Meeting Features Leading Biomedical Scientists From Central Europe, Former Soviet Union and the Baltics

Fireworks exploded over the famous Chain Bridge of Budapest in late June as biomedical scientists from Central Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Baltics began arriving in the city to discuss their latest research.

The pyrotechnics were in celebration of the historic unification of the city's two banks: Buda and Pest. But they also provided a colorful welcome for the International Research Scholars of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who gathered with many of their collaborators from outside the region in a monastary above the River Danube that has been renovated into the Budapest Hilton Hotel.

The conference featured a discussion of Hungarian science policy, a press conference and cultural programs in addition to scientific talks and a poster session. The mood was relaxed among the scientists, who met previously in Warsaw (1997) and Prague (1996). Now entering the second half of the five-year program, they mixed easily across nationalities and scientific disciplines.

The HHMI international program "encourages talented scientists to pursue their research in their home institutions and not to leave their country," Hungary's president, ”rpád Göncz, noted in welcoming remarks read at the conference's opening. Purnell Choppin, HHMI's president, added that "the friendships and collaborations that develop at a meeting like this are as important as the scientific exchanges."

Prior to the conference, most of the 14 Scholars from Hungary joined reporters from the local area and the United States for a two-day workshop organized by the Independent Journalism Foundation. Reporters from CNN, ABC, Business Week and elsewhere explained how they cover science stories and helped train the Scholars to explain their work more clearly to non-scientists.

Since 1991, HHMI has awarded four rounds of grants totaling $53 million to support researchers in 19 countries outside the United States. Ten of those countries were represented at the Budapest meeting: Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, the Slovak Republic, and Ukraine.