Nearly 250 international scientists participated at the NFO-7 conference and the leading manufacturers of scanning probe techniques and optical microscopy presented their products at the NFO-7 technical exhibit. The intense scientific program was balanced by two relaxing social events.

The conference brought together the diverse scientific communities working on the theory and application of near-field optics (NFO) and related techniques. New application areas were presented and various novel ideas emerged. As such, the conference fulfilled its mission. Three things deserve special emphasis: 1) the quality of the presented work, 2) the quality of the presentations, and 3) the comradeship within the NFO community.

I believe that the reason for the outstanding scientific quality can be extracted from the statistics shown in the figure below. Starting with the year 1985, the figure shows for each year the number of publications that contain the words "nano-optic" or "near-field optic" in either title or abstract. The period '85-'92 can be defined as the 'beginning years'. The following period '93-'99 marks an era with unexpected growth. These are the "euphoric years" that produced many publications and even new research fields such as single molecule spectroscopy. However, a lot of data was not well understood and soon people started to talk about artifacts and asked why near-field optics is needed at all! This challenge was then naturally followed by the current era of 'awakening'. Suddenly, we had to justify why we are doing near-field optics and had to proof that the interpretation of the data is real. This caused a drop in the publication rate in favor of scientific quality which could be experienced at the NFO-7 conference!

The euphoric years of '93-'99 can be seen as a transient behavior, the first period of a damped oscillation as shown in the figure. The red line represents the natural exponential growth which I believe did not yet reach saturation. I am therefore very positive that the next NFO conference (NFO-8, Seoul, Korea, 2004) will bring together the same quality of work.

I thank all participants for attending the conference and for making it a memorable event.

Lukas Novotny

P.S. The old website still lives, and there are now statistics, group photos, and NFO8 (Coming soon) to see.

This site is maintained by Michael Beversluis, Copyright © 2002