July 21–27, 2007 • Sorrento, Italy
The XIII International Congress of IS-MPMI arrived in Sorrento, Italy, on July 21, remained for 5 full days packed with an abundance of scientific, social, cultural, and gastronomic activity, and then left in a flurry on July 27 with the bustle of people, luggage, and buses. The final count was about 1,245 registered participants, originating from 59 countries worldwide! This turnout reflected a good response of the MPMI scientific community to this event, even if only one and a half years have passed since the last occasion in Mexico. Further, the registration discount offered when becoming an IS-MPMI member elicited about a 45% increase in the number of IS-MPMI memberships versus the December 2006 count. Ultimately, even though the congress was held in one of the most prestigious, thus expensive, European tourist sites, the final budget was balanced with no losses incurred to the society. Thanks to all who attended and helped make this a successful MPMI congress—probably record breaking in terms of attendance number!
The scientific program proved to be comprehensive, covering a wide range of topics. The opening lecture provided by James C. Carrington gave us a novel insight into the role of small RNAs in plants, an exciting, topical, growing field of research. The IS-MPMI Award Lecture of Thomas Boller presented an inside view into the development of his exceptionally innovative research career. The regular congress day started every morning with talks in the Plenary Sessions, followed by informal lunch discussions. The afternoon activities included Concurrent Sessions and Poster Sessions, which immediately rolled into the evening Special Interest Workshops that, in some cases, proceeded until after 11:00 p.m. Then, if 15 hours of listening to the organized presentations wasn’t enough, nightcap sessions continued into the wee hours for those who were not yet satiated and wanted to discuss more science and organize collaboration! A heartfelt thank you is extended to all the speakers. Their participation formed a strong scientific foundation for the congress. Hearing about their “hot” findings was exciting, and their interpretations of the subjects were stimulating and thought provoking.
The visual impact of the nearly 1,000 posters throughout the congress venue was impressive. These scientific presentations were equally attractive and instigated much discussion, thanks to the availability of the authors during the two sessions. Needless to say, the Poster Committees had a daunting task in selecting the award recipients.
The Hilton Sorrento Palace was put to a rigorous test in hosting so many congress delegates! Its strategic location overlooking the sea of the sirens was indeed breathtaking. We had the fortune of having the venue renovated for the start of the congress—the paint was still wet the day before the opening! Every possible conference space was utilized and optimized! Every problem was dealt with and resolved. The organization of the community lunches together worked well! All participants must agree that it was indeed an extraordinary sight to see, not to mention notable to hear, about 1,200 delegates seated all together for lunch in the San Antonio/Pompeii Restaurant and on the terrace! The lunches, normally composed of a several-course meal, were served efficiently in an arc of about 70–80 minutes in order to respect the schedule of the scientific program. The little cakes, tarts, or cookies served during the coffee breaks were so colorful and deliciously arranged.
The social program initiated with the Welcome Reception, which was held outdoors in the refreshing lemon orchard against the backdrop of the Gulf of Naples and the background music and dance of the classic Neapolitan “tarantella.” The full attendance made movement difficult to locate old acquaintances (not to mention the appetizers) in the crowd, but with patience, circulation was possible and encounters were successful. The week of the congress was substantially sunny and hot, hot, hot. Many participants, approximately 20 busloads, braved the climate to participate in the congress tour to the Pompeii excavation site! It was striking to see so many bright yellow congress hats moving around the extensive archaeological complex. Fortunately, no PAMP (Pompeii-Associated Missing People) were registered. In spite of the heat, seeing the ancient town of Pompeii below the shadow of the volcano Vesuvius provided a thrill, meriting the visit no matter what meteorological conditions prevailed.
In the Closing Ceremony, the presidency of IS-MPMI was passed from Pierre de Wit to the newly-elected President Federico Sanchez, who addressed the crowd, presented the poster awards, and introduced the site for the XIV IS-MPMI Congress in 2009. The congress dinner was also hosted in the lemon orchard. A sumptuous meal was served, accompanied by an interactive Neapolitan music spectacle that was capable of drawing in all attendees to partake. A highlight to the evening of entertainment involved the participation of the past and present presidents of IS-MPMI and the congress chair at center stage.
The organization of this 13th edition of the IS-MPMI congress is not yet finished. Now work is proceeding to edit and assemble all of the manuscripts submitted by the speakers into a publication. The ultimate goals for these IS-MPMI congresses are to reinforce and expand the community and to share new and exciting scientific findings, as well to initiate and sustain personal contacts during these biennial encounters. Consensus is that these objectives have been achieved.