Student Member’s Perspectives: BEMS and the future

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As expressed on several occasions by the current President of BEMS, Dr. Joachim Schüz, the Society is counting on its students to build the future. Committed to that statement, the Board of BEMS asked me to act as a student investigator to gather the opinion of the BEMS student members on subjects related to the future of the society and the research field. Among all, the survey included questions related to how the students perceive the future of their research field, what their goal is when attending conferences, and what they would change in the BEMS to make it evolve towards a stable future. In addition to the multiple-choice questions, the questionnaire left a lot of room for extended comments, which most of the students filled extensively. The following paragraphs present the results of the survey and the general thoughts that came from this investigation.

The survey was filled by 43% of the student members from all disciplines of the BEMS. Participants are mainly studying in Europe and North America, but South America and Australia were also represented. Most participants are PhD students, but the group also included few MSc students.

Although individual differences could be noted (e.g., criticizing the influence of the industry vs. suggesting to pair up with more companies to get more funding), some general conclusions could still be drawn. Many students feel that the research is spread around and that the goal of the BEMS is not stated clearly. The general feeling is that the field is interesting, but that one needs to overcome challenges related to controversy and the difficulty to get published, but more importantly, funding seemed to be a main concern. There were also few suggestions related to the collaboration of the BEMS with other societies. Most participants think that there is a future for the research in bioelectromagnetism, mainly related to interaction mechanisms or medical applications.

The participants were also invited to provide comments about the conferences from the BEMS. In general, they think that the content is accessible and the networking useful; the workshops and tutorials are very appreciated. The funding concern could also be seen in this area, as most participants would favor easily reachable locations. It was also noted that more information about the general focus of the annual meeting a few months in advance would help to apply for specific travel funding. The perceived lower ranking of poster presentations compared with platform presentations was noted by a few people.

Regarding the communication between the BEMS and its members, most of the participants would prefer an easily accessible newsletter. They also think that open-access abstracts on the webpage would increase the visibility both of the BEMS and of their work.

Finally, I would like to personally thank the students who filled in the survey: your time and effort to provide such feedback was greatly appreciated. I have presented these results to the Board at their winter meeting in February, where I witnessed that both the positive comments and the criticisms were received very openly. For that, I would also like to thank the Board. Comments from the students also showed their appreciation for giving them the opportunity to express their opinion concerning the future of the BEMS, as they will also be influenced by its orientation.