What Is an International Symposium?

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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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An international symposium is a form of formal lecture or conference gathering of professionals to discuss current events in their field and network with researchers in other nations. Often international symposia center around topics such as concerns for the environment and the advance of science in fields that affect many nations such as physics, public education, and medicine. Other international symposium topics focus on efforts that governments can take cooperatively to improve the lives of people in general, or recognize the unique cultural aspects of local populations through international trade or legal and business frameworks.

An international symposium can often focus on multiple topics and draw in professionals from many fields due to the overlapping nature of global concerns. This was the case with the annual Global Economic Symposium (GES) that took place in Germany in 2011. The GES drew in over 400 experts in many public policy associated arenas representing academia and business. Representatives from Arab to western nations participated in discussion-oriented workshops and conferences designed to find practical solutions to issues of international concern such as restructuring debt, migration, and the recycling of waste materials from industry as a value-added aspect of societies.


Another topic that is common to the international symposium arena is that of global health initiatives. A 20th anniversary for a bioethics-themed symposium on this topic took place in London, England, in 2011. It drew in international speakers discussing such topics as the role of non-communicable disease in society and the development of new biotechnologies.

More often than not, an international symposium draws in participants based on who is chosen as the keynote speaker. This is the individual designated to make the most important presentation at the research conference, and is usually a leader in his or her field who has recently pioneered new discoveries or international levels of cooperation. When an international symposium is focused on scientific research, the professional conference often relies on keynote speakers who are Nobel laureates. Such was the case with an international science symposium in 2003 held at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US, that attracted experts in fields from physics to chemistry and biology. John B Fenn, PhD, was the keynote speaker, a professor at the university who had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2002 for his research into studying proteins in a gaseous phase.

While the international symposium format has often had its focus on being an academic conference for sharing pure research and recent advances, others like the GES are focused on finding workable, implementable solutions to current problems. These cooperative efforts are often crucial where many nations utilize shared resources, such as with the Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium. The Lowell Wakefield international symposium draws in fishery business people and scientists from abundant fishing regions around the globe. While the 2010 symposium was held in Alaska in the US, previous versions have been held in France, Iceland, and Norway.


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