Who once had the opportunity to join Lindau, will never forget it and ask itself at many other conferences and meetings, why one may not succeed in creating a similar atmosphere.

Most conferences are a dust-dry matter – except the evenings at the hotel bar or the special dinner. Lindau against it is a living swarm of bees and at the same time an oasis of the rest. How can this be?

Maybe it’s helpful to take a look back to last year when I took part at the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting for the first time for this Blog:

Arriving at the Inselhalle you first notice a very nervous swarm which bustles in the registration area. Presumably the high number of excited, rosy-cheeked young researchers is causing this vibrant atmosphere. They are many. More than 550 last year. They are on an average in the mid-twenties, maybe that’s why they don’t yet have this calm and casual behavior of professional long trained conference attendants. Moreover the young researchers will be forced to seriously exchange with and talk to 24 Nobel laureates. This might be the reason for all these high voices, the nervous slight coughs.

From time to time one of the laureates looks for a way through this crowd – and then automatically a lane opens for them to pass. The young researchers have stepped back reverentially, giving admiring views to their stars. They would not dare to speak to them, but this is to change fast.

The concept of the Lindauer organizers is smart. In the mornings short lectures, then lunch break and afterwards on every afternoon discussions between laureates and the young promising researchers take place. These afternoon sessions rarely become bigger than school classes and a genuine exchange can be realized.

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from left: Roy J. Glauber, Theodor W. Hänsch, John L. Hall together with young researcher Andreas Mershin

It just needs one day and the ice seems to be broken and the young scientists have overcome their shyness. In the hall no way opens anymore magically for a Nobel laureate. On the contrary – from now there’s nearly no chance to see them than into a detailed discussion. And it seems already difficult for them to withdraw themselves occasionally. But even this is possible in Lindau. The Inselhalle is located directly at Lake Constance and you can take a seat on a nice terrace enjoying some coffee. By chance there on the terrace you might observe some Nobel laureates maintaining their friendships.

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Douglas D. Osheroff, Ivar Giaever and David Gross talking with students.

All anxiety finally is wiped away at the end of the week during the boat trips to the Mainau isle and back. One might take looks into relaxed and sometimes proud faces. Discussions with laureates are going on. They share their knowledge and experience – standing, sitting on the ground, wherever. Even if most of the Nobel laureates received their price for extraordinary studies some decades ago, they still are right in the middle, most of them still have very actual publication lists and go to the lab day by day. Researchers obviously stay in job for their whole lifetime.

The young researchers not only want to know, what it takes to become a superb and successfull scientist. They discuss about recent papers and studies and try to find strategies and aims for the future in their respective fields. And surely the participants from all over the world themselves also exchange their ideas and research approaches. Many become friends, a new network of the next generation of researches grows. At the end of the meeting it becomes quiet and many are overcome by a certain wistfulness. Just because it was so nice.

By the way: Not everything is perfect at Lindau. The hall itself is obviously to small to accomodate 600 people. At the evening dinners standing in the line for the buffet takes the most time of it – but so you get in contact to others again and maybe this is some kind of strategy? The WLAN crashes down from time to time. There’s no air condition in the foyer and it gets terribly hot there. The schedules for interviews and more are changed several times – maybe because of perspicuous reason the laureates themselves want to relax a bit in between all these talks and enjoy their stay at Lindau. But even all these little troubles have it’s own charm.

So, let us hope it will become as nice as last year again. We’re looking forward to an exiting, excellent and challenging week.

 » Beatrice Lugger ist Chemikerin und Wissenschaftsjournalistin.