The year of 2016 was a great year for the ECSS in many ways. Its success was mostly down to ECSS Vienna 2016 with over 2,700 participants from 76 countries. Vienna offered a beautiful and unique setting for the annual congress. We took the time to reflect on the whole process with Prof. Barbara Wessner, one of the chairs of the local scientific committee. Prof. Wessner was without a doubt one of the driving forces of the congress.

Prof. Barbara Wessner

ECSS Jyväskylä 2007 was the first ECSS congress for Prof. Wessner. Her background is in molecular biology and in 2006 she stepped into the field of sport science. To get a good overview on multi- and interdisciplinary fields of sport science and a touch point to sport science in general, a colleague recommended that she attends the ECSS congress. “It really helps a researcher get to know the field and have a glimpse of how the research questions are built and answered in the area”, Barbara explains. For her, it was important to get to know the field and see what she could add to the research with her knowledge.

The initial idea to organise an ECSS congress in Vienna came from Barbara and her three colleagues, who regularly attended ECSS congresses. At first, the idea was to apply to organise the congress in 2015, since this was the 150th anniversary for the University of Vienna. However, the bidding process came around quickly and there was not enough time, so they decided to apply for ECSS 2016 – successfully.

The city of Vienna is an active congress and convention organiser with seamlessly working infrastructure and a professional mind-set. However, within the large University of Vienna, the Centre for Sport Science and University Sports is a very small institute. Therefore, the Vienna team searched for support from other institutes in Austria. Colleagues from the University of Graz, the University of Innsbruck and the University of Salzburg were very helpful and stepped in, for example, when reviewing the abstracts.

For the hosts the congress was a great experience and it gave the institute more visibility within the city and the university in general. The most rewarding part for Barbara was the networking with colleagues around the world and creating new contacts, which are useful for generating new projects. Within the University of Vienna, the congress introduced the field of sport science to other institutes and it was clear that the institute also does science, not just sport.

Rosa Diketmüller, Arnold Baca and Barbara Wessner at ECSS Vienna 2016

The most surprising part for the host team was that the ECSS is not made up of just one team, but there are many stakeholders involved when organising a congress. Organising many smaller events and congresses throughout the year, the sport institute was not new to congress organising. However, when delegate numbers are up to 3,000 there are various issues to consider.

Prof. Wessner thinks that the most positive part of the ECSS congress is the multidisciplinary nature. The sport institute in Vienna recommends that their PhD students visit the annual congress of the ECSS at least once. It’s rewarding to see the disciplines working together and discussions taking place from different perspectives. The nature of the plenary sessions is absolutely essential for such a congress and this kind of a dialogue could be encouraged more in future congresses. 

In past years, ECSS has faced some challenges integrating social sciences and humanities into the congress programme. Every discipline (physiology and sports medicine, biomechanics and neuromuscular, social science and humanities) is represented in the invited scientific programme at each annual congress. The amount of invited sessions in a specific topic reflects the number of participants from these scientific fields. At some congresses it might seem that there are too many sessions in some fields with respect to the participant numbers.

Barbara suggests that to attract more social scientists to the congress, there could be more satellite symposia organised. This would attract the experts and participants to the congress. “Actually, to address the public health sector, it would be crucial to enhance the interdisciplinary perspective, since this can easily be reflected to the general health sector and therefore the media”, states Prof. Wessner.

Barbara will arrive at ECSS MetropolisRuhr 2017 more relaxed and anticipates great discussions taking place once again along with some thought provoking sessions and networking events. As a congress, participation in the scientific programme is the key to a successful congress visit and in the end, the congress city doesn’t come close to this level of importance. 

Lastly, we asked Barbara to list her top three ECSS congresses (excluding Vienna):

  1. Barcelona
  2. Liverpool
  3. Amsterdam

The list corresponds to the quality of the scientific programme and to the structure of the city. Barbara sees transport and good accessibility to the congress destination as some of the most important organisational issues from a participant’s perspective.

Thank you very much for your time Barbara and see you in Essen in July!


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