President’s Blog, March 2017

Posted on March 27, 2017

In 2014, Australia’s then Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott, was quoted as saying:

“There needs to be a significant emphasis in boosting our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) because science is at the heart of a country’s competitiveness and it is important that we do not neglect science as we look at the general educational and training schemes”.

Today STEM is almost every country’s preoccupation and is shaping global economic plans. In other words, economic plans are designed to support the focus on STEM, rather than limit it.

For example it is estimated that scientific and technological advances have produced roughly half of all the US’s economic growth over the last 50 years.

An education in STEM also fosters a range of generic and quantitative skills and ways of thinking that enable individuals to see, solve and grasp opportunities. These capabilities — including deep knowledge of a subject, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills — are relevant to an increasingly wide range of occupations and will be part of the foundation of adaptive and nimble institutes and workplaces of the future.

So, why am I talking about STEM; because biomechanics encompasses everything that STEM is about. Biomechanists around the world have taken up the mantle to promote biomechanics in our schools as a way of showing that Science is fun. None more so than Professor Paul DeVita who founded USA’s National Biomechanics Day in 2016 and managed to engage more than 2000 students and teachers to participate in biomechanics activities in their schools. Paul is currently taking ‘Biomechanics Day’ worldwide and already nine countries have committed to celebrating the day.

Make sure you follow and support National Biomechanics Day on April 6th this year.

It also gives me pleasure to inform you that the ISB2017 Congress is progressing well with over 1200 abstracts received from around the globe. Abstracts have now been reviewed and delegates notified of their acceptance. Please make sure you visit the ISB2017 website to take advantage of the early-bird registration and check that your ISB membership is current so you can take advantage of a further discount. All of the keynote speakers are confirmed and the pre-congress tutorials have something for everyone.

I am delighted to say that ISB2017 is being held in conjunction with the Asian Pacific Association of Biomechanics (APAB) and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Biomechanics (ANZSB) and will also include one and a half day concurrent sessions by two ISB Working Groups; Hand and Wrist Biomechanics International and the Motor Control Group. APAB and the Working Groups have guaranteed an excellent line-up of speakers. Satellite symposia by the Footwear Biomechanics Group and the Technical Group on Computer Simulation are also planned to take place prior to the conference on Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast, which is only one hour south of Brisbane. Both of these meetings conclude on the 22nd of July, which gives delegates plenty of time to travel to Brisbane to take part in the ISB Tutorials, which are scheduled for the morning and afternoon of the 23rd of July.

In closing I would like to encourage you all to join us in Brisbane for the XXVI Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics. Your participation in the congress will go a long way toward maintaining the sustainability of our society and its future congresses.



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President’s Blog, December 2016

Posted on December 22, 2016

2016 has been a significant year in our calendar for many reasons. The Brexit vote saw the UK leaving the EU, the US people chose Donald Trump as President Elect, North Korea launched a satellite into orbit, Obama visited Cuba, the Olympics and Paralympics were successful, and so on…

Looking toward 2017, ISB has several significant events planned, but none more so than our biennial congress to be held between the 23-27 of July in Brisbane, Australia. Planning is well underway with many of the keynotes and award lectures already locked in. Since my last report I can now add the following names to the list of those that have accepted an invitation to deliver a plenary lecture at the conference: Professor Chwee Teck Lim from the National University of Singapore, Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis from Notre Dame University in Sydney, Associate Professor Sylvia Blemker from the University of Virginia and Professor Melissa Knothe Tate from the University of New South Wales, Australia. More detailed information about our keynote speakers can be found at the following conference link: Keynote Presenters.

The ‘Call for Abstracts’ opened on the 1st of November, but more importantly for your diaries is the date when abstract submissions close - January 13, 2017, so please make sure your abstracts are submitted by then to avoid disappointment. Over recent weeks, several groups have contacted the ISB Organising Committee with a request to propose Thematic Sessions and Workshops. I’m pleased to be able to announce that the committee thought this was an excellent idea and have included a call for Expressions of Interest (EOI’s) for thematic sessions and workshops. More information can be found at the following link, EOI’s for Thematic Sessions, including the submission deadline of the 30th of December.

The ISB Congress is being held in conjunction with the Asian Pacific Association of Biomechanics (APAB) and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Biomechanics (ANZSB) and will also include one and a half day concurrent sessions by two ISB Working Groups; Hand and Wrist Biomechanics International and the Motor Control Group. Both groups have guaranteed an excellent line-up of invited speakers and will also draw from the open abstract submission to complement their sessions.

