2014-08-01: Continuation Database work

From Thierry Keller:

Dear BoD,

We need to decide on the continuation of the database work done by Claudia Alt. Her contract needs to be extended and we received a proposal from Jane Burridge. As we agreed in the last meeting Claud's work should continue but needs to be affordable for the society. The proposal prepared by Jane and Claudia seems a good compromise to me (see attached). However, the proposal would cost us an additional 11'000 USD. 
We have currently around 17'500 USD (16'680 on Wells Fargo and 820 on Paypal).  So, from a financial point of view we could afford it. However, together with the expenses for travel awards and the expenses on the database (around 11'000 USD for travel awards and 12'250 for the database so far) we have used more than 50% of our funds in the 2 last years. Finally the database would cost us more than 23'000 USD, which is a significant amount. For a better estimate I have put together our income / expenses in the last years (see attached).
In terms of sustainability the numbers do not look good. Throughout the last years we had on average expenses of about 4500 USD (not including the extraordinary expenses of travel awards and the database). There are large fluctuations because BoDs including me did not regularly ask to reimburse ordinary conference expenses. I have done so by now. However, we see that we could in the last years generate an income of about 2-3k instead of 4.5k
So when we agree to spend the amount on the database we might have sufficient funding for more or less the 2 next years. 
We have the following expenses: 
- 1200 USD for the Vodovinik award
- 800 USD for the Oljinyk award
- 500 USD bank charges
- 60 USD for skype
- 120 USD for web services (Paypal)
- 2000 USD for BoD dinner, presents and other expenses
I know that one of our goals with the database is to recruit more members. So the database will be essential. Please let me know your opinions. I have the feeling that we should keep fundings on our accounts to be operational for least at 3 years. This would translate to 7'500 - 9'000 USD for the next 3 years to compensate for the low income due to low membership numbers.
Best regards


Fellow BoD members:

 I agree conceptually with the likely significance of the database with respect to engaging members.

 However, I do have to wonder about what the anticipated future usage of the database would be.  And, any database has limited value unless it is regularly maintained and updated.  Will we be able to support that?

 I may sound very repetitive, but I think that the database is only one aspect of the larger issue:  What is the future of IFESS?

 The proposed additional expenditures to support the continued database development are substantial, relative to the financial means of IFESS (the proposed costs seem expensive to me).  While there may be very good reasons to support the database project, I think that we should have a premeditated and clear understanding of what we expect from this effort – not only in terms of the database capabilities, but also what role it will play in the rebranding and future of IFESS.

 At our last telephone BoD meeting, we proposed meeting in Paris during the week of 9/8.  Out of seven responses to my Doodle poll, only Thierry and myself would be able to attend.  Please respond to the poll.  Even if we have a small group to meet in Paris, we might make substantial progress in discussions about how to reconstitute IFESS.

 I feel very strongly that IFESS is at a critical point.  As we plan for the 25-year anniversary of the society, with the meeting in Chicago, I don’t think we want that meeting to be a farewell party for the society.

 We need some serious strategic planning, that includes the rationale for supporting the database project. 

 Suggestions about how we can assemble to discuss and strategize?

 -Phil T

Dear BoDs,

I believe both Thierry and Philip have valid points. From a treasurer’s point of view I am quite concerned about the prospect to be left with almost no funds and a perspective to get worse rather than better. I also believe that the database is an important stepping stone towards a hopefully bright(er) future. But I am also uncertain about our usage of this database. The basic question for me is: “How can make IFESS more appealing and interesting again?” followed by “Why are we apparently so boring that our numbers are declining?”

Is it that we are too close to clinical applications and thus fail to generate enough funding? Are we too unsexy, for example compared to robotics, a field that seems to do way better than us? Has it to do with the economic climate and strict regulations that make device development slow and expensive and thus limits industrial participation, except from the well established niches (drop foot, cochlea, cardiac pacing…). Or is it that we are simply failing to be recognized by enough researchers in the field? If it was the latter, we perhaps need to ask ourselves what we have to offer? And from my point of view this is rather limited? We have no journal, nor do we have an active forum, or job-market, or mailing list (summer schools, conferences, funding sources)……?

