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Published: 3 September 2018

Vertical Transmission from Russia

Elizaveta Bonch-Osmolovskaya

President of the Russian Microbiological Society

The Russian Microbiological Society has had a long and complicated history, reflecting the recent history of our country. It was established in 1957, in the Soviet Union, as the All-Union Microbiological Society and in the mid-80s comprised more than 5000 members. Several distinguished Russian microbiologists were its Presidents: the last one was Professor Elena Kondrat’eva, famous for her investigations of bacterial photosynthesis. However, the Society did not survive all the changes of the 90s, and, in spite of an attempt to revive it in 1992, did not exist until 2003. At that time, it was organised again as Russian (Interregional) Microbiological Society by a group of microbiologists, Professor Valery Gal’chenko being its President from 2004 to 2016. During these years the situation in the Russian scientific community changed significantly in comparison with the 90s: governmental funding grew, young and well qualified people came to microbiology, eager not only to isolate and characterise new microorganisms, but to apply genomic and metagenomic analyses to microbial metabolism and ecology. Though incorporated into the world of science, they needed also an internal platform for communications and navigation in our rapidly developing and transforming scientific field. That made us initiate radical changes in the structure and activities of our Society.

Since 2016, Professor Elizaveta Bonch-Osmolovskaya is the President of the Russian Microbiological Society, and Professor Irina Ivshina is the Vice-President. The Secretary of the Society is Dr Anna Perevalova. The Board includes well-known microbiologists from different parts of Russia, with the complementary fields of expertise: Valery Gal’chenko, Alexander Netrusov, Marina Donova, Olga Karnachuk, Olga Il’inskaya, Nikolai Pimenov, Nikolai Ravin, Olga Turkovsjaya, Darima Barkhutva, Natal’ya Kolotilova. The Society consists of 17 regional branches, and the board is in constant connection with the Chairs of the branches. Current activities of the Society can be followed via its internet site (http://microbiosociety.ru/). The main version of the website is in Russian, but it contains links to the homepages of international organisations and events, as well as the references to the latest news, both in the world and Russian microbiology. A special page is devoted to the history of Russian microbiology where Dr Natal’ya Kolotilova, publishes the information about the prominent microbiologists in the Russian and Soviet era. The Society also has its webpages in most popular social networks, the easiest way to distribute valuable information among younger generations.

The Russian Microbiological Society is a member of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS). Professor Alexander Netrusov is our delegate in FEMS, providing constant contact and exchange of information with FEMS authorities. FEMS financially contributes to the meetings we organise, both national and international. An important advantage of FEMS membership is its support to young scientists, who, due to FEMS fellowships, get an opportunity of short-term (2-3 months) visits to a European microbiology laboratory. In general, membership in FEMS gives us the feeling of belonging to an international family of microbiologists, a family where you always find necessary support and understanding.

The main activity field of the Society is the organisation of regular national meetings. Since the revival of the Society in 2003 it has organised conferences for young microbiologists that take place every fall at the Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology. Students and post-doctoral fellows from different parts of Russia, as well as from the former Soviet republics present their research findings and attend the lectures of leading microbiologists. The Young Scientists’ conferences have become more and more popular, attracting researchers from the neighboring fields such as biotechnology, agricultural and medical sciences, and bioinformatics.

Another field of activity of the Society is the organisation of international conferences: examples include the successful International Conference Microbial Diversity (ICOMID) conferences held in 2005, 2008 and 2016 (http://eng.iegm.ru/conf/ICOMID2016.html). World experts in the fields of microbial diversity and culture collections participate in these conferences. One of the goals of these conferences is to develop international collaboration in order to maintain microbial diversity using it as a source of novel organisms and enzymes. A large-scale international project, BRIO of EC FP 7, involving the scientific groups from Russia, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland serves as an example of such fruitful collaboration. Under this project the Pan-European Rhizosphere Resources Network PERN (http://www.PERN-BRIO.eu) was developed. The Society invites international experts to deliver lectures in modern fields of microbiology and biotechnology.

The main achievement of the new Board of our Society since its election in 2016 is the organisation of the 1st Russian Microbiological Congress (Figure 1). Russia is a very big country, and many Russian microbiologists, though familiar to each other from articles and reviews, never met in in person. The young generation of microbiologists, though attending international meetings, never participated in a big Russian scientific event. The 1st Russian Microbiological Congress (http://congress2017.ibpm.ru/) took place on 17–18 October, 2017, in ‘Tsargrad’ resort near Moscow, a picturesque place on the bank of the Oka River. To organise that event, our Society cooperated with two institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms and Federal Research Center of Biotechnology. More than 300 microbiologists, including 100 young scientists, from 40 universities, institutes and companies from all over Russia participated in the Congress. We obtained generous financial support from the Russian Foundation of Basic Research, FEMS and several companies. Still, in order to keep registration fees affordable for scientists from Russian regions, we decided to keep the event to only two days. That made the schedule very tough and the selection of oral speakers, especially for section presentations, rather dramatic. Nevertheless, we succeeded in making an excellent plenary Program at a truly international level. Twelve plenary lectures were presented in three sessions: ‘Ecology and Diversity of Microorganisms’, ‘Metabolism and Genomics of Microorganisms’ and ‘Microbial Technologies’. The microbial diversity remained the focus of attention of Russian microbiologists, and the lectures of Svetlana Dedysh, Dmitry Sorokin, and Olga Karnachuk contained the new data of the highest level. The two other sessions were also on a decent level showing that Russian scientists are not newcomers in ‘omics’ technologies and successfully combine new approaches with bright ideas characteristic for Russian school. On the second day, short oral talks of participants were presented in three parallel sections devoted to the same topics as the plenary sessions. More than 150 posters were presented in the afternoon on the Poster session. The participants, both experienced and young, took active part in the discussions, enjoyed meeting old and new friends, and started new collaborations.

In spite of the lack of time, we used the opportunity given by the Congress, to organise the meeting of our Society members. Among the decisions of the meeting was to make such congresses a regular event. The next one is scheduled for 2020, and then, not to overlap with FEMS Congresses, every even year.

Figure 1. The logo and the announcement of the 1st Russian Microbiological Congress.
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