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The Medical Post, VOLUME
34, NO. 41, December 1, 1998
Biomedical conference to be held in your home
By Marvin Ross
Conference will feature delegates from 49 countries
HAMILTON - Even though it is already December, there is still time to attend a world biomedical conference from December 7 to 16 regardless of where you live.
According to Dr. Henry Szechtman (PhD), you only have to go as far as your computer. "Delegates can participate while sitting in their pajamas in their own bedroom," he said in an interview.
This year, for the first time, the Internet World Congress of the Internet Association for Biomedical Sciences (INABIS) is being organized outside Japan by the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University here. Dr. Szechtman, a professor of psychiatry at the university, is the 1998 congress president.
INABIS was founded by Dr. Sumio Murase of the Shinshu University School of Medicine in Japan to promote the exchange of scientific findings and foster communication among scientists and medical health professionals on the Internet. Since its beginning in 1994, it has grown to the point where this year's congress, the fifth, will have participants from 49 countries. Dr. Szechtman said the organizers have received 644 abstracts and he expects there to be 300 symposium presentations and 300 poster sessions.
"This year's event is the first with such a broad international participation and should appeal to those from poorer countries who cannot afford to go to international conferences." It will also appeal to those who don't have the time or hate to travel.
The organizing committee compiled a list of possible symposia chairs and about half of the 100 people on their list agreed to participate. The chairs were then asked to select six to 10 people to participate in the symposium they were to chair, to make that list as international as possible and to then lead the Internet discussion. The poster sessions for each symposium also have a chair who will lead those discussions.
The format of the congress is like that of any medical or scientific meeting. Opening remarks will be posted to the Internet by Dr. Henry Friesen, president of the Medical Research Council of Canada. Keynote addresses will be given by Dr. Floyd Bloom of the Scripps Research Institute in the U.S. and Dr. Allan Cowley Jr. of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Following the presidential address by Dr. Murase, there will be an invited lecture by Professor Stevan Harnad of the University of Southampton. Delegates to the congress can then visit any of the symposia or poster sessions. There are about 15 topics ranging from discussions of cardiovascular diseases to neuropharmacology to biomedical education.
Registration is free and "cyberdelegates" go to the areas they wish to explore to read presentations. When delegates register for a symposium or poster session, they will be asked to leave their e-mail address. They will then automatically receive every comment or question that is posted to that session by other delegates. If they wish to make their own comments, they simply go back to that session and type them in.
In keeping with traditional medical conferences, there will be an exhibition foyer where commercial sponsors can present product information. There will even be a "fun" section. At the time of the Medical Post's interview with Dr. Szechtman, no details had been worked out for this but there were plans to include cyber visits to some of the attractions in Southern Ontario.
After the meeting, the abstracts will stay on the Web site and authors can leave their actual presentations on as well. The abstracts and some of the presentations will also be included in a CD-ROM. The issue of copyright for this type of presentation is still unclear. It is also unclear whether this type of presentation is considered to be a publication or a presentation at a scientific meeting.
However, Dr. Szechtman said that leaving their presentations and posters on the Internet is an opportunity for people in the Third World to publish quickly and easily even though it is not peer reviewed. For those who wish to attend the conference, simply point your browser to http://www.mcmaster.ca/inabis98/index.html.