Satellite symposia by the Footwear Biomechanics Group and the Technical Group on Computer Simulation are also planned to take place prior to the conference on Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast, which is only one hour south of Brisbane. Both of these meetings conclude on the 22nd of July, which gives delegates plenty of time to travel to Brisbane to take part in the ISB Tutorials, which are scheduled for the morning and afternoon of the 23rd of July.

Our ISB education officers have sourced an excellent lineup of speakers, which include: Professor Lynne Bilston (MR Imaging in biomechanics), Professor Greg Sawicki (Biologically inspired concepts guiding lower-limbo exoskeleton design), Professor Francois Hug and Dr Dominic Farris (Ultrasound techniques for muscle-tendon imaging) and Professor peter Hunter and Thor Bessier (Multiscale modelling in biomechanics). I’m sure you’ll agree that there is something there for everyone, so please sign-up by visiting the ISB 2017 Registration Page .

In closing I would like to encourage you all to join us in Brisbane for the XXVI Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics. Your participation in the congress will go a long way toward maintaining the sustainability of the society and its future congresses.

Until then…

Kind regards


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President’s Blog, September 2016

Posted on September 26, 2016

In August, the ISB council convened in Raleigh, North Carolina, for their annual meeting. The council meeting was held over two days, prior to the American Society of Biomechanics Conference in the same city. It was pleasing to see so many council members attend the meeting, as council members travel to all of our meetings at their own cost.

ISB Executive Council in Raleigh

ISB Executive Council in Raleigh

A regular highlight of our off-year council meeting is listening to the presentations of those bidding for future ISB Congresses. This year we had three nominations submitted to the President Elect to host the XXVII Congress in 2019. From the three, two were chosen to present their bids to the council and I am pleased to announce that the team led by Professor Walter Herzog, a previous president of ISB, won the bid to host the 2019 meeting in Calgary, Canada. It was some years ago that the ISB Congress was held in Calgary, and I’m confident that the 2019 meeting will be just as successful as the last one they held in 1999. I would also like to thank the other bidding group that presented in Raleigh. Putting together a bid takes considerable effort, time and money and I would like to acknowledge and commend the group from Ottawa on an excellent bid. There was very little that separated the two bids, but of course, there can only be one winner, and we wish Calgary all the best with their preparations.

I would also like to thank the organisers of the American Society of Biomechanics Conference Dr’s Greg Sawicki, Clare Milner and Katherine Saul for their hospitality in Raleigh. They held a very successful meeting with large delegate numbers showing the strength and breath of biomechanics in North America. It was also pleasing to see such a large audience attend the ISB sponsored keynote which was given by Dr Tibor Hortobagyi. Tibor regularly attends our own ISB Congresses and I’ve included a photo of Tibor being welcomed to the podium by Dr Paul deVita, President of ASB.

Dr Tibor Hortobagyi being welcomed by Dr Paul deVita.

Dr Tibor Hortobagyi being welcomed by Dr Paul deVita.

I am also pleased to report that ISB2017 preparations are progressing well. A program shell with conference themes and sub-themes has been published as well as key dates, such as the opening of Abstracts and Registration on 1 November 2016, the closing of abstracts on 13 January 2017 and the closing of Early-Bird Registration on 17 March 2017. ISB2017 promotional events have been well attended with ISEK, ASB, ISBS and ECSS delegates seen walking around photographing their koalas for the ISB2017 Koala Challenge. The ISB2017 Down-Under event in Raleigh was also well attended with more than 200 delegates attending the function and getting a taste of the hospitality they will be receive in Brisbane next year.

Rob Herbert and Suellen Holland promoting ISB 2017 in Brisbane!

Rob Herbert and Suellen Holland promoting ISB 2017 in Brisbane!

In closing, I’m delighted to be able to announce that Professor Jaap Van Dieen of VU University of Amsterdam has accepted the Congress Committee’s invitation to give the Wartenweiler Memorial Lecture at the ISB2017 in Brisbane which honours Prof. Jürg Wartenweiler (1915-1976) the first President of the ISB. I know, like me, you are already looking forward to listening to Jaap’s keynote. There will be more to come on keynotes and other congress events in my next report.

