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volume 6, issue 1

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ISCB Board of Director Introduces Newly Elected Executive Committee Officers

The ISCB Board of Directors is pleased to introduce the newly elected Officers who will serve as the senior leadership of the Board on the Society’s Executive Committee (EC) for the next two years. Of course, these introductions are not really new, as all four of these individuals have served on the EC this past year. But their election to a second term, and Michael Gribskov’s rise from Vice President to President, is worthy of celebration for the membership of ISCB, indicating a strong vote of confidence based on successful new initiatives and developments over the past 12 months.

To take on an EC role within the ISCB is no small commitment. It requires hours of volunteer leadership dedicated to advancing computational biology through the ever-growing activities and interactions of the Society. Furthermore, the ISCB bylaws require that each Officer have served on the Board of Directors for a minimum of one year prior to becoming an EC member. Each of these individuals, like their counterparts on the ISCB Board of Directors, has been giving of their time, expertise, and guidance for years.

As each of the new Officers heads into a new two-year term, below is a glimpse of who they are and what they would like to accomplish.

Michael Gribskov, Ph.D.
ISCB President
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego

An ISCB member since 1997, Michael Gribskov has served on the Board of Directors and conferences committee since 1999, becoming co-chair in 2000. Since then, he also took on co-chairmanship of the education committee in 2002, and became ISCB Vice President that same year.

“I have watched ISCB grow from a small group of only a few hundred to a medium sized society. I am familiar with the structure of the society, with its issues, and with many of the personalities involved,” said Gribskov. “My personal experience comes from running a moderately large research group of 8-12 people, with many of our projects being collaborative in nature and involving meeting the bioinformatics needs of various experimental consortia. This combination of ISCB and personal experience should help me undertake the daunting task of ISCB president.”

In a relatively short time period Gribskov has witnessed computational biology go from a relatively obscure and very specialized discipline, to one that is widely touted as essential to further advances in biology, biotechnology, human health, and treatment of disease. Simultaneously, the ISCB has experienced extraordinary expansion, growing to nearly two thousand in a matter of five years. Although it may not be apparent to the general membership, Gribskov acknowledges that accommodating this growth has required a huge effort to put the ISCB on a more professional footing. He believes that due to both ongoing and recent efforts of the board of directors, officers, and staff a structure now exists that should scale with the demands of a growing membership.

“It is time, therefore, to rededicate ourselves to our original purpose in forming a society,” Gribskov said. “We must ask ourselves, what can ISCB do for its members, and more importantly, what can ISCB do to advance science? Our impact must be felt in many areas: we must work to inform and affect government policy, we must provide better resources for instruction and for the implementation of training programs, we must continue to support scientific meetings of the highest quality, and we must continue to support and nurture new ideas and approaches to science.” He believes there are many issues that must be dealt with while the Society struggles to achieve these goals, and asks, “How do we keep ISCB a truly international society, how do we help promote the growth of computational biology in less developed regions of the world, how do we develop bridges between the increasingly fractured sub-disciplines of computational biology, and how can we make ISCB more responsive to the needs and issues of its members?”

Finding answers to these questions, and implementing plans and actions to address them will certainly keep the new President of ISCB busy during the course of his term.

CONTACT: gribskov@sdsc.edu


Anna Tramontano, Ph.D.
ISCB Vice President
Professor of Biochemistry, University of Rome “La Sapienza”
For the last year Anna Tramontano has served as the first female Vice President of the ISCB, a role that this election cycle has lengthened for another two years. Meanwhile she continues working as Director of the Master in Bioinformatics of the University of Rome, coordinator of the Bioinformatics group of the Italian Biochemical Society, member of the EMBO course and workshop Committee, and was recently appointed co-organizer of Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction (CASP). Her career track also includes ten years as both a scientific director and an information technology and research information systems senior manager at a pharmaceutical company.

When asked about important issues facing the ISCB in the years ahead, Tramontano said, “I think that the work started with the Affiliated Regional Groups should go further and be pursued more proactively. We have collected information on several new and forming groups, and the next step should be to convince these groups, many of which are still rather unstructured, to contribute more effectively to the life of the Society for the betterment of the science beyond their individual regions.” As she heads the Affiliated Regional Group effort, it is expected to see excellent progress in this area.

