Last month, two writers from The Scientist and about 350 other reporters were among 1,800 participants at the inaugural EuroScience Open Forum in Stockholm. The meeting was billed as "the first pan-European science meeting ever," and included sessions on a familiar mix of diseases, planets, and dinosaur bones.

Unfortunately for news hounds, the EuroScience meeting, like the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference on which it is modeling itself, was an exercise in drumming up lots of coverage without having much new science to report. (In the interests of full disclosure, The Scientist Daily News featured two stories from the conference.)

Most conferences want science reporters in the audience, of course, because of the free publicity. But organizers also know they have to help reporters justify days out of the office and the expense of a trip, so press briefings abound throughout many conferences. The trick...

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