Until then…

Kind regards


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President’s Blog, June 2016

Posted on June 20, 2016

I am sure that many of you who reside in the northern climes are gearing up for midsummer parties and the holiday season, while those of us down-under are facing winter storms and a potential bout of the flu.

Mind you, winter in Brisbane is not that cold, with the average daytime temperature for June and July being 20oC (70oF) with little to no rainfall. This bodes well for next year’s ISB Congress, The XXVI Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics, that will be held in Brisbane between the 23rd to the 27th of July.

Preparations are well underway with the Brisbane meeting being cohosted by three Universities in the Southeast Queensland region: The University of Queensland, Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology. I am sure most of you have been receiving promotional material about the congress but I can now confirm that the Congress Tutorials that ISB sponsors are confirmed and will be held on the Sunday morning and afternoon of the 23rd of July. Our ISB Education Officers, Glen Lichtwark and Taija Finni have recruited a group of exceptional international presenters who I know will provide attendees with state-of-the-art knowledge and future directions in their respective fields. A BIG thanks goes to Prof. Peter Hunter (NZ), A/Prof. Greg Sawicki (USA), Prof. Lynne Bilston (AUS), Prof. François Hug (FRA) and Dr Dominic Farris (AUS) for accepting Glen and Taija’s invitation to run the tutorials.

In regard to other ISB activities, the ISB Council will shortly be holding its annual meeting in Raleigh (NC) just prior to the American Society of Biomechanics Meeting. An agenda item with be the ISB budget, which has been a concern over recent years. Our budget is driven primarily through membership fees, sponsorship and a sharing of any conference profits. Currently we are highly dependent upon membership fees and sponsorships, so I would like to encourage all of you to pay your annual membership fees, encourage your colleagues and students to become members of ISB and let myself or any ISB officer know of possible sponsorship opportunities. As you probably know, ISB is a not-for-profit organisation and a significant proportion of our budget goes toward student travel scholarships, student grants and awards, and support to our technical groups, affiliated societies and economically developing countries.

In closing, with the Rio Olympics and Paralympics soon to take place, I would like to highlight a recent article in the Journal of Experimental Biology that may help you appreciate the complexity of running around a curved track.

Paolo Taboga, Rodger Kram, Alena M. Grabowski (2016) Maximum-speed curve-running biomechanics of sprinters with and without unilateral leg amputationsJournal of Experimental Biology 219: 851-858; doi: 10.1242/jeb.133488.




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President’s Blog, March 2016

Posted on March 18, 2016

Here in the southern hemisphere the daylight hours are becoming noticeably shorter and the nights cooler. For our northern hemisphere members Spring is gathering momentum. Whether you are live in the south or north, this time of the year usually means notifications of abstracts being accepted for upcoming conferences, registrations, planning of travel and accommodations. This year there are numerous biomechanics conferences and meetings and ISB will have a significant presence at many of them.

The ISB executive council will hold two days of meetings just prior to the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina (August 2-5). ASB is an affiliate society of ISB, which affords them the opportunity of having an ISB sponsored keynote speaker at their meeting. As I mentored in my last newsletter, Professor Tibor Hortobagyi has accepted the invitation to be the ISB keynote and I know many of us are looking forward to hearing his address.

The Canadian Society of Biomechanics (CSB) is also an affiliate society of ISB and this year ISB has agreed to sponsor a keynote speaker for their national meeting, to be held at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (July 19-22). A relatively recent Past President of our Society, Professor Julie Steele, will be giving that address.

Last but by no means least, ISB will have a significant presence at this years International Society of Electrophysiological Kinesiology (ISEK) meeting in Chicago (July 5-8). Professor Scott Delp will give an ISB sponsored keynote and there will be a combined ISEK-ISB symposium during the conference. The ISB Motor Control Working Group will also be holding a symposium in the afternoon prior to the Opening Reception.

I am also pleased to say that many of our ISB councillors and members will be attending other northern hemisphere meetings such as the European Society of Biomechanics Conference, The American College of Sports Medicine Conference, The European College of Sports Science, and the list goes on...

I'm also pleased to be able to tell you that a significant amount of planning has already taken place for the XXVI ISB congress to be held in Brisbane between the 23rd and 27th of July, 2017. Hopefully you are all receiving the ISB2017 e-zine, have bookmarked the IBS2017 website and downloaded the ISB2017 App. Key dates have been posted and an outline of the program will be available very shortly. For those attending this year’s ISEK or ASB meetings, make sure you make a note in your diary to attend the ISB2017 hosted social events. A free of charge drinks and snacks event will be held during the ISEK conference (right after the ISEK-ISB symposium) and a free of charge Aussie BBQ Night (North Carolina style) will be held during the ASB conference on the Wednesday night.

