Rene de Seze, C-K Chou and Micaela LibertiEdited by: Azadeh Peyman
Up until late 2021, studies and knowledge on Bioelectromagnetics were provided and shared by scientists from different societies, mainly the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) and European Bioelectromagnetic Association (EBEA). In October 2021, the two societies officially merged into a single society called “BioEM” with the aim to promote the exchange of ideas to advance the science of natural and applied electromagnetic fields in biology and medicine. This article provides a brief history of the two societies and their merger.
In the 1960-1970s, American Radio Frequency (RF) bioeffect researchers presented the results of their research in various meetings of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), International Union of Radio Science (URSI), International Microwave Power Institute, Radiation Research Society, etc. A group of researchers then decided to have their own organization with a special interest and their own annual meetings. Therefore, the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) was established in 1978 as an independent organization of biological and physical scientists, physicians and engineers interested in the interactions of electromagnetic fields with biological systems. It was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia, USA.Edward Alpen served as the 1st President of the Bioelectromagnetics Society. From 1978 to 2022, a total of 41 Presidents served the society, with 28 from the USA, 3 from Canada, 2 from France, and one each from Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.The official journal of the Society was Bioelectromagnetics, which is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. It is a peer-reviewed, internationally circulated scientific journal that specializes in reporting original data on biological effects and applications of electromagnetic fields that range in frequency from zero hertz (static fields) to the terahertz undulations of visible light. The first issue was published in 1980 and the current issue in 2022 is Vol 43.
Over the years, BEMS offered various academic awards, the most prestigious one was called the D’Arsonval Award. The purpose of the d’Arsonval Award was to recognize outstanding achievement in research in Bioelectromagnetics and the requirement for nomination was extraordinary accomplishment within the discipline of Bioelectromagnetics, which could consist of exceptional scientific accomplishments or practical application of electromagnetic fields for human benefit. The first award was presented to Professor Herman Schwan in 1985. As of 2022, there have been 21 recipients of this award.
In recent years, another award was introduced for young scientists by The Arthur A. Pilla Research Foundation in memory of the society’s friend and colleague Arthur Pilla.
The Society’s annual conference was the major meeting in the field of Bioelectromagnetics offering participants numerous sessions, workshops and tutorials with platform and poster presentations covering the most up to date scientific topics. The conference also provided a platform for researchers and professionals in the field, in both formal and informal settings, to extend their network of scientific contacts. The annual meetings were initially held in various states of USA, usually at the end of spring-beginning of summer. The first Bioelectromagnetics Symposium was held at the University of Washington, Seattle in 1979, in conjunction with IEEE Antenna and Propagation Society and USNC/URSI. A first world congress with EBEA and other societies was held in 1992 in Florida, USA (Lake Buena Vista). BEMS meetings started to alternately hold in Europe in 1994 and all around the world since 2007 (Kanazawa, Japan 2007; Seoul, South Korea 2010; Halifax, Canada 2011; and Brisbane, Australia 2012).
In 1989, a group of passionate scientists established the European BioElectromagnetics Association (EBEA) in Madrid. Their mission was to investigate the relationship between electromagnetic fields and living organisms, focusing on potential impacts on human health and development of biomedical applications.The first EBEA president was Jocelyn Leal, and she was followed by another 8 scientists who took turn to lead the society until 2021.EBEA quickly gained recognition as one of the leading societies in the field of bioelectromagnetics. During biennial conferences, workshops, and seminars, experts collaborated on groundbreaking research covering a wide range of frequencies and field intensities, exploring electromagnetic fields’ effects on biological tissues via various disciplines such as dosimetry, risk assessment, biomedical applications, and development of standards.Driven by evidence-based guidelines, EBEA engaged with policymakers, public health officials, and industry representatives and influenced public policy and development of safety standards for electromagnetic fields.
