Organising a World Congress of Epidemiology (WCE): Reflections and lessons from the XIX WCE, Scotland

R. S. Bhopal*, W. C. Smith, J. McEwen, G. MacFarlane, A. McCallum, D. Pattison, N. Bhala, R. Peto, J. P. Pell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 3-yearly World Congress of Epidemiology is the premier, international, scientific conference organised under the auspices of the International Epidemiological Association (in open competition). This paper explores the justification for seeking to host the Congress and reflects on the structures and processes adopted in making the XIXth Congress in Scotland happen.Preparing the bid was invaluable for forming collaborations, generating scientific ideas, and garnering opinion. After the bid was accepted, we formed a local organising committee, named the Management Executive Committee to signal its decision making authority; and scientific, fundraising, marketing, international and social subcommittees. There was uncertainty about critical matters such as delegate numbers, costs and the total budget. Early decisions had to be made on, for example, the fee and fundraising target (£250,000), despite financial risks. Development of the scientific programme was a critical step that underpinned fundraising and marketing and permitted involvement of the international committee.Overall the 2011 WCE succeeded. The key ingredients to success were: a large collaboration of institutions and individuals; early pledges of financial support mostly from the UK; the valuable and relevant experience of the professional conference organisers; unstinting support and advice from IEA; and the effectiveness of the committee structure.The educational and professional development benefits of this WCE will reach a worldwide community and not just delegates, because of video, PowerPoint and textual accounts being open access on the Internet. This reach is unprecedented for IEA's World Congresses. We anticipate that the Congress will translate into better public health practice, better future Congresses, advances in epidemiology and improved population health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-270
Number of pages6
JournalPublic Health
Issue number3
Early online date10 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Conference
  • Epidemiology
  • International
  • Organisation
  • Public health


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