To close my column on a more academic note, I thought you might like to watch a Ted Talk by Professor Auke Ijspeert from the Biorobotics laboratory at EPFL. Professor Ijspeert talks about his robot that runs and swims like a salamander. I think this is a nice example of how the fields of biomechanics and motor control can intersect to help understand complex problems. I hope you enjoy it.

President’s Blog, December 2015

Posted on December 23, 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, many of us will be reflecting on the year that’s past. Grant success, grant rejections, publication success, publication rejections; all seem part of a normal year for an academic. Hopefully the positives have far outweighed the negatives and you are all enthused to rush into 2016 with optimism.

Rather than looking back on what ISB achieved in 2015, I thought I would take the opportunity to gaze into my crystal ball to see what might be on the horizon for us in 2016 and beyond.

I’m happy to announce that I have been in discussions with the President of ISEK and the ISEK 2016 conference organisers about hosting an ISB keynote address and an ISEK-ISB podium session as part of the XXI ISEK Congress to be held in Chicago in 2016 (July 5-8). I’m pleased to be able to announce that the ISB keynote at that meeting will be Professor Scott Delp from Stanford University. Scott is the James H. Clark Professor and founding Chairman of the Department of Bioengineering and Director of the National Centre for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research and is a longtime member and supporter of ISB. I’m sure those of us who will be attending ISEK will be very keen to listen to Scott’s keynote address. Over the next few weeks ISEK and ISB member and former councillor, Professor Karen Søgaard, will be working with our ISB Educational Officers (Professor Taija Finni and A/Prof Glen Lichtwark) to develop an engaging ISEK-ISB podium session.

A link to the XXI ISEK Congress can be found here:

On a similar note, the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) will be hosting their annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, from August the 2nd to the 5th. ISB will also be sponsoring a keynote address during the ASB conference and I’m pleased to be able to announce that Professor Tibor Hortobagyi from The University of Groningen will be giving that address.

A link to the ASB conference can be found here:

The ISB Council will also be having our annual face-to-face meeting during the ASB conference, which I’m sure be a great opportunity for members of the two societies to meet and discuss common interests. Although not officially confirmed at the time of going to press, I’m fairly confident that the ISB2017 congress organising committee will be hosting an ‘Aussie Barbecue’ during the ASB conference (evening to still be confirmed). So for those of you attending the meeting in Raleigh, come along to the BBQ and hear about what’s being planned for ISB2017 in Brisbane, Australia.

A link to ISB2017 can be found here:

Last but not least, I thought you might like to listen to a recent podcast hosted by “The Science Show”, a regular item from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). Professor Simon Gandevia from Neuroscience Research Australia talks about “Challenges for Scientists as they Report and Publish their Results. Food for thought!

Andy Creswell

University of Queensland

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President’s Blog, September 2015

Posted on September 30, 2015

It’s almost three months since many of us met at The XXV Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics in Glasgow, Scotland. The Congress marked a 25-year milestone in the history of ISB, which dates back to its first conference in Zurich in 1967. This year’s meeting was in the capable hands of Professor Philip Rowe and his colleagues from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. This was the first time that an ISB Congress was held in the UK and due to its success, I’m certain that it will not take another 48 years for it to return to the UK.

There were many conference highlights, with ‘special sessions’ like the John Paul session on the Hip, the ISEK session, the EDC session and sessions on Rehabilitation, Mechanobiology and Prosthetics, reflecting the breadth of biomechanics covered at the meeting. It was also pleasing to see the high standard of research in our award sessions, which included the David Winter Young Investigator, Emerging Scientist, Clinical Biomechanics and Promising Young Scientist awards. And of course large audiences were drawn to the prestigious Muybridge Award lecture given by Professor Kai-Nan An and the Wartenweiler Memorial lecture by Professor Aurelio Capozzo.

