The main distinction between this programme and previous VPH conference programmes is that there will be no parallel sessions before late afternoon, and then in the form of parallel workshops. The rationale for this is a perceived need for enforcing further integration of the VPH community and sharing of common goals and intellectual standards. Moreover, this structure is anticipated to facilitate better integration with the experimental physiology community, the functional genomics community, the bioinformatics community and several types of expertise from the engineering and mathematical communities not yet heavily engaged in the VPH mission. More active engagement from these communities will be highly instrumental for tackling the grand challenges we are confronted with.
Even though there will be in total up to 60 oral presentations in the parallel workshop sessions the two afternoons, the chosen structure will reduce the number of oral presentations compared to previous events. This reduction emphasises the importance of the poster sessions. A poster presentation is in many cases at least as valuable as an oral presentation in terms of getting people in touch with each other and conveying important results. We will embrace the fact that a Virtual Physiological Human will stand upon the shoulders of experimental biology by particularly inviting poster presentations of experimental data that challenge our current computational conceptualisations. Likewise, we will demand that more theoretically inclined poster presentations (as well as oral ones) will be clear on model premises and hypotheses so that they can be confronted by those in possession of relevant biological expertise.
The plenary themes for VPH2014 highlight that (i) the establishment of a digital representation of the individual is key to realising a real personalized medicine, (ii) that a quantitative understanding of the physiology of the ageing individual is mission critical for understanding, preventing and treating complex disease, (iii) model repositories, standards and efficient data integration technologies are major pillars for the VPH mission as such, and (iv) the integration of genomic information with multiscale computational physiology provides the foundation for bridging the genotype-to-phenotype gap. All plenary presentations will respect the disciplinary heterogeneity of the audience so that we achieve an efficient communication between the various expertise fields.
The 2x5 parallel late afternoon workshop sessions ensure that broad aspects of in silico medicine are also covered, and they are deliberately structured to facilitate the identification of what are the major challenges preventing rapid progress in various areas. This information is very valuable for helping young researchers to define important research goals.
A major aim for the plenary sessions as well as the workshops is to convey the transformative character of VPH research by filling this claim with factual content. The US National Science Foundation defines transformative research the following way: Transformative research involves ideas, discoveries, or tools that radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or educational practice or leads to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science, engineering, or education. Such research challenges current understanding or provides pathways to new frontiers. The scientific committee of the VPH2014 event will use this definition to guide the preparation and selection of oral presentations and poster presentations, and to structure the planned workshops.