It is my absolute pleasure and great honour to introduce myself to you as the new ISRII president. During my time in the ISRII, I have met many of you during ISRII conferences and during earlier stints on the board. So many of you will already know that I have a confession to make… I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. In my profession NLP is for Natural Language Processing and CBT is for Circuit Board Technology. Yes! I am one of those engineers!
To be more specific, I am an electronic engineer with a longstanding interest in health applications. Once I realised that I got more excited about the data than the devices that produced these data (and yes, I can show you a number of physical activity sensors gobbled together by me), I started specialising in data science and the wondrous world of machine learning.
The 2013 ISRII conference in Chicago was my first interaction with you, the ISRII community, and it immediately left a lasting impact. I was impressed by the cross-disciplinary collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking that seemed to come natural to most ISRII members and have good memories (and the medal to prove it!) of the Throwdown organised by Lee Ritterband. Hence, I was delighted when Heleen Riper asked if I was interested in getting involved in the ISRII board, and of course absolutely chuffed when this later culminated in Frances Kay-Lambkin’s inquiry as to my interest in becoming ISRII president after David Ebert.
So here we are, after an extremely difficult year for all of us, the ISRII conference postponed twice due to the Covid pandemic. I am not saying anything new when I say the world at large has experienced an extremely difficult time over the last year. I feel that, as an academic, I have been largely shielded from the worst of the Covid pandemic. I am sure that the same holds for many of you, but unfortunately this is not a reflection of the general devastation Covid-19 has left in its wake. A recent WHO survey demonstrated (what many of us of course already knew) that critical mental health services in 93% of countries world-wide were disrupted or halted whilst the pandemic is also responsible for an increased demand for such services. Physical health services have been similarly disrupted and whilst internet interventions are certainly not a panacea or outright replacement for more traditional services, I feel we have a large role to play in this new world.
And indeed we already have! Over the last year (already in the first few months of the pandemic) we have made huge strides in terms of delivery of internet interventions, the penetration, suitability and acceptability of online delivery platforms, the creation of content, and the training of online therapists. Clearly, there is a great need for internet interventions, and thus a great opportunity for the ISRII community to continue our efforts to make health interventions better accessible, more equitable and more affordable through internet delivery.
The ISRII Board of Directors are eager to support the ISRII community to the best of our ability and we recognise the enormous opportunity that the new normal offers. We have had to take the difficult decision to postpone the 11th ISRII Scientific Meeting to 2022, and I would like to thank Bruce Rollman and his team for their fantastic and persistent efforts. In its place, we will host a number of online events to bring the ISRII community together throughout the year. We hope that these events will allow us all to foster rewarding collaborations, exchange ideas, but also come together socially as an ISRII community to the best of our virtual abilities.
We will kick off our online events late April / early May and details will soon follow, so please keep an eye on your emails. And don’t forget to renew your membership, which will be free until September 2021. Finally, there is no virtual substitute for fine weather and Lime scooters (such great fun) in Auckland, the beautiful waterfront location in Seattle, the majestic conference venue in Valencia (not to mention the food!) or the impressive architecture in Chicago (and this is where my ISRII memory starts), so I very much look forward to seeing you all in Pittsburgh next year!
Pepijn van de Ven