As at all ISB congresses, there was a significant changing of the guard at the General Assembly. As incoming President of ISB I would like to thank the outgoing Past-President (Ton van den Bogert) for his help and guidance during my two years as President Elect. Ton served as an ISB council member for 6 years before taking on another 6 years as a member of the ISB Presidents Committee. Similarly, our new Past-President, John Challis, has successfully guided the society through the last two years and  I will undoubtedly continue to value his support through my presidency. Also stepping down from the Executive Council after significant periods of service were David Lloyd, Genevieve Dumas, Toni Arndt, Marco Aurélio Vaz, Scott McLean and Kelsey Collins. Andrea Hemmerich also stepped down from her appointed role of working with our EDC activities. Incoming Executive Council members were announced and welcomed at the General Assembly and included Joe Hamill, Felipe Carpes, Glen Lichtwark, Taija Finni, Thor Bessier, Dan Benoit and Kirsty McDonald. Rob Herbert was appointed as the societies’ Secretary-General. Full details of the ISB Executive Council and their respective portfolios can be found on the ISB website at the link (ISB- Executive Council).

The XXV Congress also presented us with the opportunity to induct our first round of ISB fellows. I would like to thank Julie Steele for initiating the idea and spending time with our Past-President (John Challis) developing criteria to recognise members with distinguished achievements in biomechanics and service to the society. Our first class of ISB Fellows are Maarten Bobbert, Ton van den Bogert, Brian David, Veronique Feipel, Walter Herzog, Jill Mc-Nitt-Gray, Peter Milburn, Mary Rogers, Darren Stefanyshyn and Ron Zernike. Photos of the Fellows can be found on the ISB website at  (ISB Fellows). The Fellows will shortly be appointing a Censor to review the fellowship nomination criteria that will be placed on the ISB website.


I am pleased to say that the new ISB Council is strongly committed to continue the great work achieved by our previous councils. Our membership numbers remain strong, however reduced revenue from our recent congresses does require us to tighten our belts a little. We will endeavour to continue our support for all our activities, however student grants, EDC activities, affiliate society and technical groups may receive a little less funding over the next two years than in previous years.

On a positive note, the post congress survey conducted by the organisers of the Glasgow conference showed that the vast majority or responders were very satisfied with the conference, considering it a very good location, a high quality venue, very well organised with excellent sessions. More than 80% of the respondents indicated that they would be likely to attend future ISB congresses and more than 50% said that they would likely travel to the southern hemisphere to attend the next XXVI ISB Congress in 2017.

With that in mind I would like to close by letting you know that the organisers of the next ISB Congress are well underway with their preparations and are planning an event that you shouldn’t miss. Information and dates about the XXVI Congress can be found on the Congress Website (ISB 2017). Don’t forget to download the ISB 2017 Congress App from the Congress Website and enter the Koala Challenge for a chance to win five night’s accommodation and a free conference registration. The organising committee has already received photos of ISB Koalas in extraordinary locations but, there is still plenty of time for you and your koala to enter.

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President’s Blog, June 2015

Posted on June 30, 2015
John Challis

The XXV Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics is just around the corner (20 days away as I write).  This congress marks a milestone for the ISB as this is our 25th congress, a Silver Anniversary.  Our congress is biennial which means we have been holding congresses since 1967, which is a bit confusing as the society was not formed until 1973.  The society arose from a series of biomechanics conferences held in Zurich (1967), Eindhoven (1969), and Rome (1971).  By the time this conference was held in State College in 1973 there was sufficient impetus to form a society, and the ISB was formed but we started counting congresses from that initial meeting in Zurich.

Delegates at the1973 Congress

As a society we have a number of membership categories: full member, student member, emeritus member, and honorary members.  Our student membership has grown over the last five years, from 180 in 2011, to 275 in 2015.  This encouraging growth suggests that the students of biomechanics appreciate what the ISB is trying to do for them, and also speaks to the vibrancy of biomechanics as an area of graduate study.  The task for the society is to retain as many of these students as full members as possible.  When the ISB was formed in 1973 those that joined the society were designated as charter members, so our full membership category has a subgroup.  We have 15 charter members who are still members of the ISB.  Of those 15, five are retired and another five have had their contributions recognized by being appointed as honorary members. This group of honorary members have made outstanding contributions to the ISB and to the field of biomechanics.  Many of our current set of honorary members are still actively working on behalf of the society in various roles.

At the upcoming congress we will be appointing our first set of fellows.  Julie Steele in this issue of ISB Now outlines the selection procedure for these fellows.  The purpose of the fellows is in part to recognize distinguished achievement in biomechanics, and to encourage their continued contributions to the various functions of the society.  The expectation is that applicants will only accept a Fellowship if they are willing to remain active within the ISB upon receipt of their Fellowship.  These fellows will provide a useful resource for the ISB as we work to fulfill our various remits.