Over time, EBEA’s influence expanded beyond the scientific community, shaping public awareness and educating the society about electromagnetic field exposure. The association continued to collaborate, innovate, and contribute to the collective understanding of Bioelectromagnetics. Until 2021, EBEA remained at the forefront of cutting-edge research, advancing knowledge in the field, and providing valuable guidance for individuals’ well-being in an increasingly connected world. EBEA’s story is one of collaboration, discovery, and dedication to scientific improvement.EBEA has supported young scientists through initiatives such as the ERICE school of Bioelectromagnetics at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture. This renowned international school, held annually in Erice, Sicily, brings together leading experts, researchers, and young scientists to exchange knowledge, discuss advancements, and foster collaborations. By integrating various scientific disciplines, the ERICE school has played a crucial role in advancing Bioelectromagnetics and nurturing the next generation of researchers.EBEA also introduced the Alessandro Chiabrera Award for Excellence in Bioelectromagnetics in 2015. Named after Prof. Alessandro Chiabrera, a notable scientist in the field, this award recognized outstanding contributions from early stage researchers and has been assigned to 7 young scientists. The recipients received recognition and presented a plenary lecture during an official ceremony at the BioEM conference, co-organized with the BEMS Society.
The first joint annual meeting between BEMS and EBEA was held in Dublin, Ireland in 2005 followed by Davos, Switzerland in 2009. Since 2013 (in Thessaloniki), the two societies decided to hold annual joint meetings every year thereafter. This was followed by joint meetings in alternating geographical locations in Africa, Cape Town in 2014, USA, Asilomar 2015, Europe, Ghent 2016, China, Hangzhou in 2017, and Europe again those last years from 2018 to 2021 (Portoroz, Slovenia, Montpellier, France, Ghent, Belgium), with some cancellation and hybrid forms of meetings due to COVID-19 pandemic for 2020 and 2021.
As the joint meetings between BEMS and EBEA occurred regularly since 2013, discussions started around possibility of the two societies joining together and forming one entity. Official talks between BEMS and EBEA representatives started at annual meeting of BioEM in Ghent, Belgium in 2016, which resulted in formation of an ad-hoc BEMS-EBEA committee with the aim of developing roadmap for official merger. The merger committee worked closely with the BEMS board and EBEA council for almost 5 years to design and develop principles of a new society which would best serve members of both societies and the entire Bioelectromagnetics community. The committee produced two documents (Articles of Association and By-Laws) which was presented for consultation to both society’s membership during June-July 2021. The final version of the two documents considering the comments received through consultations, were put to both society’s membership for approval voting.On the last day of the joint annual meeting of BioEM 2021 which was held from 26-30 September in Ghent, Belgium, the merger committee announced that overwhelming majority of both societies voted for dissolution of each society and creation of a single society called “BioEM”.
Established officially in October 2021, the BioEM society started operation via an interim board made of representative members of BEMS board and EBEA council. It was also decided that membership from both BEMS and EBEA will automatically be transferred to BioEM. A nominating committee was established soon after to conduct the process of election of officers for the new society’s board. The results of this election was announced on 8th of February 2022 and the new board took over soon after and held their first ever meeting on 21 February 2022 .
 Rene de Seze served as former president of EBEA (2002-2007) and BEMS (2019-2021)
 C-K Chou organized the first Bioelectromanetics Symposium held in Seattle in 1979, served as a member of Board of Directors of the BEMS (1981-1984) and was the winner of D’Arsonval award in 2006
 Micaela Liberti is former president of EBEA (2019-2022)
 Azadeh Peyman is BioEM President Elect (2022-2024)
 Members of Merger committee included: Phil Chadwick, Guangdi Chen, Niels Kuster, Isabelle Lagroye, Alexandre Legros, Micaela Liberti, Luc Martens, Rich Nuccitelli, René de Seze and Marnus Van Wyk
 Nominating committee members included: Rene de Seze, Micaela Liberti, Bennett Ibey, Isabelle Lagroye and Marnus Van Wyk