Networking is not Not-working
As many of you know I was appointed to the ESB presidency at the World congress of Biomechanics in Boston this July. That was the first time we had joined in with a World Congress based outside Europe and, as those of you that were there know well, it was an extremely busy meeting with a packed schedule. This means that I had little time in which to thank the outgoing president and council and introduce the new council members. Therefore, the first thing I would like to do in this message is to acknowledge our gratitude for the hard work of the outgoing council members. Anita Ignatius retired from the council after four year of service and we thank her for her time and commitment especially in managing our new and flourishing national chapters. Peter Zioupos completed 8 years of work for the ESB, he was chair of the meetings committee for 4 years and has been key in ensuring that as our number of meetings and delegates has been ever increasing, the meetings have still maintained their scientific excellence and social flavour. For the last two years Peter has been the vice president managing our expanded award portfolio and being the first vice president who had to manage yearly awards, which he did extremely efficiently and with integrity.
A particularly special thanks go to Hans Van Oosterwyck for his outstanding contributing to the ESB and many years of service. As well as presiding over and navigating us through the big changes in ESB we saw over the past two years, in the years prior to that he took on the job of treasurer, arguably the most difficult job on the ESB council, he put our accounts into perfect order and saved the rest of us from many headaches. Prior to this he served as chair of the publications committee and before becoming an official council member he served the council as newsletter editor. The first newsletter that Hans edited was in Autumn 2002 so that adds up to 12 years of non-stop service to our society. I wonder what he will find to fill his time now!
As well as saying goodbye to old friends we must say hello to new members. I also apologise that I did not get the opportunity to thank all members who put themselves forward to serve on the council, as was clear from the number of applicants and strong field, it was a very competitive election and we are happy to know that so many members are interested in contributing to the society. As we continue expanding there are always other opportunities to contribute such as writing a contribution for this newsletter, being involved in our awards committees and reviewing abstracts. So if you would like to get involved in such tasks don’t wait for us to ask please contact us. As a result of the competitive election process, three new faces were elected to the council at the Boston General Assembly; Sara Checa who has taken on the task of publications committee chair and is going to continue to inform you about the exciting upcoming conferences and ESB opportunities. Harry van Lenthe, who will be responsible for managing our links with external societies including the national chapters, affiliated societies, EAMBES and the World Congress of Biomechanics. Finally, Markus Heller who has taken on the daunting task of implementing a new conference and abstract submission website which will first be available for ESB 2016 so that we can have a consistent format of abstract submission, reviewing, and publication within our ESB events.
Other council members have moved to new positions; I am very happy to welcome Bill Taylor as our vice-chair who will be managing more rounds of prestigious awards. Maria-Angeles Perez Anson who as secretary general is looking after nearly 1000 ESB members and Stephen Ferguson as the new Treasurer who will be sending you fee payment reminders very soon! For the rest of the council we are very pleased that Paulo Fernandes will continue as Meetings Committee chair, monitoring and managing the next three ESB congresses as we get into the swing of hosting annual meetings. Luca Cristofolini will continue to grow our membership and recruit more corporate members as membership chair and Hanna Isaksson continues to ensure that our students have a great ESB experience as student and education chair. You can read more about our council members here.
Hopefully it hasn’t escaped your notice that 40% of the council members are female, a ratio we have maintained since 2012. I am very proud to be the first female president of the ESB. Actually, maybe it should have escaped your notice as in 2014 there shouldn’t be anything remarkable about this. However, just as almost every other scientific and academic environment the ESB has struggled to maintain adequate female representation, especially at senior levels. The historical, social, financial and cultural reasons why there is still a strong under-representation of women in science, engineering and academia, are much too complex for this short newsletter message, the question for us is whether there is anything we can do, or want to do about it as a large scientific society. For example the increase in female council members is a direct result of incumbent council members actively encouraging more women to join.
I remember when Marie-Christine Ho Ba Tho was on the ESB council she was asked by a senior male professor ‘so what are you going to do about the women problem?’ and she replied (I paraphrase) ‘I have enough to do dealing with the student problem’. I think we can all see the benefits of Prof. Ho Ba Tho and her colleagues’ and subsequent councils work for the ESB to be a relevant and useful society for students. There has been an increase in awards and benefits for students leading to our huge rise in student members both numerically and as a ratio of all members. Of course anything that benefits students benefits both male and female students alike, so despite not directly targeting women these measures have strongly affected the progression of many of our past female students, including myself, who are now in strong academic positions. In my opinion, the next big issue to tackle will be the ‘post-doc problem’, the days have long gone when a PhD student can pick up a post-doctoral position in biomechanics over a drink in the bar after the ESB congress dinner. (Personally, I did really obtain two positions that way, and I can’t have been the only one!). Our students are struggling to find decent post-doctoral positions and our post-docs are struggling to find faculty positions, the post-doc to faculty transition seems to be the place where more women are lost to the field and probably goes a long way to explaining the deficit in senior women.
So, I suggest that our emphasis at future ESB events should be networking, both managed and freely available. We have become a large society and the only potential disadvantage in this is that people remain in their familiar groups with known colleagues and don’t sieve the opportunity to broaden their horizons. People have become so busy these days that they spend the free time at conferences on their e-mail, writing their grants and practicing their talks. Remember that when you are networking you are still working. Our students and post-docs need the chance to have discussions with the senior ESB members and the senior members shouldn’t miss the great recruiting opportunity that congresses enable. On that note, I remind everyone to submit an abstract for the ESB congress in Prague, a city which provides unrivalled networking opportunities. This year, to ensure a good mix of senior and junior presenters we have introduced a longer ‘perspectives talk’ option for group leaders and we hope the key players in our field will take advantage of this opportunity to present an overview of their groups’ work. The rest of this newsletter contains detailed information about the congress, abstract submission and upcoming awards deadlines. As usual we welcome feedback on both the newsletter and any of the activities discussed.
Gwendolen Reilly, Sheffield 2014.