On behalf of the co-organisers of this conference, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), as well as the European Commission as a major sponsor, it is a great pleasure for us to welcome you to what we hope will be an informative, lively and thought-provoking meeting.

Biology is widely and increasingly recognised as the frontier of fundamental research in the 21st century, and as the source of major new applications in medicine, agriculture and industry. With this recognition comes responsibility for all parties concerned to improve communication and mutual understanding. An informed and broad popular consensus is a prerequisite for the enormous potential of biological research to be cultivated, enhanced and harnessed in the years to come to the benefit of human civilisation and well-being. The new ways in which science can be applied must be carefully guided by the political principles of the democratic process in an informed society. We hope that 'Developing a new dialogue' will be a step in that direction.