Serbia has officially been announced as the host of the 71st Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry – ISE. This five-day event will take place in September 2020 in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade.
This event will have great significance for Serbian electrochemistry and reclaiming the reputation of the “Belgrade School of Electrochemistry”, which has been one of the most important ones for many years.
The candidacy for this prestigious event, which attracts more than 1,500 members of the association from across the world, has been applied for by the Electrochemical Department of the Serbian Society of Chemistry at the initiative and with the efforts of Serbia’s national representative at the ISE, PhD Aleksandar Dekanski, scientific adviser to IHTM.
On this occasion, we had the honour to speak with PhD Dekanski about the 2020 ISE Annual Meeting. As well as about the reputation of Serbian electrochemistry, the challenges it encounters by it and in any scientific field in Serbia and the region, and about persistence and perseverance, and how they do, in the end, pay off.
1. The winning candidacy for the 71st Annual Meeting of the ISE represents a great acknowledgement for the Electrochemical Department of the Serbian Society of Electrochemistry. How hard was it to get to being entrusted with organising such a prestigious event?
Now it seems like it wasn’t that hard to be entrusted with the organization of this event, although I have to admit I was very sceptical.
One of the deciding factors affecting the final decision on granting the event organisation is reputation and
significance of a country’s electrochemistry, but I have to admit that Serbian electrochemistry has declined drastically in the last years.
However, thanks to the application and the accompanying documentation which were prepared at a very high level, and in a great part thanks to the Congress Bureau of Serbia and CongrExpo with whom the Serbian Society of Chemistry (SSE) has been working for a number of years, and official candidacy support from all regional electrochemical societies gathered at my request, we managed that the organization of the event be given to us.
The candidacy was supported by the University in Belgrade, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, more than ten electrochemical associations in the region, technical organiser CongrExpo, and Congress Bureau and National Tourism Organisation of Serbia.
From mid-last century to the 80s, electrochemistry at the Electrochemical Institute (now the Centre within the Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy) and the Physical Chemistry Department at the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy reached its high point and it was renowned and known across the world as the “Belgrade School of Electrochemistry”, but during the nineties in the last century its importance dropped significantly.
Our best electrochemists left the country, and world-known scientists and experts Aleksandar Despic and Dragutin Drazic, unfortunately, passed away. In addition, their successors in the last quarter of a century were more engaged in finding ways to survive than keep up with global science.
The material preconditions and outdated equipment that was not being renewed made electrochemical laboratories in Belgrade transform from perhaps the best-equipped in the world into very modest and technologically inadequate. Still, even in these modest conditions it survived. I’ll dare and say that, together with my colleagues from nearby countries, for years I have been making attempts to reclaim the reputation of electrochemistry in Serbia.
After nearly ten years of active campaigning, the Regional Symposium on Electrochemistry came to life, organised for the first time in 2008, and this year, after Serbia, Croatia, Romania, and Slovenia, it is organised for the fifth time in Bulgaria at the beginning of June 2015.
This initiative’s success convinced me that it is possible for us to also organise an event at the highest level, so three years ago I initiated our application for organising the Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry.
We first applied for the event in 2018. Unfortunately that time, due to slight negligence in the Serbian Society of Chemistry itself, we failed, but I insisted on not giving up, so already next year we applied again.
Convinced that the biggest fault of our application was the fact that we lacked reputation. According to that, I did everything I could do to motivate the people I know to lobby for our application.
This time we succeeded, and the dozens of letters I sent paid off.
The Congress Bureau of Serbia and CongrExpo gladly helped us to prepare an excellent application and results ensued.
2. What are the main advantages that helped Belgrade to host this meeting?
Belgrade is still one of rare European destinations that is unknown to many people. As I often used to say when explaining why I believe we should apply for the event, they’ve already visited numerous great and known cities and congress destinations, and surely they would like to see something they haven’t so far.
This event is taking place in this region for the first time (excluding Greece), and it in my estimation Belgrade had both the capacities and the infrastructure required for successful organisation.
2015 – Taipei, Taiwan
2016 – The Hague, The Netherlands
2017 – Providence, USA
2018 – Bologna, Italy
2019 – Cape Town, South Africa
2020 – Belgrade, Serbia
Let us also not forget the fact that Belgrade is still a cheap city, so when compared with other destinations, its offer is equally good and less expensive – from accommodation prices to social activities and organisation costs.
In addition to all this, we have proven many times that we are good at organising and anyone who visited Belgrade for similar events left with only positive impressions. Finally, I also believe that Belgrade’s night life reputation has at least a little influence on the final decision.
3. How many participants are expected at the meeting in Belgrade?
Depending on the location, the European ISE meetings are attended by 1,000 – 1,500 people.
The numbers are somewhat lower when the meetings take place outside Europe (it is an ISE rule that a European country organises the event every even year, and a country outside of it every odd year).
The number of attendees, of course, is affected by the world economy, and we hope to see the end of the crisis by 2020, and considering all of the advantages of Belgrade, we expect the number of participants to be closer to the higher mentioned number than the lower one.
4. In your opinion, what significance does this event have for Serbia as a meetings destination?
Any answer besides “great or quite” would be unexpected and unreasonable. Any well organised event of this type could mean a lot to Serbia (not just as a congress, but also as a tourist destination), and especially to those who are still just planning to organise or apply for similar events.
Of course, this event is not the first nor the biggest of its kind in Serbia.
That is why in our application we were able to specify several examples of well organised big events and scientific meetings as a proof that Belgrade and Serbia have both the possibilities and the ability.
Unfortunately, besides Belgrade I think that there are few meetings destination in Serbia that are able to organise an event of this magnitude, mainly due to poor transportation infrastructure and insufficient accommodation capacities, except maybe in Novi Sad or Nis.
There won’t be long before the sentence I said at the beginning can be also said about Belgrade: they’ve already visited Belgrade many times… For example, Kopaonik or Vrnjacka Banja could serve as beautiful destinations, but if after an hour or two of flying it takes you another four or five hours of driving to get to your final destination, it’s not likely that anyone will want to entrust the event to such a place, even if it would be able to accommodate around 1,000 attendees.