I am very pleased and honored to serve as the 15th president of OARSI.
To begin with, I would like to express my sincere and profound gratitude to immediate past president Ali Mobasheri, outgoing past president Jeff Katz and all past Board members for their tremendous efforts and contributions on behalf of OARSI. They have dedicated much of their precious time, with increased workloads, towards the governance of our society during recent years.
Even though OARSI was first founded as a transatlantic collaboration between North American and Western European scholars, the last three decades have seen continued expansion of our organization to encompass most of the developed world. My presidency, as the first one from an Asian country, can symbolize the fact that OARSI has become a truly global organization. The ongoing pandemic has posed a great challenge to the core business and traditional mode of operation of our society. We had to cancel the annual World Congress in 2020 and hold a virtual World Congress in 2021. Our most recent hybrid World Congress in Berlin was the first in-person meeting in three years since Toronto.
I could see that participating members rejoiced at just being together with colleagues whom they have not met for a long time. The spirit of our society was felt to be highly revived and elated. The importance of face-to-face meetings has never been so intensely realized as seen in our Berlin meeting. With the gradual increase in population immunity and the recession of COVID-19, we expect that the travel situation will return to normal by the end of this year and we expect to have close to normal attendance in Denver for our 2023 World Congress.
While OARSI has retained a quite stable financial status so far despite the pandemic, the cost of this last hybrid meeting (which is anticipated to double the price of a normal in-person only meeting), along with the anticipated reduced income from our journal (which is expected due to changes in the publishing environment), can potentially jeopardize the future of our society. We have seen other societies which almost went bankrupt or were very precariously managed.
As you know, OARSI has always coped with impending challenges proactively and preemptively. I have two plans to prop up the finances of OARSI. OARSI has a very loyal and actively participating membership which forms the core of our society and is very dedicated to our mission. Still, to be a viable and competitive society in the future, the membership needs further expansion in number. I think a potential source of expanded membership should be from rapidly developing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America as well as traditional regions. To achieve this goal, actively advertising OARSI to these countries and offering a reduced membership fee will be promoted over the next two years. Extensive engagement with industry should be also pursued to enhance sources of sponsorship revenue. As well, providing career opportunities for our Early Career Investigators (ECIs) is important, while preserving the scientific integrity of our society.
At the same time, I urge our members to contribute their talent and efforts to OARSI by volunteering. Our staff members are doing their best to serve the membership and manage their expectations. Nevertheless, it has been beyond the capacity of our small-sized team of staff to meet the increased demands of the membership during last three years. Before asking for something from the society, especially the time of our staff, please think first about how you might do it amongst yourselves and call on OARSI staff for essential support only. We hope that our increased membership and revenue will enable us to hire more staff and we can then meet your increasing demands.
In closing, I wish you all the best of health and success with your research. Stay healthy, happy and strive to achieve your goals in science and business in this Year of the Tiger.
Gun-il Im, MD, PhD