ISMB Participation since 1993, for a larger version
of the graph, click here
biologythe unique mix of molecular biology and computer
sciencehas come of age in recent years, earning status
as a scientific discipline in its own right. The development
of the field and the high demand for qualified professionals
have given rise to the International Society for Computational
Biology (ISCB), an organization dedicated to the advancement
of scientific understanding of living systems through computation.
its founding in 1997, the Society has grown to over 1300 members
and looks to sustain strong membership growth in the near
future. Current ISCB president, Philip E. Bourne of the San
Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California
San Diego, says, "This is a critical time in bioinformatics
and biology. The science is booming and we're here to bring
the benefits of a professional society to the world of computational
the Society's founder, Larry Hunter, now at the University
of Colorado, started the first Intelligent Systems in Molecular
Biology (ISMB) conference, held in Washington DC. During that
meeting and the ISMBs that followed, members of what would
become the Society's board of directors had discussed the
formation of a formal group related to the emerging discipline
of computers in biological science. Ultimately, the need to
house the funds for the ISMB conference spurred the formation
of the Society.
At the 1996 ISMB in St. Louis, a union of all of the previous
years conference steering committees, serving as the
Societys inaugural board of directors, encouraged the
formation of the new society and elected an executive committee
with Hunter as president. The Society was legally incorporated
in early 1997.
four one-year terms, including a four-month break from September
1997 until January 1998, when Chris Rawlings at SmithKline
Beecham served as acting president, Hunter resigned. In 2000,
the board elected Russ Altman at Stanford as the second president.
Altman's track record included salvaging the 1994 ISMB conference
when it unexpectedly wound up moving from Seattle to Palo
Alto and he campaigned with a two-sentence platform, "We
need more members. Without members, it's a waste of time."
Altman's tenure, the board instituted the initial legal and
administrative scaffolding of the Society. He also developed
a mechanism for the election of officers rather than the board
making the appointments. In transferring responsibility to
his successor, Altman remarks that Bourne now has the challenge
of figuring out what to do with the rapidly expanding society.
"Phil is the perfect next president. He's going to now
take the basic building blocks and push them in new directions,"