinary perspective for sustained growth and increased interest in the activities of our Society.

With only three regularly scheduled board meetings (two during the annual meeting and one winter board meeting) throughout the year, there is generally insufficient time to thoroughly discuss and resolve the numerous pressing issues facing the Society. In lieu of a Winter Workshop this year, the Board of Directors Meeting was combined with a lab visit, allowing more time for important discussions about current bioelectromagnetic research and about open issues within the Society. An additional web meeting was held in late March. It was recommended to follow this structure in the future as it provides substantial savings for the Society, allows for an intimate and focused tour of the host lab and provides more time for the board members to discuss important issues. Another proposed option is to discontinue these meetings and instead, organize more WebEx meetings to maintain direct communication.

The newsletter is an important means of communication between the members of our Society during the year. As president, you have the opportunity to express your ideas and beliefs in a way that has authority, precision, and can be heard across the board. The President’s Column was an essential way for me to voice my opinions and to openly address pressing issues and problems facing our Society and the field of bioelectromagnetics as your elected leader. Although not everyone will agree with the views of the President, I think it is necessary for the future presidents to open the door to dialogue with our members through their newsletter column on a regular basis. In turn, members are encouraged to respond more to these articles to let us know what you are thinking and what you need. We should remain proactive and responsive to each other between the annual meetings.

BEMS presidents come and go, but the society itself continues, evolves and improves. The president may be the spokesperson for the society for a year, but he or she alone does not establish its direction—that course is set by the members, the elected Board members and those who have gone before. I urge all of you to work with our incoming President, Michael Murphy, as we continue to build a stronger society to ensure that we, the scientists and researchers in the field of bioelectromagnetics, always have a forum to disseminate our research results, to express our views, to discuss our differences and to nurture the next generation of researchers in bioelectromagnetics.