{ C O N T E N T S }
Volume 8, Issue 2

President's Letter
Priority on Volunteerism

Welcome to ISMB 2005!

Advertising and Sponsorship
Sponsorship Opportunties

Dr. Ewan Birney
2005 Overton Prize Winner

Dr. Janet Thornton
Senior Scientist Accomplishment Award

Books List Online

PLoS Computational Biology
To Launch at ISMB 2005

Student Council Undertakes
Massive Action Plan

ISCB Student Travel
Fellowships Offered

Don't Miss Out!

ISMB 2006
The Beauty of Brazil

Magnificent Madrid to Host
ECCB 2005

REC0MB 2005 Recap

Post Your Events and News
To the ISCB Website

President Elect
Elections Notice

FASEB Update

PSB 2006 Keydates

Student Council Activities
During ISMB 2005

Student Symposium
Prior to ECCB 2005

New Student Council
Leadership Announced

Public Affairs & Policies
Committee Update

Events and Opportunities



Copyright © 2005 International Society for Computational Biology.
All rights reserved

Public Affairs and Policies Committee Update

At this year's RECOMB conference, I had a couple of interesting conversations on topics related to science policy. One conversation centered around efforts to address potential dangers to society in the work that we do. Another topic was educational outreach to the general public.

As developers and users of new technology, we have the opportunity to think about how to ensure responsible use of these advances. For computational biologists, there are issues of patient privacy and insurability, or other uses to which the information that we synthesize and analyze might be put. George Church at Harvard is a prolific inventor of new molecular and computational biology technology. He also thinks about applications of this work, and how to guard against abuse. Recently, Church has been developing technology to automatically assemble sequences. How do we make sure that we know who is assembling which sequences, and avoid, for example, inappropriate instantiation of pathogen genomes? Church has written, and shared with government agencies and lawmakers, a white paper about ways to control the misuse of automated sequence assembly that might enable, for example, the synthesis of pathogen genomes. This kind of forethought and advice is an important role of the scientist in society.

The national press has reported recently on efforts in Kansas against the teaching of evolution in schools. Russ Doolittle played a large role in the development of the field of computational biology, and continues to make contributions in our field, with a focus on molecular evolution. In addition to his scientific work, he has also taken on the anti-evolutionists by participating in conversations and debates. David Haussler told me about seeing a video of Professor Doolittle arguing our case in a public debate; while highly entertaining, it is sobering to realize how many people reject scientific knowledge, and prevent children from learning these important concepts. Engagement on this level consumes significant effort, but we need scientists to address these issues and inform the public.

How do you, or could you, as a member of the computational biology community, contribute to these and other problems in our society? The ISCB Public Affairs Committee is working on a member survey to identify issues and actions of most interest to you. Watch for news of the survey on the ISCB website in the weeks and months ahead. And feel free to write to admin@iscb.org to let us know of any efforts you personally have made in the areas addressed above.