My first experience of an academic conference as a biology books editor at Oxford University Press was of sitting in a ballroom in Ottawa in July 2012 listening to 3000 evolutionary biologists chanting ‘I’m a African’ while a rapper danced in front of a projection of Charles Darwin. It was, to say the least, a memorable introduction to the conference circuit and left me with an enduring sense of anticipation and excitement about the annual cycle of evolution conferences which has yet to disappoint.
Oxford University Press (in the person of my senior editor Ian Sherman and, more recently, also myself) has been attending and sponsoring conferences in this field for some years, and they are always exciting and fruitful occasions, both for us and for the academic communities with which we work. It’s always a huge privilege to be able to meet and talk with the leaders of the field and to learn about their most cutting edge research. Conferences provide us, as publishers, with a unique opportunity to meet many of our readers and authors face to face rather than through the filter of a computer screen, to hear feedback about our publishing, and to inspire and develop our new publishing ventures.
This year, we are very much looking forward to attending the European Society of Evolutionary Biology’s 2015 conference in Lausanne in the second week of August. While it may not be featuring any Darwin-inspired rappers, the conference programme reveals a fascinating schedule of talks discussing the big questions of evolutionary biology, and including a recurring focus on the evolution of sex, which John Maynard Smith referred to as ‘the hardest problem in evolutionary biology’.
It seems very fitting that the 2015 winner of the John Maynard Smith Prize, Matthew Hartfield from the University of Toronto, should be speaking at the conference on this very subject: Mathematical adventures in sex and disease evolution, and that it is also the subject of the ESEB Presidential Address by Laurent Keller: Supergenes, sex, and sociality. The exciting programme has been put together by a team led by chairman Nicholas Perrin, professor in ecology and evolution at the University of Lausanne (the local hosts of the conference), and, along with Leo Beukeboom, author of our recently published book The Evolution of Sex Determination.
Conferences provide us, as publishers, with a unique opportunity to meet many of our readers and authors face to face rather than through the filter of a computer screen
The evolution of sex recurs again as the subject of one of the conference’s nine symposia, with the others being on social interaction, interspecific interactions, genome evolution, plasticity, epigenetics and behaviour, microbe evolution, selection/adaptation, speciation, and an open symposium.
The programme also includes six fascinating keynote lectures: Judith Mank from University College London on The genomic basis of sexual dimorphism, Jane Reid from the University of Aberdeen on Dissecting the evolutionary ecology of reproductive strategies in the wild, Kevin Foster from close to home at the University of Oxford on Social evolution in microbes: from model systems to the microbiome, Dan Tawfik from the Weizmann Institute of Science on How do proteins evolve?, Hopi Hoekstra from Harvard University on Digging for genes that affect behaviour, and the 2014 winner of the John Maynard Smith Prize, Laurie Stevison from Auburn University, on The timescale of recombination rate evolution in great apes.
When not attending the wide range of interesting talks available, conference delegates will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva, and take part in field trips such as a trip on the lake in a Belle Epoque era paddle steamer, a hike up the nearby mountain Rochers-de-Naye, and an enticing sounding wine-tasting trip to the Lavaux vineyards. Overall, this sounds like a conference that will be remembered and enjoyed by all for its academic, social, and cultural opportunities.
We encourage all conference delegates, when not talking, listening, exploring or drinking wine, to come along and visit the OUP stand, browse through what we have to offer, and introduce yourselves to myself and Ian. We’d love to talk to you about your research and hear your opinions on the future directions of the field and its literature. And if anyone can explain their research through the medium of rap, that’ll be an added bonus.
Featured image: View over the roofs of Lausanne, Switzerland by Christian Mehlführer. CC-BY-SA- 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.