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

Congress organizers will also try and highlight “heroes of biomechanics” at the upcoming meeting.  A hero can take many forms, we would not equate the acts of a war hero with those of an academic hero.  Indeed one person’s hero might be another person’s antihero.  Even in the field of biomechanics the identification of heroes is hard, and unanimous agreement might be difficult.  Some might consider Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904, pictured to the left) a good choice of a biomechanical hero, and his efforts to record animal and human movement are to be lauded but he also doctored some of his records and was tried for murder!  At the upcoming congress the identification of “heroes of biomechanics” may not correspond with your heroes in biomechanics, but it should make us all pause to think about those people who have impacted our careers, possibly without even knowing.  Felix Adler (1851-1933) was a professor of social and political ethics who wrote,

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.”

This definition seems to work well in biomechanics, our heroes are those who have illuminated biomechanics for us; their original work has provided insight.  Clearly for many of us our mentors and teachers have provided such insight but there are also those who have perhaps done so without necessarily realizing it.  When I was a graduate student I spent a long time working through various papers published by Herman Woltring (1943-1992).  These papers were dense with math and deep insights; he was an academic hero to me.  At the 1991 ISB Congress we were in the same dormitory at the University of Western Australia and I greatly enjoyed our conversations over breakfast.  I was also relieved that my hero could not do everything as the toaster seemed a complete mystery to him!

This is my last blog as the ISB President, and while the duties have kept me busy it has also been a rewarding experience.  I would like to express my gratitude to those who have assisted me over the last two years.  As I step down I will have new duties as the Past-President, and I look forward to continuing to participate in the activities of the ISB.




John Challis

Penn State University


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President’s Blog

Posted on March 29, 2015
John Challis

As I write this there are 136 days left until the ISB Congress in Glasgow. Of course much hard work has already gone into preparing for our twenty fifth congress. The most recent flurry of activity was the reviewing of abstracts. I reviewed 40 abstracts, and am looking forward to hearing more detailed dispositions on the work contained in those abstracts. The peer review process is considerably older than the ISB. Henry Oldenburg (1619-1677) was the founding editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. These transactions were first published in 1655 and were the first scientific journal published, more importantly it also initiated peer review process. Oldenburg sent submitted manuscripts to experts to judge before potential publication. Peer review and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society both persist to the current day.

Peer review is the corner stone of modern science. The British politician Winston Churchill (1874-1965) claimed,

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Churchill can be paraphrased to described most scientists feelings about peer review,

“Peer review is the worst form of academic quality control, except for all the others.”

So most scientists have a love-hate relationship with peer review, although in recent years the nature of peer review has changed. For example, the on-line journal PLOS ONE ( has changed the peer review paradigm. They “will rigorously peer-review your submissions and publish all papers that are judged to be technically sound”, therefore their review does not assess the importance or potential impact of the work -  that is left for the on-line community. In a similar fashion the relatively new on-line journal PeerJ ( “…judges content only on scientific and methodological soundness. It does not, for example, reject articles based on lack of novelty, interest or impact”. These on-line journals have different peer review criteria compared with traditional journals, and have already changed the 360 year nature of the peer review process.

The journal Environmental Microbiology annually publishes a selection of reviewers comments, many of their selection indicate the frustrations some reviewers experience,

“This is a very poor paper. I am sorry I read it. I will try to purge it from my mind.”
“This is an interesting manuscript, not because of its results, but because of its complete ignorance of the scientific process.”
“I would recommend rejecting this paper as quickly as possible.”
“This is depressing! So much work with so little science.”
“I’m not convinced that they know what they’re talking about.”
“Lots of work, effort, but no real science.”
“The peaceful atmosphere between Christmas and New Year was transiently disrupted by reading this manuscript.”
Of course not all impressions of reviewed manuscripts are bad ones,
“I nearly said reject. But then I recalled that I have a hangover and am feeling grumpy.”
“Beautiful manuscript, important, relevant and entertaining topic.”

Publishing costs money irrespective of whether it is a traditional journal or in the newer on-line versions. In the past journals were available either from libraries or due to a personal subscription to the journal. So in this case, traditional journal publishing, most people read papers due to the subscription of their institution’s library. In this case the cost of publishing was predominantly borne by institutional subscriptions. The new on-line journals are freely available to people with internet access, but in this case it is the authors who pay for the cost of publishing. So these new on-line journals have a different peer review process and payment structure; their long term impact on science is open for discussion. A hybrid model does exist where for a fee papers published in a traditional journal can be available as open access. Authors should carefully consider the implications of selecting one publishing type over another.

