I am currently attending the DECOI 2009 workshop (Third International School of Design of Collective Intelligence) in Leiden. It has very interesting speakers (I hope I manage to summarize some things later) and attending people.
My work group will play around with the idea of controlling emergence (meaning that you might be able to change the mix of your system design on-the-fly in order to prevent certain behaviours of the system that you do not want to happen).
My first positive impression is the location: the Lorentz Center in Leiden is an institution solely in place to let scientists organize efficient and rewarding meetings like this. It's government-funded and professionally run. Attendants get keys to offices (we're 5 in one office) and the coffee machines grind the beans freshly while you wait. There is free Wi-Fi and food.
There is no way to measure directly if this government money is well spent. We don't publish anything here. But any scientist will tell you that exchange of ideas among scientists is one of the most important tasks on science. Organizing such meetings, though, is hard work and keeps scientists from doing actual science. Kudos to the dutch government for addressing this problem. Good policy.