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Showcasing European science

By Matin Durrani, Munich, Germany


I’m sitting three rows from the back inside the gently lit conference room at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich. The academy is housed in a grand, honey-coloured stone building that forms one wing of the huge Residenz complex, which was almost entirely rebuilt after the Second World War following the Allied bombing that left it and most of the city in ruins.

The Residenz, which looks glorious in the spring sunshine, is an appropriate and symbolic venue for the conference I’m attending, which has been organized to mark 25 years of the journal EPL.

Originally known as Europhysics Letters (it was rebranded in 2007), the journal was set up to promote and showcase the very best of European physics research. It may not yet match its great American rival – Physical Review Letters – as a journal containing short “letter” articles exploring the very frontiers of physics, but just as the Residenz was restored to its former glory, so EPL is playing a small part in rebuilding European physics.

Europe’s long realized that collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to science, with the CERN particle-physics lab being the shining example of what happens when nations work together. And so it is with EPL, which was begun in 1986 as a joint venture between the French and Italian physical societies, the UK’s Institute of Physics, which publishes, and the European Physical Society.

The organizers have invited a string of top speakers – the full list is here – and bused and flown in over 100 students and postdocs from across Europe to create a good, international feel.

As for me, apart from consuming an extremely large number of fabulous mini chocolate croissants on offer in the coffee breaks, I’ve been filming some video interviews with Michael Schreiber, EPL’s current editor-in-chief, particle physicist Luisa Cifarelli, who is current EPS president, and David Delpy, chief executive of the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. They will appear on this website in a few weeks’ time.

The conference dinner was held last night at one of Munich’s best known restaurants – the atmospheric Hofbraukeller – with a fabulous four-course buffet (it may have been five; I lost count).

Right, it’s coffee-break time – off for a few more of those croissants. I just hope my colleagues Fiona Walker, Claire Webber and Jo Pittam, who are also at the meeting, haven’t polished them off yet….

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