The nature of scientific publishing is undergoing some of the largest changes in its 360 year history. It could be argued that who pays for the publishing of work in journals is influencing the nature of the peer review process. A counter case could be made that the market place has provided different methods of getting work published, with the nature of the research dictating where the work should be published. As the nature of scientific publishing undergoes these changes one thing which remains is the importance of the peer review in the scientific process. All reviewers should be thanked for their efforts, even if they sometimes become a bit frustrated.



John Challis
Penn State University

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President’s Blog

Posted on December 22, 2014
John Challis

The ISB maintains a web-site some areas of which are accessible by anyone, while other parts are accessible by members only.  Our most recent congress proceedings are available via that web-site.  Originally we made the proceedings accessible by members only; it was a benefit of membership.  Recently we changed our policy on this, so now the proceedings are accessible by everyone.  Our rationale was that it is in our members’ best interests to have their research available to as many people as possible, and by having this portion of the web-site open access various indexing services can add the work presented at our congresses to their databases; raising the profile of the research and the society.

Submission deadlines seem to come around very quickly.  I always imagine that in the 24 hours before the deadline for submission of abstracts to an ISB Congress is the most productive period for biomechanists around the world.  Of course the pressure of a deadline can be very motivating but can also lead to mistakes.  A recent publishing error could have been due to rushing to meet a deadline.  In the main body of a paper titled “Variation in Melanism and Female Preference in Proximate but Ecologically Distinct Environments” which was recently published in the journal Ethology the following statement was made,

“Although the association preferences documented in our study theoretically could be a consequence of either mating or shoaling preferences in the different female groups investigated (should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?), shoaling preferences are unlikely drivers of the documented patterns…”

Clearly there was some breakdown here in the checking of the manuscript prior to submission, and presumably at one or more of the following stages of the publication process:  peer review, editorial review, copyediting, and or the checking of proofs.  This version of the paper is no longer available, but the current version is accompanied by the note “This article has been updated since first published on 12 July 2014 and subsequently replaced due to inclusion of an author's note not intended for publication”.  As biomechanists it is hard to assess Caitlin Gabor’s work in sociobiology but the paper referred to parenthetically has been cited over 60 times.

Many evaluate journals based on their impact factor.  The impact factor is calculated as the total number of citations received by papers published in a journal in a given year divided by the total number of citable items published in the journal in the preceding two years.  An impact factor of four means that papers published in that journal are on average cited four times.  The impact factor for the Journal of Biomechanics is around 2.5, while Nature and Science have impact factors over 30.  There are other more subtle measures of journals including the Eigenfactor, although one I like is the Retraction Index.  This is a measure of the frequency with which papers are retracted from a journal after publication.  Interestingly, this index has a strong positive correlation with the Impact Factor!

The value of a paper is not accurately reflected by the impact factor of the journal in which the paper is published.  The citation rate varies between research areas, and the number of papers cited in papers also varies.  For example, in cell biology a paper published in a leading journal might receive 10 to 30 citations within two years of publication, while in a leading math journal a paper would be doing very well if it received 2 citations.  To address the growing reliance on impact factor as a metric for the quality of a paper, a group of editors and publishers of journals met at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Society for cell Biology.  They discussed how the quality of research is assessed, and how research is cited. The result of this meeting was the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, which was published in 2013 and is available on the web,  There were 18 recommendations; here I will highlight just five.  The first is the reports general recommendation,

  • Do not use journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.

The other four relate to individuals,

  • When involved in committees making decisions about funding, hiring, tenure, or promotion, make assessments based on scientific content rather than publication metrics.
  • Wherever appropriate, cite primary literature in which observations are first reported rather than reviews in order to give credit where credit is due.
  • Use a range of article metrics and indicators on personal/supporting statements, as evidence of the impact of individual published articles and other research outputs.
  • Challenge research assessment practices that rely inappropriately on journal impact factors and promote and teach best practice that focuses on the value and influence of specific research outputs.


These recommendations will hopefully be helpful as you sit on committees assessing research, or as you select a journal for submission of your work, or as you cite papers in your manuscripts.




John Challis

Penn State University


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