Every three years, in conjunction with an annual General Meeting of its Members, the Academy convenes a General Conference in a developing country to review the status and future prospects of science and technology in various regions of the South. TWAS members, ministers of science and technology, presidents of science academies and research councils as well as representatives of international organizations from the South and the North are normally invited to attend these events.
TWAS General Meetings and General Conferences have become signature events for scientists and science administrators in the developing world.
The first TWAS event to be held outside of its headquarters in Trieste, Italy, took place in Beijing in 1987. It marked the first time that China had opened its doors to the rest of the world. Participants were able to see first-hand China's ongoing efforts to build scientific capacity and apply that capacity to its economic development goals. In 2008, Nature magazine cited this event "as one of the meetings that changed the world"– a seminal event in science in the 20th century comparable in its impact to the meetings that led to the creation of the high energy physics facility at CERN, the "green revolution" and the human genome project.
The TWAS meeting in China set the framework for all the meetings that have followed. Venues for the events include Brazil (1997 and 2006), China (1987, 2003 and 2012), Egypt (2005), India (2002 and 2010), Iran (2000), Kuwait (1992), Mexico (2008), Nigeria (1995), Senegal (1999), South Africa (2009) and Venezuela (1990).
Each conference is designed to provide a "check-up" on the state of science in the South. A leading public official, often the president or prime minister from the host country, delivers the opening address. Ministerial sessions, devoted to critical scientific issues, are usually held on the first day. Scientific sessions, focusing on topics ranging from agriculture to biotechnology to material science, are held throughout the conference. In each conference, one session focuses on the state of science in the host country. Young scientists are given an opportunity to discuss their research, and a series of prizes and medals acknowledge the excellent work being done by scientists in developing countries.
TWAS has been called the voice of science in the South. The Academy's general meetings and conferences provide an ideal forum for TWAS to articulate its purpose and goals by showcasing the progress that has been made in building scientific capacity in the South and discussing strategies for meeting the challenges that lie ahead.