The mission of the European Respiratory Society is to alleviate suffering from respiratory disease and promote lung health through research, sharing of knowledge, and medical and public education. The ERS, founded in 1990, is now a 10 000-member nonprofit professional society, devoted to respiratory medicine and science, comprising 11 scientific assemblies covering the full breadth of the field. Open to clinicians, scientists and other health professionals, the society draws its members from every continent and plays a leading role in improving standards of respiratory care in Europe and beyond. Its activities centre around four pillars: Congress, education, publications and advocacy.

The annual ERS Congress is the central event of the society’s year. It attracts about 20 000 delegates, making it the largest annual scientific gathering in respiratory medicine worldwide and the primary forum in Europe for presenting research, exchanging knowledge and forging collaborations. While speakers include the world’s leading experts in the field, the Congress also provides opportunities for young researchers to present their work to a wide audience, perhaps for the very first time. Outside the main Congress, the society organises an annual Lung Science Conference and a biennial Sleep and Breathing Conference (jointly with the European Sleep Research Society).

The ERS School runs educational events throughout the year, providing a range of hands-on and online courses and CME-accredited events and material. At the annual ERS Congress, the School provides a world-leading slate of postgraduate courses, seminars and ‘meet the expert’ sessions covering the whole spectrum of respiratory medicine. Resources from these events and many other ERS activities are collected on the ERS’s Learning Resources website, a vast treasure chest of information. The School is also responsible for the HERMES initiatives, which aim to harmonise respiratory medical education in Europe. These ongoing projects cover seven major areas in respiratory medicine, and have led to the creation of core curricula and syllabi, several best-selling Handbooks and the highly regarded European examinations and diplomas in adult and paediatric respiratory medicine.

ERS publications are led by the flagship European Respiratory Journal, which publishes the best in original research and scientific reviews each month, reaching almost 1 million online readers each year. There are also two quarterly journals, both freely available online: the European Respiratory Review publishes state-of-the-art reviews and summaries of important recent findings, while Breathe is aimed at clinicians, allied health professionals and those in training, presenting practical, educational content and reaching over 16 000 print subscribers. The European Respiratory Monograph publishes four books each year, each one taking an in-depth look at an area of respiratory medicine.

In addition to its head office in Lausanne (Switzerland) and publications office in Sheffield (UK), the ERS maintains an office in Brussels (Belgium), at the heart of the European Union (EU), focusing on advocacy for better respiratory health. Current activities include lobbying for stronger tobacco regulation and ensuring that respiratory medicine is well represented in new EU research funding programmes.

The above is just a brief overview of the activities of the ERS – more in-depth information can be found at www.ersnet.org. The society also produces clinical guidelines, funds fellowships for researchers and produces strategic reports such as the European Respiratory Roadmap.