{ C O N T E N T S }
Volume 11, Issue 1

President’s Letter

SCS4 Highlights

ISCB Honors
David Haussler
& Aviv Regev

The ISMB Organization
& Future Vision

PLoS Computational Biology Overview

11th Israeli Bioinformatics
Symposium Report

Taking a Stand on Software Sharing

ISCB Members Speak Out on US Entry Visa Issues

ISCB’s New Software
Sharing Statement


ISCB Student Council

Post Your Events with ISCB

MentorNet Report Card: Year Two

Calling all Leaders!

Become an ISMB Reporter

In Memory of
Kamalakar-Rao Mettani

FASEB Update

Rocky ‘08

Key Dates for Key Conferences

Conferences & Events

Cover Image




Copyright © 2008
International Society for
Computational Biology.
All rights reserved.


ISMB Organization and Future Vision

The main meeting of the International Society of Computational Biology (ISCB), the International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) has evolved into becoming THE major event in computational biology. In 2008, it is still true that a considerable fraction of all the major scholars in computational biology frequently participate in ISMB. In other words, ISMB is undoubtedly the meeting that attracts the highest fraction of participation from the discipline of computational biology.

ISMB has become a forum for reviewing the state-of-the-art in many fields of this growing discipline, for introducing new directions, and for welcoming technological breakthroughs. Through its federated activities, ISMB has evolved into a means of education: It provides different opportunities at different levels in the careers of scholars, these opportunities include many of the essential stepping stones at all levels of the development of scientists.

ISMB has been evolving from a local to a global meeting; it has evolved from a forum for primarily some subgroup in computational biology to the integration of an unprecedented variety of fields within the discipline. It has also evolved from a meeting organized by a local group into one organized by an international society (ISCB). In the past, the meeting has even been co-organized by two international societies (ISCB and ECCB). ISMB/ECCB has also begun to evolve into more of a “confederate” event the scientific organization of which is no longer confined to a few people who come together for one particular meeting. This concept instead is becoming replaced by the growing independence of the different tracks that constitute the meeting. ISMB has been impacting computational biology in many ways, in terms of channeling its science, of bringing together its representatives, of contributing to education and of creating a commonality of a newly evolving field. ISMB also was at the heart of making the step from an important international meeting to creating ISCB, a stable international society that will contribute to the advancement of the field and represent the field.

The main goals of ISMB are the following: To further the advancement of science, in particular of computational biology; to contribute toward making the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of science an endeavor that furthers the happiness of the scientists; and to help build bridges between all individuals involved that foster peace by joining likeminded, dedicated, and passionate groups of scholars from an unusual variety of backgrounds, both in terms of nations and scientific mindsets in the common ambitious goal.

ISMB Overview & Background From local to global event. In the beginning a particular person/group from around the conference location had organized the entire ISMB. We have finally transited into the mode in which the meeting is run by the Society, i.e., ISCB alone or – every other year – jointly by ISCB and ECCB. This transition has many simple results:

(1) The main organizing team need not be local; we can connect the optimal place with the optimal group of scientific organizers regardless of the location of each.

(2) The financial control is fully in the hands of ISCB to be responsible if anything goes wrong.

(3) The Steering Committee and a rotating team of organizers provide stability and history.

(4) ISCB can build and evolve its conference staff/facilities into powerful resources that will consolidate our growth and finances.

From single-track to massively parallel. At ISMB/ECCB 2004 in Glasgow we introduced papers presented in two parallel tracks after many years of debate. By ISMB/ECCB 2007 in Vienna we further transited to a meeting with many tracks. The number of all talks in Vienna was over twice that of any other ISMB meeting; in fact, almost 20% of the talks presented at ANY ISMB to-date were presented in Vienna. The meeting moved into a new dimension. The major driving force was the hope to accelerate the transition from “computer science only” to the whole variety of computational biology including the biology, designing tracks to include different groups of scientists. At ISMB 2008 in Toronto, we have added even more events, yet condensed the entire meeting by a day by rolling two SIGs into the main meeting, and by running other SIGs in parallel to the Student Council Symposium and tutorials on pre-conference days. Overall, we increased the width yet shortened the meeting and hope that trend may continue in the future.

Challenges of numbers. The Vienna model remains a financial gamble: at basically the same per person costs and fees, we could have welcomed over 1,500 additional participants to Vienna. This would have likely increased the profit substantially, thereby solidifying ISCB and ECCB for years to come. We could afford the gamble in Vienna because the venue was very affordable: the Toronto venue expenses are slightly higher than those for Vienna, and Stockholm will be more expensive than Toronto; yet all of these locations are more affordable than many possible alternatives that we investigated (note that given our current model there are surprisingly few possible sites that can host ISMB). If the number of participants does not increase over the next two meetings (Stockholm and Boston), we will have to find ways to revert to fewer parallel tracks and/or to a venue with smaller rooms dedicated to each track (at the risk that any room might become overloaded).

Organization. We have made considerable advances in running ISMB from the organizational perspective thanks to the unmatched experience of Steven Leard, for whom we created the essential position of ISCB Conferences Director, which will be a pillar for future ISMB meetings. Roughly there are three major components of the overall organization:

(1) Scientific components: Responsible for the scientific content of the meeting are the meeting Chairs (currently one chair with two co-chairs and a local honorary chair) and the Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC). The SOC has basically evolved into the collection of those who organized the tracks of the conference or otherwise contributed an essential aspect to the meeting. The SOC never meets explicitly; instead those from the SOC who are not on the Steering Committee (SC) join the SC meetings whenever needed.

(2) Logistical site components: The Professional Conference Organization (PCO) is hired by ISCB to coordinate all local connections, communications, housing and registration. In Toronto, we introduce another step of independence: Marketwhys is a company that has already had close and long-term associations with ISCB through Steven Leard, the Conferences Director.

(3) Administrative components: Issues that are neither handled by the SC with the Chairs, nor by the PCO are handled by the ISCB staff, including the Conferences Director. Tasks include the site visit, negotiations with local vendors, industry partners, exhibitors, as well as a major fraction of the communication with the scientists who will present at the meeting. Tasks also include the financial management, marketing, maintenance of documents, the archiving of the institutional memory, and the oversight over committees, conference bodies, conference events, and the avoidance of mistakes that happen when joining all the pieces.

The successful interplay between constituents of each component is guaranteed by the ISCB staff together with the SC, which meets by telephone every other week beginning at about a year before the event. The members of the SC are some subset of all of those who take over an explicit important role in the organization. Ideally, most of the members remain constant from one year to the next, with the group rejuvenating gradually.

Evolution into federation of professionally organized events. In the first years ISMB re-invented itself every year with little memory transference from one year to the next. The strength of such a process is its freshness. However, this approach is no longer feasible given the dimensions to which the event has grown. Given the many pressures and constraints, we need to move ISMB and ISMB/ECCB into an event that ascertains stability and security.

It appears that the most flexible and potent model is one in which the meeting is run by a federation of tracks that are coordinated by the Conference Chairs, the Steering Committee, and the decision-making bodies from ISCB and ECCB (for joint meetings). This model combines gradual rotation with stability. It facilitates
long-term planning and reduces ad hoc decisions. Overall, this will considerably strengthen the transition from a meeting run by a few to a meeting run by societies even more than has been the case in the past. It will also significantly reduce the burden on the Conference Chairs, and it will help create a variety of separate characters and flavors that will be home to different groups of participants.

The more people contribute, the more people come. We are glad you are one of them this year and hope to welcome you again next year in Stockholm, and the following year in Boston!