History of BSM

During a meeting of the National Committee for Microbiology (NaCoMi) on June 5th 1990 in Liège, it was decided that the committee should organize national symposia of general microbiology. At that time, the National Fund for Scientific Research (NFWO/FNRS) provided support for scientists of several disciplines to install Contact Groups aiming to meet, discuss and present research results. The application of NaCoMi members to establish a General Microbiology Contact Group was readily approved [chair: Jozef Anné (Rega Institute, KU Leuven), secretary: Etienne Thiry (University of Liège)] and this allowed for the annual organization of symposia under the umbrella of NaCoMi and the NFWO/FNRS contact group (see Table).

In 1995, following the conversion of NFWO/FNRS into separate Flemish and French entities, the Contact Group was inevitably discontinued. Because the Contact group was a success, an alternative needed to be sought. The idea was then launched (J. Anné) to establish a microbiological society. Following a discussion within NaCoMi in the course of 1995 and 1996, informal exchange of views with other established microbiologists and a general survey amongst microbiologists in the country, this proposal was accepted leading to the establishment of the Belgian Society for Microbiology (BSM). This was officialized at a meeting in the Rega Institute on November 18th 1996. During this meeting the founding document in the form of society statutes was signed by 13 microbiologists [1] including NaCoMi members as well as representatives of existing societies specialized in specific areas (clinical, nutritional, environmental, molecular) of microbiology. The new society, founded as a de facto association, aimed to address aspects of general microbiology, providing a forum for interdisciplinary exchange and to cooperate with specialized microbial/biochemical societies. Soon after its foundation, in 1998, BSM became member of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS).

The society was first chaired by Alfons Billiau (Rega Institute – KU Leuven, 1996 – 2009), followed by Jozef Anné (Rega Institute – KU Leuven ,2009 – 2016) and Guy R. Cornelis (em. Uni.Basel CH, UNamur, 2016 – present).

From BSM’s creation in 1996 until 2017, symposia were conceived so as to focus on particular themes considered to be of special importance. In 2017, the format changed, such that the symposia now cover a wide range of topics of current importance. To facilitate the organization along this format, four thematic sections (General Microbiology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Medical and Veterinary Microbiology, Host and Microbe interactions) were established within the Society, each being headed by one of the Board members who coordinates proposals for speakers and presentations.
In 2019, BSM was converted to a nonprofit organization under Belgian law, i.e. by its registration as an ASBL/VZW (association sans but lucratif, vereniging zonder winstoogmerk). On this occasion, the statutes were revised, confirming and clarifying the synergic link with the NaCoMi.


[1] The 13 founding members were A. Billiau (KU Leuven), J. Anné (KU Leuven), E. Thiry (ULiège), J.P. Butzler (VUB), L. Verbist (KU Leuven), P. Hoet (UCLouvain), G. Cornelis (UCLouvain), L. De Zutter (UGent), A. Naessens (VUB), M. Mergeay (SCK/CEN Mol), J. Vanderleyden (KU Leuven), A-M. Colson (UCLouvain), en P. De Vos (UGent)