Message from the President

40 years of the European Society of Biomechanics

I am very excited to be writing my last president’s letter at such a milestone in our Society. The ESB has now been going strong for 40 years. We were established in 1976 in Brussels by a group of ‘founding fathers’ (and mothers!) listed here:[LINK https://esbiomech.org/welcome-to-the-european-society-of-biomechanics-esbiomech/history-and-goals-of-the-esb/]. We should thank these members for their vision and persistence, most of them continued to manage and be involved in the council for many, many years after the inaugural meeting. From those modest beginnings the society has blossomed into the 1000 member strong family that we are today. This is thanks to the extremely loyal and dedicated membership and team of council members.

The founder’s aims were to promote Biomechanics research in Europe and they saw that the specific needs of Biomechanicians and the interdisciplinary nature of the study were not being addressed by any other available society at that time. In particular they saw the need to form such a society at the European level ‘which would, from time to time bring together those who are particularly interested in the study of forces acting on and generated within the body and the effects of these forces on the tissues or materials implanted within the body’ – John Scales First Newsletter from the President 1979.

You may not realise that we have in the archives all the society newsletters of the past 40 years [https://esbiomech.org/newsletter/] reading them is a great way to observe the rapid progress in technology and communication that has taken place in the last 40 years. The first newsletter with the butterfly logo appeared in 1990, I’m not sure when the first on-line newsletter was e-mailed to the members but we have digital versions from 2002 and the first completely online newsletter was launched in 2012. Look out for some cuttings from these newsletters to be displayed at the congress in Lyon.

Also looking back, one can observe the rapid rise in scale and scope of Biomechanics research but also that many problems have still not been overcome. ‘Plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose’. In 1983 the editorial stated that ‘the contribution to Biomechanics given by North American Laboratories is quite more important than that given by their European counterparts’ and that therefore we should ‘give ourselves a shake and get better organised and effective’ by 1984 the editor was already striking a more positive tone stating ‘research in biomechanics has gained a great deal of momentum in Europe’. In 1985 the first meeting between western Europe and ‘their colleagues of the socialist countries’ was proposed in the hope that they could ‘promote the scientific unification of western and eastern Europe the division of which is certainly beyond the will of the individuals involved’.  It is amazing to think that there were huge barriers to cooperation between eastern and western European biomechanicians just 30 years ago and now we work closely together, with many of our conferences having been held in the east. Our international scope progressed over the years, 1994 was the first time that the World Congress of Biomechanics was held in Europe thanks to the efforts of Rik Huiskes and now we are pivotal contributors to the World Congresses.

However we still struggle with issues such as the difficulties of raising the profile of our discipline with research funders and the burden of commitments on academic time. In 1982 a ‘European Liaison Committee for Biomedical Engineering’ was planned to be set up and yet we are still struggling to act in a coordinated way for Biomedical Engineering at the European level and to provide a united and co-ordinate front to the European Commission. In the 1989 newsletter there was a complaint that the congress attendance had been lower than previously and that maybe this was due to the ‘increasing commitments of our members’ I too am concerned that ‘increasing commitments inhibit our ability to properly communicate with each other.

Socialise in Lyon

We are an open and friendly society where the senior members are available to nurture young people and create networks.  We must make sure that the new super-sized society and congress delegate numbers and the workload of our members does not inhibit the potential for young members to interact with their more experienced (not older!) colleagues. Of course the best place to interact and form networks will be at the upcoming congress in Lyon where our hosts have planned an exciting menu  of social activities starting with a reception to celebrate the anniversary of ESB and the Société de Biomécanique on the evening of Sunday 10th July.

Send us your news:       

Another a common theme throughout almost every newsletter in the archive is a plea for members to get more involved in submitting articles and topics of interest to the newsletter editor and for members to get more involved in the society! So here goes….

These days you are surely nagged by your institutions to disseminate good news, make sure your research is visible on the internet and so forth, at ESB we would be happy to disseminate news of large European research projects relevant to biomechanics. Take advantage of the open access dissemination opportunity being provided to you as a member. We started a trend of congratulating those with notable ERC and similar grants a few years ago but it is difficult to keep it up if you don’t bring us your news, we will end up only highlighting projects the council happens to know about instead of demonstrating the true breadth of our societies capabilities. Similarly you may have an opinion piece that doesn’t quite fit any journal’s remit, send it to us and we can get the debate going.

Volunteer for the Council:

We recently released the call for nominations for council candidates, these are extremely active and influential positions, the council consists of 10 members who all provide input into our decisions as well as taking care of their particular sphere of council business. I urge anyone with enthusiasm for Biomechanics in Europe and ideas about how to push the society forward in this difficult political and economic climate to stand for election. For the first time we will have electronic voting which was implemented with the specific aim of engaging more members in the election process. So this should be an interesting election and even if you don’t have the time to dedicate to council service yourself, use your vote wisely so that we will continue to have a vibrant and forward-thinking council.

On wards and upwards:

Finally, I would like to thank you for enabling me to work for the ESB for 8 years. I owe pivotal moments in my career to this society and it was a privilege to be able to be involved in maintaining and expanding the opportunities we offer to early career researchers. I realise my ‘ESB age’ is exactly half that of the society, as the first meeting I attended was in 1996. Serving on the council has been a great experience, mostly because of the wonderful colleagues and life-long friends I have made along the way. I think in this kind of position one always has ambitious idea about what one would like to see but ‘real life’ and every day duties get in the way. In general I believe ESB strikes a great balance between being visionary and being pragmatic, we do our utmost best with the time and resources available and with steady solid progress are achieving many of the goals of the founding fathers while creating new goals for the modern world. I look forward to a vibrate conference in Lyon and the progress of ESB over the next 40 years and beyond.

Gwendolen Reilly, Sheffield 2016