ECS Podcast – Roque Calvo, ECS Executive Director

35 years of service

In this episode of the ECS Podcast, we’re celebrating Executive Director Roque J. Calvo’s 35th anniversary with the Society. Through hard-work and a clear vision, Calvo has helped transform the Society into what it is today.

In honor of Roque celebrating his 35th year with ECS, we thought we would interview him for a change.

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Five questions for Roque Calvo

What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at ECS meetings?

One of the highlights for me has to be Rudy Marcus making a presentation at our meeting, almost simultaneously with the call coming to my office, to my desk at the Royal York Hotel, announcing that he had won the Nobel Prize. We had to go pull him out of the session after his talk was over, and have him take that telephone call on the spot. It was just a great celebration and a great moment— and nice to have him with us.

You’ve been doing this work for most of your adult life. What kind of impact has it had on you?

That’s hard to believe, especially in these times, you know, to think 35 years…when I think about what’s kept me here, I think it goes right to the character, right to the essence of what this organization is, and of course, what it’s meant to me.

It’s about the people that I have worked for. I not only admire them for what they’ve accomplished, what they’ve contributed, but it’s what they want to contribute to the world, what they feel about is important and how they go about their work. What I’m trying to say is I’ve had the good fortune for working for brilliant scientists who really are working to make the world a better place. Whose work and contributions are doing that, and to be in a role where I can help facilitate that…that’s where the longevity comes from. Very few people I think get an opportunity to sit in my seat and work for people and for an organization that that is what they’re trying to accomplish and that’s what they represent.

What is it about our technical content that’s so important? Why is it so important to get this specific content free?

That’s the other revolution, having to do with the sustainability of the planet. Just recently, the UN Paris Accord comes out talking about a united front for the sustainability of the planet, to deal with the climate issue, to make progress towards the renewable energies. Those are, again, things happening outside ECS that are dramatically facing ECS. That’s why I’m referring to it as a revolution.

Electrochemistry, electrochemical processes, are at the root of solutions for the renewable energy and water sanitation, the whole energy water nexus. While we’re trying to create an Open Access library, simultaneously, the relevance, the importance of the science, has never been greater. I feel that there’s an obligation on our part to create an open environment that anybody from anywhere can access this important science, because it does represent solutions for water and energy problems that the world has essentially united to solve.

Describe the transition from print to paperless journals.

It took us a long time over some interesting meetings and changes to transition entirely from paper publications. It just was not the mindset, particularly of the more senior leadership of the organization. There was something really valuable — actually there’s a greatness to having a journal show up on your desk every month with the latest information, but that’s not how the world does their research homework anymore, is it? And so, taking our organization into that realm was quite an undertaking, with some interesting push-back along the way, wouldn’t you say?

But now here we are, and I thought that 1996 you’re looking at, that we’re sitting there with just paper and we got to get all the way home to digital with the idea that we’ll eliminate paper for cost reasons, and it doesn’t have the same utility, and all those things. And that seemed incredible. And now we’re sitting here talking about, well, we want to make the whole darn publication, our whole digital library available to everybody, and we want to publish as quickly as we can and continue to publish the best research in our field, and make it available to everybody. And that’s part of the revolution phase two almost.

What does the Society look like after we achieve Platinum Open Access?

Speculating about that is really interesting because I’d like to believe – I’m convinced that it will lead to faster solutions to the problems that I just referenced. And so, in a very real way the society is contributing to making the world a better place and solving the world’s greatest problems in a way, and at a level that I couldn’t have imagined 35 years ago. I really could see that as a reality. That it’s a difference maker, that it does increase the pace of discovery and thus solutions to some of these world problems. That’s the role from the beginning, isn’t it?

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