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The NT Conference Vision


During the 1990's, when interest in fullerenes was dwindling due to perceived lack of applications, the future of the related nanotubes was questionable. The nanotube field was riddled by reports that nanotubes may help create energy from nothing (thus violating energy conservation) or store unusually large amounts of hydrogen. Most scientists believed that nanotubes are only a fashionable topic with no lasting impact.

How to prove the skeptics wrong? I believe the best answer is to produce and report high-quality research. A $15,000 grant in 1999 was the trigger for organizing the NT'99 conference as a way to bring the nanotube community together using an unusual approach and format:

  • Financial support should be spent on the best invited speakers. Any luxury should be avoided to keep the conference cost low and to attract as many interested participants as possible.
  • The key role of contributions was emphasized by placing poster sessions in prime conference time and summarizing the essential contents of all posters in an oral plenary session (poster-plus presentations by contributors). Also to encourage active participation of young scientists, posters have always played the "first violin" at NT conferences.
  • Discussion of all topics of importance to the field, including controversial topics, was encouraged and facilitated by the open format.
  • The main reason behind an NT conference was to provide a service to the nanotube community.

First Series of Nanotube Conferences

At NT'99, practically all financial support was spent on attracting and supporting key invited speakers, who would present and discuss their results. The registration fee was $120. Very little was spent on the location rental, and the remaining 2% financed a common meal that did not deserve to be called a "banquet".

The participants found the format very appealing and the actual number of attendees exceeded the planned attendance by a factor of two throughout the following years. The wish list brought forward by participants often reflected their past disappointment at other conferences:

  • To eliminate frustration from selecting a wrong session in multi-session conferences, participants asked for a single-session conference that would cover the entire field;
  • Unlike conferences, where the organizers and advisory board are also presenters of invited talks, NT conferences should avoid such conflicts of interest. Invited speakers should not be nominated by sponsors, but be selected democratically by an ever changing advisory board.
  • The venue and the invited speakers should change each time.

These commonalities, reflecting the wishes of participants, were eventually summarized in the NT Conference Charter. They distinguish NT conferences from other events, including junket conferences. This approach may appear too restrictive to some organizers, as it does not bring immediate benefit. Yet it is feasible, as demonstrated in the first decade or so, and has found overwhelming support by participants.

To maintain the quality of the conference series, a Steering Committee was eventually established to regulate all issues related to NT Conference organization, including compliance with the NT Conference Charter.

Changing times have influenced the conference format. The pressure on the organizers to admit politically connected persons as invited speakers has been rising steadily and hopefully not noticed by the audience. Rules of political correctness starting dictating specific quotas for, among others, female French scientists. The wish to equilibrate genders and cultures started playing an ever increasing role. NT18 was the last NT conference complying with the rules of the NT Conference Charter.

Second Series of Nanotube Conferences

Since organizing a multi-session conference that is not subject to any rules is much easier on the organizers, the conventional conference format has taken over, starting with the NT19 conference. The single-session format covering the entire field in tutorial and keynote lectures as well as selected invited talks has been discontinued. There are no longer any rules guaranteeing half the conference time to poster sessions and discussions. Responsibility for the quality and number of invited speakers and type of sessions, previously regulated by the statutes and members of the international advisory board has been shifted to the conference organizers directly. As in other conferences, there is no limit on the number of parallel sessions and invited talks. This allows conference organizers and nominal advisory board members to schedule keynote and invited lectures for themselves as well as for original and for politically influential speakers.