Vice President's Letter: The Future of BEMS

Authored by: Richard Nuccitelli

Published on: Oct 18, 2012

Editor's note:  For this issue, BEMS President David Black turned the podium over to BEMS President-Elect Rich Nuccitelli.

As President-Elect of BEMS I have been thinking a great deal about the health of our Society.  Since peaking at 779 members in 1997, BEMS membership has fallen steadily each year so that now we have only 260 members. This is in part due to a decline in the funding of science in our area leading to a decline of funded investigators. This has resulted in a steady reduction in income from membership dues and meeting profit that forced major changes in our administrative framework over the past year. We no longer have a full-time Society Office. We have reduced Board membership from 18 to 12. We have joined forces with EBEA to increase attendance at our meetings. While some of these changes have streamlined our operations, it is imperative that we reverse this trend of shrinking membership.

The Board of Directors has asked me to chair a committee to suggest ways to attract new members. The other committee members are Tom Vernier, Dariusz Leszczynski, Phil Chadwick and David Black. We really need your input to creatively address this problem. Our committee is seeking suggestions on ways to attract more members to BEMS. We encourage all of you to contact any one of us with your suggestions.
Our committee has not yet met, so the following reflect my personal views that I hope will stimulate some discussion.

According to our website, “The Bioelectromagnetics Society promotes the exchange of ideas to advance the science of natural and applied electromagnetic fields in biology and medicine.”  “We are an independent organization of biological and physical scientists, physicians and engineers interested in the interactions of electromagnetic fields with biological systems."

In order to accomplish this stated mission, BEMS should include members studying the “natural and applied electromagnetic fields in biology, medicine and physical sciences.” One way to think of this is to group our members into at least the following three broad research areas:

  1. Health Concerns from environmental exposure and effects from electric and magnetic fields
  2. Biological Applications of electric or magnetic fields, both endogenous and manipulative in both plants and animals
  3. Medical Applications of electric or magnetic fields, both diagnostic and therapeutic

While we have a relatively sufficient representation from the first area of Health Concerns, we are quite weak in the other two areas.  Actively recruiting our colleagues in these two areas represents a very good opportunity to expand the membership.

I attended both the Bioelectrochemistry Gordon Research Conference and the Bioelectrics 2012 meetings this summer. Both groups had over 100 scientists who should all be BEMS members but most were not. When I asked many of them why they were not in BEMS the most common answer was that the yearly meeting did not have sufficient talks and posters in their area of expertise to justify the expense. Therefore, one key ingredient to attracting new members is to increase the diversity of topics at our annual meeting to make sure we offer sessions in all three of these broad areas listed above. The Technical Program Committee for the Greece meeting is working hard to do just that so I am hopeful that we will be able to recruit more members this year. In fact, as soon as the 2013 Meeting Program is finalized we will send it out to all of the participants in the above two conferences and urge them to join BEMS.

I am sure that many of you have additional ideas on how to recruit new members and I encourage you to share them with me or the other members of our committee.  This is a critical time for BEMS and we must work hard to make it the most attractive and worthwhile place for our colleagues to share their latest findings with us.