The Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS) Conference entitled "Directions and Needs in Asbestos Research: New Insights" was held at the University of Montana in Missoula on July 28 and 29, 2005. Researchers, physicians, health care workers, and federal agency representatives from around the country met for a cross-disciplinary exploration of many issues related to asbestos research. Topics included community and psychosocial issues in biomedical research, asbestos exposure assessment, assessment and mechanisms of asbestos-related diseases, and new research directions. This meeting report is a summary of the conference presentations, and of the topics identified for future research directions. This conference was a follow-up to one hosted by the CEHS in June 2002, and continued to take advantage of opportunities to work with a unique population in Libby, MT, where significant asbestos exposures have occurred due to the mining of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. The goals of this conference were to bring together experts from diverse fields to identify progress made since the last conference and to develop new research avenues that would allow us to address the research needs in emerging asbestos-exposed populations. Participants indicated that these objectives were met, and expressed enthusiasm for follow-up conferences, tentatively planned for the summer of 2007, to maintain the dialog that has been established regarding directions and needs in asbestos research. Selected papers from the conference are presented in this issue of Inhalation Toxicology.