I thought I'd give you a bit more information about how this meeting works. Almost as soon as the last Scientific Sessions was over, our Scientific Sessions Planning Committee started working on the schedule for this year's meeting, deciding what topics we should cover and who should be invited to speak. The Committee is made up of volunteer experts in a wide range of areas of expertise. The sessions they're responsible for planning are Symposia, Current Issues, and Plenary lectures.
The Plenaries are major lectures that are designed to reach a broad audience. This morning, for example, Francis Collins of NIH's Human Genome Project gave a great presentation on "Identifying Genetic Susceptibility for Disease", which over a thousand people attended.
The Symposia are 2-hour sessions on a specific topic, usually with 4 different speakers expert in the field each speaking for about 25 minutes, with time for Q&A. Current Issues are usually two different speakers "facing off" about a controversial topic. (We used to call these "Current Controversies", but I think it was decided that that sounded too adversarial. I kind of liked the name, myself. Although the speakers are always cordial.)
All of that content is determined by the Planning Committee. Another major part of the meeting are Oral Presentations. These are 2 hour sessions in which presenters have just 10 minutes to present a few focused slides on a specific topic. These sessions are driven by the abstracts that are submitted by scientists around the world for consideration. This year, nearly three thousand abstracts were submitted, and almost 400 were accepted for oral presentations. These are the "bread and butter" of the meeting, the most current science being done in every conceivable field. A key feature of the oral presentations is that it is often the way that young investigators get their first opportunity to present their research to their more senior colleagues. It can be a nerve-wracking experience for them, but it's a critical step in their path toward establishing themselves as independent scientists.
(One additional category selected by the Oversight Committee are State of the Art Lectures, which are just what the name implies, the best understanding of the science in a particular area delivered by an expert in the field---these are always delivered as part of an Oral Presentation session on the topic at hand.)
Those are the nuts and bolts of how the program is put together: Plenaries, Symposia, Current Issues, and Oral Presentations. Later on tell you about Posters and other key features of Scientific Sessions. I'll also try to get some pictures posted here so you can see what this operation looks like.