The recent development of solar physics has made a broad variety of tools available to probe energy conversion and particle acceleration in a nearby astrophysical plasma, the solar atmosphere and the heliosphere. This is the only place where remote sensing observations and in situ measurements can be combined to investigate how magnetically stored energy is converted in an astrophysical environment to generate hot plasmas, suprathermal particle populations, and large-scale mass motions. The new instrumentation, both space borne and ground based, and the wealth of observations of energetic phenomena around the maximum of solar activity in the year 2000 will provide new constraints on, and new insight in the processes at work.
European researchers take an active part in the development of instruments in space (e.g. SoHO, Ulysses ) and on the ground, where the radio waveband is particularly relevant to the topic of energy conversion and particle acceleration. The objective of the conference is to foster collaborative analyses of the new data and their confrontation with recent theoretical developments in the fields of magnetic reconnection and particle acceleration processes. The conference is timely, since it will be held when first results acquired during solar maximum will become available. It thereby encourages multidisciplinary discussions, involving solar and heliospheric plasma physics, and stimulates investigations that combine the different data sets. The format of the conference, where equal time will be devoted to keynote talks and working group discussions, aims at maximum interaction among the participants and the development of collaborative investigations.