Near-peak abstract submissions for Vienna

The opening keynote lecture likely to be one of the most attended presentations in reproduction.

Published 04 March 2019

ESHRE 2019 promises another feast of science with 1854 abstract submissions, a hot invited programme now in place, and 16 precongress courses.

Almost a record, but not quite. With 1854 abstracts of original studies submitted for open communication at this year's Annual Meeting, the grand total fell just a little short of the all-time record set in Barcelona last year, though the total marks a continuing high level of interest and quality. Around 230 of this year's abstracts will be selected for the final programme, which will unroll in Vienna from 23 June, with a further 800 abstracts selected for poster presentation.

‘No other meeting in reproductive medicine can now command this sort of support year after year,’ said ESHRE Chairman Roy Farquharson.

The Vienna abstract total not only marks a near-record entry (slightly down on last year’s 1898 abstracts) but also reflects the very high standard now required for oral selection. Indeed, the acceptance rate for oral presentation will this year be around 13%, not far removed from that of ESHRE’s flagship journal Human Reproduction.

Emphasis on clinical science
As ever, submissions are refereed blind by a selection committee, which includes, among others, the co-ordinators of ESHRE’s 14 Special Interest Groups. Selection for the oral or poster programme is dependent entirely on the committee's score. As ever, the greatest number of abstracts submitted were in clinical science, of which embryology (383 total abstracts) is now the most prolific. Reproductive endocrinology (353 abstracts), andrology (239), and implantation and early pregnancy (202) were also prominently represented.

All abstracts, which were submitted in the Human Reproduction format, are reviewed according to ESHRE’s standard procedure of screening and scoring. Screening aims to ensure that abstracts are designated to the correct topic category, while selection for oral and poster presentation is done solely on the basis of scores awarded by reviewers.

As last year, Spain (154 submissions) and China (151) submitted most abstracts, with UK (133), Japan (109), Italy (109), France (99) and USA (98) somewhat behind. The ever-growing presence of China and Japan in the scientific programme of an ESHRE Annual Meeting continues, a trend also reflected in submissions to the ESHRE journals and in the international collaborations now being initiated by ESHRE.

Invited programme
The invited scientific programme for Vienna is now complete and as ever topics and speakers will be hot. The opening keynote session, which features the Human Reproduction lecture based on the previous year's most downloaded paper, will be heard by an audience of around 4000, making it a truly monumental presentation in reproductive medicine.

Later, two of our most respected reproductive endocrinologists, Scott Nelson and Frank Broekmans, will take a drone's eye view of poor ovarian reserve within the everyday context of female ageing and response to stimulation. Broekmans, who had a major role in the development of ESHRE's latest guidelines on ovarian stimulation for IVF, will specifically cover adjuvant treatments - and will later be on stage for a dedicated session on the stimulation guidelines.

Flying somewhat under the radar of a congress in reproduction is another Monday speaker, iconoclastic US physician/epidemiologist John Ioannidis. Among his multiple writings on evidence-based medicine is the his 2005 PLOS Medicine paper 'Why Most Published Research Findings Are False', apparently the most downloaded paper in the Public Library of Science (~2.5 million). Here, he proposed that study findings are less likely to be true when the studies and the effects are small, and when there is financial interest and flexibility in designs, definitions, and outcomes. Described by the BMJ as 'the scourge of sloppy science', Ioannidis last year took aim at the 'absurd' findings of research in nutrition, a topsy-turvy topic familiar to many ESHRE members in endless dietary advice all in the name of raising sperm counts. The epidemiology of nutrition, he wrote in a JAMA editorial, is in need of 'radical reform'. So it's with a little trepidation that we highlight his presentation in Vienna of 'alarming' findings from national registries over IVF safety, and in the hope that ART has not joined nutrition in the catalogue of fake findings.

Other subjects of equal topicality but less likely controversy are the emergence of egg freezing as a commercial service, anonymous donor identity, embryo mosaicism, fresh versus frozen transfers, sperm DNA, and the role of AMH in PCOS. One session organised by the Cochrane group will have at least a small overlap with the views of John Ioannidis in describing outcome reporting in ART as 'a mess' and calling for a consistent core outcome measure.

Precongress courses
As ever, this year's congress will begin on Sunday 23 June with a rich programme of precongress courses. Sixteen courses have been scheduled, organised by ESHRE's Special Interest Groups and collaborating partners. Among the more notable courses is one from the SIG Stem Cells marking the derivation of the first human ESC lines 20 years ago. The course thus reviews two decades of progress in human stem cell research and looks ahead to the multiple possibilities for cellular transplantation therapies in regenerative medicine.

Following the precongress courses ESHRE 2019 formally kicks off at 7.00 pm on Sunday 23 June with the Opening Ceremony, followed by a reception in the exhibition hall. There were more than 12,000 in attendance in Barcelona last year, another record, and signs already indicate that similar numbers can be expected in Vienna. As has been clear over recent past congresses, the ESHRE Annual Meeting is now a truly international event, and the one place to be for science and people in reproduction.