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Multi-Pole Approach to Structural Biology

Warsaw, Poland, November 2011

[Multi-Poles] The 'Multi-Poles' pose for a family photograph (photo Roman Szczepanowski).

Two-hundred and sixty scientists, most of them very young, representing macromolecular crystallography, bioinformatics and related biological and chemical disciplines, flocked from all over the world for a gathering entitled Multi-Pole Approach to Structural Biology. The conference was truly international but the idea was to bring together a core of some 40 eminent structural biologists with Polish roots to discuss the advances of the field and to promote science, science education and scientific careers in Poland. The program committee was dominated by protein crystallographers (Zbyszek Dauter, Argonne, USA; Mariusz Jaskolski, Poznan, Poland; Wladek Minor, Charlottesville, USA; and Alex Wlodawer, Frederick, USA) but it was chaired by an extremely energetic and efficient bioinformatician of the younger generation, Janusz Bujnicki (Warsaw). Under Janusz’s direction, this very unique scientific meeting went absolutely flawlessly and in a truly friendly atmosphere. The scientific level of the presentations was very high; this would be no surprise in the case of the eminent scholars, but the lectures by the young scientists were of matching quality. The scientific spirits remained high through-out the entire conference: at the closing session on Saturday afternoon, the large lecture hall was almost as full as at the beginning. Lectures were followed by animated discussions despite the tightly packed program: on Friday alone, there were 27 oral presentations! This hard-work day was concluded with a banquet; the excellent food and drinks created an atmosphere for personal remarks from a pioneer of synchrotron protein crystallography (Alex Wlodawer) and even for a small recital of limericks composed for the occasion by yours truly. The conference was covered by the media and was highly advertised with policy makers and science administrators. It was held under the honorary patronage of the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education and the US Ambassador to Poland and his counterpart in Washington, D.C. The conference was inaugurated by the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Rector of the U. of Warsaw, and the Director of the Int’l Inst. of Molecular and Cell Biology, the hosting institution. One afternoon was devoted to an open panel discussion on the future of science in Poland, animated by the Foundation for Polish Science, which included top government officials responsible for science policy in Poland. It is very much hoped that the conclusions formulated during the discussion will help to reverse the regrettable negligence, often shown by policy makers in Poland, of scientific research and of its educational, technological and cultural role for the society at large. As this conference has clearly demonstrated, investing in science and education is about the best thing a progressive government can do.

Mariusz Jaskolski