Welcome to ISMB/ECCB 2004

Well, the conference is upon us. We hope that it will prove to be fertile ground for lively discussion, new ideas, the forging of new acquaintances and the renewal of old ones. As we tick off the final checkboxes on our task list and rejoice in a record year in terms of submissions and registration numbers, we have begun to consider why over 2000 people from all over the world decided to come to Glasgow to talk bioinformatics.

Let's think back to almost two years ago, when three organizations - the EBI, the UK Research Councils' Collaborative Computational Project in Bioinformatics (CCP11), and the Bioinformatics Research Centre at the University of Glasgow - independently decided that the time was ripe to host ECCB in the UK. It is testimony to the close-knit nature of the UK bioinformatics community that they discussed their ideas and put together a joint bid, which subsequently evolved into the unanimous decision to host ECCB together. Almost simultaneously this decision evolved into the idea of bidding to jointly host ECCB with ISMB, which was planning a return to Europe after a two year absence and looking for a host site. Hence, with approval from both the ECCB Steering Committee, and the ISCB Board of Directors, ISMB/ECCB 2004 was born.

As Europe's host for the core biomolecular data resources, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) has a responsibility to promote computational biology in Europe. What better way to do this than to host an international conference? CCP11 is used to bringing UK bioinformaticians together: it has been organizing the UK's biennial bioinformatics conference, Genes, Proteins and Computers, for sixteen years. ECCB operates a rotating scheme in which the host country's bioinformatics society organizes ECCB each year, so there was a perfect fit between CCP11 and ECCB.

The UK has one of the largest and strongest bioinformatics communities in the world, and has a well-developed system for training bioinformaticians, so we were confident that we could count on the support of the UK's bioinformaticians to make ISMB/ECCB 2004 a success. Scotland, in particular, has a rapidly growing bioinformatics community, with a number of organizations undertaking cutting-edge bioinformatics initiatives including the recently formed Scottish Bioinformatics Forum. Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's main economic development agency and one of our platinum sponsors, is actively promoting the development of biotechnology and bioinformatics in Scotland. As we're sure you'll agree as soon as you see the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and experience Glasgow's unique hospitality, Glasgow is also a wonderful conference city.

Despite the potential complications of four hosts and three conferences combining forces, the planning process has run like a well-oiled machine thanks to the efforts of many people. This is your conference; we hope that each and every delegate finds it both scientifically and socially stimulating, from the pipers at the beginning to the prizes at the end.