Presidential address


This issue commemorates the 10th biannual congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB). The foundation of the Society in 1987 must have been exactly at the right moment. In retrospect, the state of the field of evolutionary biology in Europe at that time can be compared with a saturated salt solution, requiring just a trigger to crystallize into a coherent structure. It was the neo-European Steve Stearns, then zoology professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland, who possessed the required authority and organizational talent to provide this trigger. The first ESEB congress, held in 1987 in Basel, was immediately a big success, attracting some 450 participants from all over Europe. The next congresses have been held in various European cities and attracted between 500 and 700 participants, with one outlier: Barcelona in 1999 with over 900 attending. The ESEB congresses have increasingly attracted participants from North America.

Steve Stearns was also responsible for founding the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB). JEB is now fully owned by ESEB and is published by Blackwell Publishing. Like ESEB, JEB has shown a remarkably successful history. Over the years the number of submitted manuscripts has steadily increased and is still increasing. The journal has established a solid position in the field. Particularly impressive is the sharp reduction in manuscript handling time, thanks to a very dedicated board of reviewing editors. The mean time between submission and final decision is now about 60 days. Parallel to the above mentioned increase of North American participants to the ESEB congresses is the increase in JEB articles from North American authors.

I have no doubts that both ESEB and JEB have been very important in stimulating European evolutionary research and in establishing collaboration within Europe. I very much welcome the increasing involvement of North American evolutionary biologists as is apparent from the trends mentioned above. European evolutionary biology is flourishing, although there are signs that also in Europe nonscientific opposition to evolutionary thinking is becoming more vocal. In opposing this ESEB can play a very useful role.