In mathematical research the interchange of ideas plays a central role. The high degree of abstraction of mathematics and the compact way it is presented necessitate direct personal communication. Although most new research results are nowadays quickly made available to the mathematical community via electronic media, this cannot replace personal contact among scientists. The importance of personal contact can only increase with the constant increase of specialization.

The Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach (MFO, Oberwolfach Research Institute for Mathematics) brings researchers together for a short but intense period, providing them with ideal conditions under which to pursue research activities which will influence and stimulate the future development of the field. The participants of all programs are carefully selected with respect to scientific criteria. Participation is only possible through a personal invitation by the director or vice-director of the MFO.

The MFO concentrates on cooperative research and training activities in its scientific program. In addition to lectures on research results and new developments strong emphasis is put on sufficient time for individual discussions and interactions. There is room capacity for about 50 persons in the weekly programs (Workshops, Mini-Workshops, Seminars, Arbeitsgemeinschaften) and about 10 persons in the longer-term programs (Oberwolfach Research Fellows and Oberwolfach Leibniz Fellows). As the MFO runs its programs in every week (with the exception of two weeks over christmas) this yields about 3000 annual visitors of the MFO, most of them leading representatives of particularly relevant research areas. A complete list of all activities and their schedules including detailed information on applications, participations and results can be found in the main section Scientific Program.

There is a strong geographic diversity, as more than 70% of the guest researchers of the MFO come from abroad. In all activities participation of promising junior scientists plays an important role, with special grants being available for their support. Information on special programs, grants and support (including child support for families) can be found in the main section For Guest Researchers.

The basis for the successful realisation of the research programs described above is an excellent infrastructure. The library plays a crucial role in this regard, providing access to the full range of mathematical literature in a modern setting encompassing past collections and electronic access. We are glad that the guest researchers at the MFO have at their disposal one of the best mathematical libraries worldwide: Library.

Concerning further infrastructure and services, in particular also the technical equipment and available software, see the main sections For Guest Researchers and Outreach & Media.