IWA Career Stories: Jean-Luc Bertrand-Krajewski
During the last year of my MSc degree in water and environmental engineering, I had the opportunity to do an internship in research and development on the optimisation of nitrification and denitrification in wastewater treatment plants that had not been initially designed to remove nitrogen. This internship was a really great experience and confirmed my previous feeling that I was much more interested in research, working on and learning continuously from new questions, than in operational engineering. Therefore, I decided to start a PhD thesis. After my PhD degree, I worked for 5 years with great pleasure and interest as a research engineer by Lyonnaise des Eaux (now Suez), in its research centres successively in Paris and Bordeaux. Nevertheless, by considering longer term perspectives, I thought an academic career would be more appropriate to my personal wishes. I decided in 1997 to enter university and got a position at INSA Lyon.
My first contact with IWA happened in 1990 during my PhD thesis. My laboratory received an invitation to participate in a workshop on sewer sediments. As my research topic was the modelling of sediment transport in sewer systems, I sent an application. It was accepted and I attended the workshop in Brussels in 1991. Its format was original: if I remember correctly, the audience was limited to approximately 40 persons, half were senior or experienced researchers, half were PhD students or post-docs. Everyone gave a presentation, in a friendly, relaxed and very stimulating atmosphere. As a young PhD candidate at the middle of my thesis, I was really impressed to meet in the real-life people whose papers I had read for my literature review. I highly appreciated the very open discussions, the possibility to go into the detail of research questions with each participant, the benefit of a very stimulating environment, and the unexpected opportunity to initiate collaborations with highly reputed seniors who manifested interest in my work despite the fact that it was far from being finished and conclusive. For example, by sharing their experimental data to allow me testing my model, which was a great challenge.
This first contact with IWA was extremely motivating, offering a unique opportunity to be part of an international network, a community of colleagues sharing research questions, data, models, and ideas. A few months after this workshop, in 1992, I became one of the two French representative members of the recently created Sewer Systems and Processes Working Group (SSPWG), one of the working groups within the Urban Drainage Specialist Group (usually named JCUD – Joint Committee on Urban Drainage, as it was and still is a joint specialist group of both IWA and IAHR). The SSPWG was very active in stimulating its members, in promoting networking and collaborative activities: the more you bring, the more you get, it is really a win-win situation. The SSPWG launched a series of triennial conferences named SPN (Sewer Processes and Networks), the first one being held in Aalborg in 1994. It was my first experience as member of an international scientific committee, in reviewing abstracts and selecting them for a conference, and then reviewing papers for publication in Water Science and Technology, a journal of IWA Publishing. In a few words, this was a unique possibility to learn a lot, to contribute to the community, and to further develop networks, contacts, and collaborations. Between 1999-2002, I became vice-chair of the SSPWG and then chair between 2002-2005, contributing to maintain the high level of activities of the working group and to develop new ones. It was an exciting task as there were many active members with lots of ideas and initiatives. I am still member of the SSPWG today and one of my favourite activities is the organisation of the Junior Scientists Workshops, combining presentations by junior researchers and hands-on sessions to practice together, in nice mountainous venues and in a rather informal and non-competitive atmosphere, with a limited number of participants. I think it is an excellent way for them to meet peers and seniors, to discuss their research work, and to develop their own international networks.
Later, I became elected chair of the JCUD Management Committee in 2002-2005, and then elected chair in 2005-2008. In this period, we proposed some evolutions within the Specialist Group, e.g., the creation of an account hold by IWA to manage our own budget, based on euros collected from registration fees paid by participants in the JCUD activities (conferences, workshops, etc.). I met with other IWA specialist groups, which gave me a much broader view of IWA, its organisation and its activities.
In 2010, I was contacted to be candidate, in the Specialist Group (SG) category, in the election to renew members of the IWA Strategic Council. I was elected and invited, after a few months, to join the Strategic Council sub-committee for Specialist Groups. Its role consists of managing the 50 IWA Specialist Groups in close collaboration with IWA secretariat and engaging them in sharing ideas and contributions to the IWA strategy. Between 2013-2018, I was chair of this sub-committee. It was a new and great experience, meeting all specialist group leaders once a year, with very frequent contacts and work to be done in connection with Strategic Council meetings. The main goal was to support, promote and facilitate the development and management of the Specialist Groups, which are the core of IWA for knowledge development and dissemination through conferences, workshops, webinars and publications of papers, reports and books by IWA Publishing. This responsibility was sometimes challenging, requiring attention to people with positive and constructive attitudes to encourage participation, interactions, collaborations, a shared sense of community, and some changes and evolutions that are necessary in a large organisation.
Since 2018, I continue to contribute to IWA as member of the Board of Directors of IWA Publishing, another part of IWA that I learned to know better while participating in the Strategic Council. IWA Publishing is a key instrument for IWA, as it is the means for knowledge dissemination through its journals and books, and an important contribution to the IWA budget. IWA Publishing is exploring new frontiers in publications, with both the transition to open access which is a revolution of the traditional scientific publishing paradigm, and the constant evolution of bibliometric performance indicators. I believe this on-going transition is decisive and that IWA members have a key role to play to ensure its success.
I am very happy to dedicate this short text to all IWA members and staff, who, at different times and in various ways, helped me invaluably. Thanks to their confidence, encouragement assistance, help, collaboration, examples, and friendship to develop my professional skills, take responsibilities, evolve in my career, and then to try modestly to contribute on my turn to the IWA and the water community.
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