Please note that the ESF Research Conferences Scheme came to an end in December 2015.

No further calls are anticipated.




Fostering collaboration across disciplines and generations

The ESF Research Conferences Scheme provided the opportunity for leading scientists and young researchers to meet for discussions on the most recent developments in their fields of research. It acted as a catalyst for creating new synergistic contacts throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

It developed principally through the establishment of long-term partnerships between the ESF and national and international organisations, including universities. Each partnership funded a series of conferences which focused on the same topical area and took place at a recurring venue. Individual conference topics were either selected by ESF and its partners, taking into account their strategic interests, or were generated through an open call for proposals announced at the beginning of each year.

ESF’s ambition was to create a clear ‘brand name’ for the conferences and a predictable relation for the scientific community, by linking each venue to a certain disciplinary area.

ESF Research Conferences were open to scientists world-wide, whether from academia or industry. Conferences might be single events, or series, usually with a biennial meeting focusing on specific aspects of the same general topic. Topics were at the forefront of scientific research and interdisciplinary when appropriate.


Conferences generally lasted for four or five days and up to 150 participants and invited speakers could be invited to attend. The Chair, assisted by the Organizing Committee, selected participants on the basis of applications (submitted online usually no later than 3 months before the conference). A conference fee was charged to participants. A limited number of grants was available for young researchers, to cover their attendance and contribute towards their travel.

The core activities of the Conferences were based on lectures by invited scientists, who were leaders in their respective fields, followed by extensive discussion periods. An informal exchange of ideas, both inside and outside the lecture room was encouraged, and the number of sessions in the daily timetable was limited in order to allow sufficient time for interaction between the participants. In addition to the 5-6 hours per day of lecture room activities, poster sessions, round-table discussions or discussion groups were organised. Either one afternoon or extended lunch periods were usually kept free of lectures in order to allow time for free time activities.

In order to encourage speakers to present their latest results and ideas, which might not yet be fully explored and ripe for publication, no written papers were requested. The publication, as proceedings, of selected papers prepared after the Conferences could be approved by the Chair, subject to the agreement of the speakers concerned.

Research Areas

ESF Research Conferences covered the following scientific areas:

  • Physics, Biophysics and Environmental Sciences;
  • “Biology+:” Molecular Biology at the interface with other science disciplines (Chemistry, Physics, Computing Science, Mathematics and Modelling, Space Science, Clinical Medicine, Engineering, Environmental Science, Humanities and Social Sciences);
  • Social Sciences and Humanities;
  • Biomedicine, Global Change Research;
  • Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences

A Europe-Africa Frontier Research Conference Series in basic science profiling African excellence was also established in 2008, to encourage dialogue and cooperation between European and African researchers.


ESF Research Conferences, which were the major activity of the Conferences Unit, were sponsored through partnerships established between ESF and other organisations:

  • European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO): ESF-EMBO Symposia (interdisciplinary with focus on Molecular Biology)
  • Radboud University Nijmegen (RU): ESF-RU Conference Series: Towards a Sustainable Bio-Based Society
  • Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS): ESF-FENS Conferences on The Dynamic Brain (Neuroscience)
  • Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung in Österreich (FWF) & Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck (LFUI): ESF-FWF Conferences in Partnership with LFUI (Physics, Biophysics & Environmental Sciences)
  • Linköping University (LiU): ESF-LiU Conferences (Social Sciences and Humanities)
  • University of Barcelona (UB): ESF-UB Conferences (Biomedicine)
  • Vetenskaprådet (VR) & Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS): ESF-VR-FORMAS Conferences (Global Environmental Change)
  • European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST): ESF-COST High-Level Research Conferences (Chemistry)
  • International Council for Science (ICSU), European Academies & Network of African Science Academies (NASAC): Europe-Africa Frontier Research Conference Series (Basic Science profiling African excellence)
  • Foundation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH) & Association Entre-Sciences: ESF-FMSH-Entre-Sciences Conferences in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (Environmental Sciences)
  • Bielefeld University & Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF): ESF-ZiF-Bielefeld Conferences (Humanities and Social Sciences)
  • European Mathematical Society (EMS) & European Research Centres on Mathematics (ERCOM): ESF-EMS-ERCOM Mathematics Conferences

The Scheme was extended to include World Conferences under its umbrella (eg ESF-JSPS Frontier Science Conferences for Young Researchers) as well as a series of Summer and Winter Schools that provided advanced scientific training in physics.

The ESF Conferences Unit also acted as service provider for conferences which arose from other ESF instruments.