Tramontano also feels very strongly that the structure of the Society, especially with respect to its committees, needs some rethinking. “The role of each committee should be regularly reevaluated,” she said. “There should be a mechanism in place to allow all interested and willing members to contribute to them.” Several members of the Board and many individual ISCB members have repeated these sentiments, and the Society’s staff is working now with committee chairs to put the wheels in motion for more purposeful and better functioning committee structures.

From a personal perspective, Tramontano would like to help ISCB try harder to have an impact on European funding in bioinformatics. “As for Europe, I started to discuss the issue of a possible cooperation between ISCB and EMBO, with promising preliminary results.” At the same time, and although she acknowledges it may be more difficult than on other continents, Tramontano encourages the ISCB to take advantage of existing European federations of societies and try to lobby with them, just as has recently begun within the USA by becoming an associate member of FASEB.

CONTACT: Anna.Tramontano@uniroma1.it



David M. Rocke, Ph.D.
ISCB Treasurer
Professor, University of California, Davis

David Rocke has spent 25 years teaching statistics and management science at the University of California, Davis(UCD). Through teaching, seminars, and some formal course work, he acquired a working knowledge of the basic business disciplines, including finance, accounting, and management information systems. He currently manages a research center with a three million budget in the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine at UCD. Rocke has also served as ISCB Treasurer for one year, becoming familiar with the financial issues facing the Society, and ready to continue his efforts for this next two year term.

His vision is simple: “The ISCB needs to grow to accommodate growth in the field, needs to adopt new programs, and needs to develop into a fully-professional organization with steady financial planning.” Rocke is committed to spending more time with the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, spearheading long-range, strategic issues so that ISCB can move in the desired direction with as little disruption as possible.

CONTACT: dmrocke@ucdavis.edu



Barbara M. Bryant, Ph.D.
ISCB Secretary
Millennium Pharmaceuticals
Serving on the ISCB Board of Directors since 2000, and as ISCB Secretary since 2002, Barbara Bryant continues to bring a myriad of both professional and volunteer leadership skills to the Executive Committee. Since 1995 she has held management positions at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and volunteer positions in community organizations, such as serving as President of the Cambridgeport Children's Center for four years, including holding the offices of President and Vice President. Bryant said, “My style is to ask questions, listen, look for synergies, and integrate ideas, using techniques acquired from formal training in mediation.”

Bryant sees major issues facing the ISCB as continuing to improve the quality of the Society-associated journals, conferences, and education at the intersection of life sciences and computation, taking advantage of opportunities to influence governments throughout the world, and determining and acting on our responsibilities as scientists and engineers to society as a whole. Although not intending to accomplish this alone, she embraces her role as ISCB Secretary as one involving communication on behalf of the Society, both within the Board of Directors and through membership outreach.

Additionally, Bryant has taken a first step in the issue of funding by becoming the ISCB representative to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Board of Directors and Public Affairs Committee. She believes the broad funding effort can be further augmented by ISCB’s active recruitment of non-U.S. members into the society, onto the Board of Directors, and onto the Executive Committee to help “identify means of influencing and informing governments and public decision-makers outside of the United States.” Bryant further points out, “In the United States and elsewhere, government research funds are shifting to defense against bioterrorism. How does this change affect our field? ISCB should be a voice advocating responsible allocation of funds across scientific endeavors.” One of many solutions she suggests is that the Society create forums for Members to discuss and formulate recommendations that can be taken to policy makers by the newly formed ISCB Government Relations Committee.

Like ISCB Vice President Tramontano, Bryant advocates active and functional Education, Conferences, Publications and Government Relations Committees that involve more Society members in their discussion and recommendation processes. Specifically, she would like to see the Education Committee pursue opportunities currently under discussion to create resources for educational institutions and students.

Finally, Bryant is an advocate for appropriate public access to code, data and scientific analyses (literature), and would like the ISCB to provide information and support for researchers who wish to share their work. She encourages the Society to investigate legal issues relating to Intellectual Property and make recommendations to lawmakers and institutions for solutions that benefit the advancement of knowledge.

On a lighter note, Bryant promises “to continue my campaign to make Orienteering the official sport of the Society!” And if you know anything about Orienteering, all of the above is comparable to one big course, with each of the Officers, Directors, and Society members participating in reaching the final destination with the tasks of greatest value completed. An important element of Orienteering is that the participants have fun, so the ISCB Board of Directors encourages each and every member to fully enjoy the features and benefits of membership, while gaining valuable support and resources in the process.

CONTACT: Barb.Bryant@mpi.com