High Marks for ISCB's First Regional Conference: Rocky I

The first annual ISCB Rocky Mountain Regional Bioinformatics Conference (Rocky 1) was held December 5-7, 2003, in Aspen, Colorado. Approximately 70 attendees, mostly from Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Alberta, presented short talks and posters. Although most attendees were from the Rocky Mountain area, the meeting was not limited to regional scientists; two attendees came from as far as Singapore (as part of a trip that will also include the PSB conference in Hawaii in January).

Rocky 1 began with a spectacular dinner atop Aspen Mountain and an after-dinner talk by Larry Hunter on biognostic machines. At an altitude of over 11,000 feet, the evening was breathtaking in every way! Keynote speakers during the three conference days included Marcie McClure on retroid elements in the human genome, Jeff Shen on using genomics to understand rice hormonal response, Lisa Cannon-Albright on the construction and application of the Utah Population Genetics Database, and Walter Fontana on a new theoretical foundation for a Biology of Information. More than 30 short talks touched on a broad range of both computational and biological topics. The focus of the meeting was not only sharing research results, but also building community and getting to know the people and resources involved in bioinformatics in the Rocky Mountain region. Between the morning and evening scientific sessions, informal interactions were encouraged with discounted lift tickets and excellent early season snow. A survey taken after the conference showed 80% of respondents expected new collaborations to arise from the meeting, and 90% would attend next year if the meeting were held again.

The meeting was organized by ISCB's capable conference planner, Stephanie Hagstrom, and Co-chaired by Larry Hunter and Stephen Billups, both from the University of Colorado. Generous sponsorships from IBM, Apple, Silicon Genetics and Genvea allowed ISCB to keep the meeting affordable and to make a small profit that will go back to the Society for future activities. Given the highly positive response from all attendees, ISCB is exploring options to plan Rocky 2 in late 2004.

Rocky 1 was also an experiment for ISCB to explore the success of holding regional meetings; if you might be interested in hosting a regional meeting in your area, please contact the ISCB at admin@iscb.org. The conference committee will evaluate the feasibility of all requests.