Welcome to Porto

Birth cohorts are extraordinary research structures. They began by responding to a simple question: what is going to happen to these children born under certain circumstances? Looking at people – children in the process of growing and developing, their families and the surrounding environment, physical and social – for long periods in a life course perspective, it is extremely complex. One needs an approach that considers every possible ethical dilemma, from data protection to translation of individuals’ effort to participate into knowledge that can be shared.

Birth cohorts have been assembled to address many different questions, with varied dimensions and geographical scope, arranging multiple solutions to avoid accrual. Some have decades of follow-up, other are relatively recent. Together, they tell a fascinating story about ageing and observational methods.

Birth cohorts triggered original epidemiological and statistical solutions, promoted international cooperation, represent an extraordinary source of knowledge, and a tremendous amount of information incompletely explored, becoming a challenge to funding agencies: does it make sense to support new cohorts, may be a EU birth cohort?

In Porto, more than two decades ago, we initiated the recruitment of representative population samples to be followed during long periods. It was the beginning of our journey in real world epidemiology, the construction of research blocks that ultimately resulted in coherent structures to train scientists and public health professionals.

Generation 21 (XXI) is the Porto birth cohort, now reaching 10 years of completed follow-up. It is time to look back and around. Namely now, that the amount of information collected is overwhelming and the challenges are of a completely different nature. Science is often the result of individual, hopefully bright ideas but the research process is a solidary journey made with contribute of different fields and disciplines, countries and cultures.

It is why we invite you to join us in Porto, the 28th and 29th of October, to share experiences, results and questions in a friendly environment debating with some of the key actors in the field.

Henrique Barros