The conference Theory and Mathematics in Biology and Medicine was both scientifically and socially a great success. This meeting constituted the 4th tri-annual meeting of the ESMTB, and was simultaneously the 1999 Annual Meeting of the SMB. The 532 participants came from all over Europe and from other continents and far outnumbered the expectations. The scientific program was broad ranging and stimulating, the attendance of all sessions was continuously high (despite the seductions of Amsterdam). The conference was a living proof that large-scale meetings like this are very important for the field as a whole. Participants broadened their views by coming into contact with areas and topics that they would not encounter in specialist conferences that they would usually attend. The central message is that scientists who apply mathematical reasoning to obtain insight into biological and medical phenomena can obtain new ideas, methodology, and collaborators for their research at a broad scale meeting like this. Judging from the continuously high attendance and the fact that all meeting rooms, coffee areas and corridors were buzzing with discussion throughout the meeting we conclude that this central objective was achieved. The high attendance by young researchers (25% of participants), researchers from Eastern European countries (7%) and from Western Europe and the USA, together with the informal atmosphere of the meeting, induced considerable interaction. The program and set-up of the meeting was specifically tailored to create ample opportunity for these interactions.
The organisers had a number of practical aims. One of the aims was to stimulate the attendance of students and this was achieved. A second aim was to stimulate the attendance of researchers from Eastern Europe. This aim was also met since 7% of the participants came from Eastern Europe. Many of these researchers were subsidised from the EU-grant on a competition basis.
The program consisted of 24 sessions with 417 lectures and posters and a tremendous amount of scientific information was exchanged during the meeting. The level of the contributions was generally high as was the appreciation by the participants. The organisers invited 19 plenary speakers. The speakers were chosen with the aim to cover both established research areas, but also exciting new areas with which participants otherwise do not get into contact. Notably the latter type of plenary speaker (e.g. on DNA computing) was very much appreciated.
One explicit aim of the organisers was to increase the quality of the poster session. With this we mean not just the quality of the contributions, but specifically the amount of attention given to it during the meeting. Also, the abstract book makes no distinction between oral contributions and posters, thus stressing that both are equally valuable as scientific contribution to the meeting. Previous meetings with this broad range of topics tended to have poster sessions that were very ill attended. Also in this aim, the present meeting was very successful. The poster session, containing 162 posters, was scheduled in the middle of the afternoon on three consecutive days without any competing activities. Posters were put up for one day only, grouped according to the oral session of the corresponding day, and the researcher presenting the poster was present during the whole session. We can safely say that the attendance, discussion and interaction during these sessions was the highest of any comparable conference. It was uniformly very busy during all three sessions. At the closing of the conference three participants received a prize for their poster (and 7 others received an honorary mention) in front of all participants. For a report by the poster committee see elsewhere in this issue.
Full abstracts of all scientific contributions and other details about the meeting can be found at the following address: http://toranaga.bio.uva.nl/tmbm99/