But since inactivity won’t help us, I am in favor of finishing the database work, perhaps we can find a way to spend a little less than proposed. At the same time we need to create an action plan, perhaps starting with some small things like a grant-directory (eg upcoming H2020 calls), list of summer-schools and possible conferences on the webpage, perhaps we can also get some job-offers back online?!?! For any discussion I think IFESS itself would have been a  good meeting point, but since BoD-numbers there will be limited we need to find other ways. But as I said before, for me it is tricky to justify extra trips at work and I can’t really afford it out of my own pocket either! :-(

Perhaps we can get an active participation and discussion of BoDs via email that will lead to some ideas, which we then can discuss at a later point in time. Right now I am worried that a meeting in Paris will not be very fruitful. I would try to do the brain-storming before and have some discussion once ideas are on the table.

Yours truly

Michael Russold


PS: I sincerely hope that next year‘s meeting will not be a farewell party, especially since I have just become a lifetime member to the society!! ;-)


Very well put, Micheal. 
I'm thinking along the same line actually. Thus have dedicated 3rd day IFESS for Rehabilitation Robotics for us to spread our wings. I have limited experience and didn't join the earlier discussion about the IFESS direction, thus I may not have or share the 'bigger picture' with the rest of the BoDs. However I'm very keen to join coming discussions and offer my thoughts. 
We could use the IFESS KL to start some discussion and I'd love to join a Paris-like discussion if there's a separate one. Maybe I could offer extra skype-like portals for the rest of the BoDs can join the discussion in KL. While we're all there. Only Erika, Simona, Robert and Philip wont be around based on my knowledge so far. The rest will be coming I believe. 
- azah

Hi all,

I have been following the e-mail exchange and thought it might be useful to now provide my comments.

Firstly thank you for your support in this work. I am very aware of two things:

  1.  Is this work worth doing?
  2.  Can we afford it?

Yes. I think it is very important work for the following reasons:

  1.  There is a huge amount of FES research going on around the world (9351 hits - last 10 years) our searches show this is a very wide field, yet very few of the people doing FES research are involved with IFESS. This is crazy! The main purpose of IFESS, I believe, is to bring together the people in the field in order to make progress at all levels from basic science and technology through to implementation into clinical practice. The database search terms were designed to capture work at all these levels. I therefore disagree to some ext rent with you Michael because I don’t think it is lack of research – not sexy – or funding, but we are definitely not ‘joined-up’
  2.  I think the primary outcome of the database will be to increase membership and expand the mailing list for IFESS conference 2015. I think this will be a defining point and we need to make it a really big conference. In my view this is the best way to achieve this and the timing is right.
  3.  I think there is potential for the database to be useful beyond that as a resource, but for it to be used we need to increase hits on the website. Once we have the database we can use it to communicate with researchers to publicise FES and by including the link to the website in the e-mail communication increase web-site traffic. But the website needs to have useful information on it as well as the database.
  4.  Can we afford it? We can of course reduce the cost of the work by doing less, but I’m not sure what we should remove. The alternative might be to give some of the work to a willing PhD student – Claud would be very able to divi-up the tasks if there was someone willing to do that.

I hope this is a useful contribution to the discussion and thank you again for your enthusiastic (if sometimes critical) exchanges.

Best wishes,

Hello All,

I've started a fresh thread to conserve email space. The original reasoning behind the database development may indeed have been, and may still be, compelling relative to improving the scope and significance of IFESS. I don't think that the monetary cost can take a back seat. As I understand Thierry's email, $11,000 USD has been spent to date, and the estimate is that at least that much amount will be needed to "finish" the work. Essentially IFESS's financial resources would be near depleted by this investment. This large expenditure seems risky without a clear sense of how the database fits into the future of IFESS. Not to deny the potential value of it, but financially it is a heavy load upon the society, at this point. I think it is reasonable to review what work has been performed so far, for the $11,000 currently spent. After assessing the current state, and a reexamination the goals for the deployment and use of the database, a more informed decision can be made about what additional work would be appropriate - and what that work would cost, or what IFESS can afford. What is the current state of the database? Can a link be setup so that the BoD members can take a look, use it, and see how it currently functions? If not, can a demonstration be arranged? Depending upon how much additional work needs to be done, there may be other ways to accomplish it with services provided pro bono through IFESS member contacts.

-Phil T