The Biophysical Society is an international scientific society whose purpose is to encourage the development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics. Founded in 1958, the society currently consists of over 9,000 researchers in academia, government, and industry. Although the Society is based in the United States, it is an international organization. Overseas members currently comprise over one third of the total.
The Biophysical Society was founded in response to the growth of the field of biophysics after World War Two, as well as concerns that the American Physiological Society had become too large to serve the community of biophysicists. Discussions between prominent biophysicists in 1955 and 1956 led to the planning of the society's first meeting in Columbus, Ohio in 1957, with about 500 attendees. Among the scientists involved in the early effort were Ernest C. Pollard, Samuel Talbot, Otto Schmitt, Kenneth Stewart Cole, W. A. Selle, Max Lauffer, Ralph Stacy, Herman P. Schwan, and Robley C. Williams. This meeting was described by Cole as "a biophysics meeting with the ulterior motive of finding out if there was such a thing as biophysics and, if so, what sort of thing this biophysics might be."
The Biophysical Society is governed by four officers: the President, President-elect, Past-President Secretary, and Treasurer, as well as by a Council of twelve members in addition to the officers. These offices are elected by the membership of the society.The society has a number of committees which help to implement the its mission. The committees are: Awards, Early Careers, Education, Finance, International Relations, Member Services, Membership, Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, Nominating, Professional Opportunities for Women, Program, Public Affairs, Publications, and Thematic Meetings.
The Biophysical Society also supports subgroups focusing on smaller areas within biophysics. The current subgroups are: Bioenergetics, Bioengineering, Biological Fluorescence, Biopolymers in vivo, Cryo-EM, Exocytosis and Endocytosis, Intrinsically Disordered Proteins, Membrane Biophysics, Membrane Structure & Assembly, Mechanobiology, Molecular Biophysics, Motility, Nanoscale Biophysics, and Permeation & Transport.
Since 1960 the Biophysical Society has published the Biophysical Journal, which is currently semi-monthly, as a specialized journal in the field of biophysics. This was started because the Society perceived other scientific journals as unsympathetic to submissions by biophysicists. The society also publishes a monthly newsletter, an annual Membership Directory, and a Products Guide.
The Biophysical Society sponsors an Annual Meeting which brings together more than 6,000 scientists for symposia, workshops, industrial and educational exhibits, subgroup meetings, and awards presentations. Since 1969 the meeting has featured a talk by that year's National Lecturer, chosen for significance in biophysical research and excellence in presentation; the lectures are published in the Biophysical Journal, and those since 2003 are available on video. Starting in 2010 with "Calcium Signaling" in Beijing, the society now also sponsors 3-4 smaller thematic meetings annually across the world.
The Society sponsors a Summer Program in Biophysics. This 11-week scholarship program hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, introduces undergraduate minority students, disadvantaged students and students with disabilities to the field of biophysics. The program includes lectures, seminars, lab work, team-building activities and field trips. The Summer Research Program is designed to reflect a graduate-level research program. Participants are selected from those that apply. The program is funded by an NIH, NIGMS grant.
In 2016, the Society sponsored Biophysics Week March 7–11. The week is a global event aimed at encouraging connections within the biophysics community and raising awareness of the field and its impact among the general public, policy makers, students, and scientists in the field.
The society currently offers eight Society Awards each year to distinguished biophysicists in different categories. The awards are:
- Anatrace Membrane Protein Award recognizes an outstanding investigator who has made a significant contribution to the field of membrane protein research;
- Avanti Award in Lipids recognizes an investigator for outstanding contributions to our understanding of lipid biophysics;
- Distinguished Service Award honors service in the field of biophysics and contributions beyond achievements in research;
- Emily M. Gray Award recognizes significant contributions to education in biophysics;
- Fellow of the Biophysical Society Award honors the Society's distinguished members who have demonstrated sustained scientific excellence;
- Founders Award is given to scientists for outstanding achievement in any area of biophysics;
- Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award is given to a woman who holds very high promise or has achieved prominence while developing the early stages of a career in biophysical research;
- Michael and Kate Bárány Award for Young Investigators recognizes outstanding contributions to biophysics by a person who has not achieved the rank of full professor at the time of nomination; and
- US Genomics Award (Awarded 2006-2011) recognized exceptional researchers for seminal contributions to the field of Single Molecule Biology (SMB).
The Society also offers travel awards to its annual meeting, poster awards at Society-sponsored meetings, as well as other scientific conferences. In addition, the society sponsors "Biophysics Awards" at high school science fairs across the nation.
The Biophysical Society's Public Affairs committee responds to science policy issues such as research, careers, and science education, and has adopted a number of positions. In February 2004, the society released a statement supporting freedom of communication of scientific data, supporting the existing policy that prior classification strictly for national security reasons should be the only reason communication of scientific data should be restricted. The society also urged a reexamination of visa policy in the wake of several foreign-born scientists being denied permission to travel to the United States, citing the importance of their importance to the economy and security of the United States. In May 2005, the society released a statement opposing the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms, calling it an "effort to blur the distinction between science and theology".
The society is also active in supporting federal funding of science, and provides materials to assist scientists in communicating with elected officials. The society participates in the annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day, in which scientists, engineers and business leaders meet with elected officials in the United States Congress.
Beginning with the 2015-2016 year, the Biophysical Society is sponsoring a BPS Congressional Fellow through the AAAS Technology and Policy Fellowship Program. The purpose of the program is to provide an invaluable and unique opportunity for BPS members to gain practical experience and insights into public policy by working on Capitol Hill while also allowing scientists to contribute their knowledge and analytical skills in the federal policy realm.
- Satin, L. S. (July 2011). "The Biophysical Society: A Short History". Biophysical Society Newsletter: 4–5. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Committees". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Subgroups". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Publications". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- "National Lecture Videos". Biophysical Society.
- "Joint Meeting on New Horizons in Calcium Signalling". Biophysical Society.
- "Society Awards". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Poster Competitions". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Biophysics Across America". Biophysical Society. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- "Position Statements". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Weiss, Ellen (19 August 2011). "Scientists: Go Forth and Meet Your Congressmen!". Biophysical Society. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- "BPS Members on the Hill". Biophysical Society. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.