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1992 was a leap year that showcased the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Endeavor, the release of the Macintosh LCII, riots in LA, the release of the first video phone (AT&T $1,499), and the Imageend of apartheid in South Africa. It was also the same year a group of researchers interested in artificial intelligence and molecular biology participated in a joint NLM meeting with the National Science Foundation on the future of what was then termed artificial intelligence in molecular biology. The following year, the meeting evolved into the first Intelligent Systems in Molecular Biology (ISMB) conference, held in Washington DC.

Today, ISMB celebrates 20 years as the longest running annual bioinformatics/computational biology conference. Over the next five days in Long Beach, California, scientists from diverse disciplines and geographic coordinates will meet to share their work, exchange ideas and discuss challenges and opportunities. This meeting is near and dear to my heart given its focus on methodology and research centered on key biological problems.

Short list of useful links for in-person and virtual attendees:
Proceedings and News Feeds
Meeting Coordinates: Long Beach Convention Center 
Public Transit: Passport Shuttle
Local Attractions: Long Beach Interactive Map

In a two-for-one combo, ISMB and ECCB join forces once again (3rd joint conference since 2004).  In the days approaching the meeting, here is a short-list of helpful links if you are attending in person or virtually:

Blogging/News Feeds/ Proceedings:

Twitter Feed

ISMB/ECCB 2011 Friend Feed

Online meeting proceedings

Plos Computational Biology ISMB 2011 related blogs

Conference Logistics:

Meeting Coordinates:  Austria Center Vienna, Bruno-Kreisky-Platz, 1220 Wien

Nearest underground station to ACV: red line, U1, “Kaisermühlen – Vienna International Center” (Underground Map)

Meeting Schedule: Overview & Satellite Meeting/SIGS

ISCB Student Council: Symposium & Other Events

Food Recommendations: NY Times Where to Eat (Map), Vegetarian, Trip Advisor

The door closes on Day 1 of the Conference  in Boston. It was a day marked by the Overton Prize (to Steve Brenner),  a strong and diverse collection of talks reflecting the maturity of the field and an impromptu session on the science of the world cup held in the corridor of the conference center (the winner of course being the cephalopod). Microblogging again provides the best snap-shot of the meeting proceedings. Key links include:

  • Official Friend Feed Room ISMB 2010
  • Twitter search on the #ISMB2010
  • Blog on ISCB Student Council Symposium and ISMB related activities
  • Blog to coordinate the VIZBI BOFA session on Monday

    Celebration on the streets of Boston

Over the years, I have used a number of tools and websites for communication, collaboration, sharing information, social networking etc. However, at ISMB 2008 this year, using Friend Feed I am struck what may seem to be an obvious observation: Friend Feed (FF) is a VERY effective way to share information with friends and colleagues.  (Note: if you are not familiar with Friend Feed, Cameron Neylon has an excellent introductory overview of the site with great screen shots in the blog Science in the Open)

What perhaps I didn’t realize (and what has tremendous implications for science) is that in fact, it is a brilliant way to build a collaborative knowledgebase. In most of the sessions at ISMB, there have been 2-3 people simultaneously microblogging about a talk – as it happens! This allows an automatic aggregation of different viewpoints and perspectives on the material. It also fills in gaps – notes that were missed, references or urls. A single query is usually answered within a few seconds with the missing material. At the end, you have a virtual e-record – very handy at meetings for reviewing or if you have missed the talk. 

Obviously, the key issue is that you trust the providers and therefore there content. Also the level of detail can vary and unless you are actively contributing to to a feed, you most likely will still need your own notes.  But the mechanistic potential, as well as the community building should make us sit up and take note. And there seem to be some obvious places where sites like Friend Feed could make an immediate impact. For example, as Chris Heuer points out, FF rooms can easily replace mailing lists.

We get to have it [Friend Feed content] on the Web instead of locked in our email inbox. Chris Heuer

The design of the aggregation stream allows us to build and just as importantly maintain relationships with our friends and colleagues. This is what Facebook set out to do. However, if you look at the new design of Facebook, it appears they have raised the white flag and surrendered to Friend Feed’s concept. With the new design, there is now just a single content stream, with the ability to include outside information such as Twitter. Applications have taken a back seat and are now on their own tab – a click away before they are visible. Given that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in light of the striking redesign by Facebook, I wonder if FF is blushing? 

Note: If you are at ISMB and interested in discussing this further, there will be a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session on Tuesday, July 22nd . And yes, if you miss the session, there will be plenty of coverage on FF in the ISMB room for you to read to catch up!

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” — Carl Jung

The SIGs and satellite meetings are underway in advance of the 16th Annual International Conference Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) in Toronto, Canada. Already there is a plethora of blogs, feeds and summaries on the net. They provide some excellent snapshots of the scientific proceedings (and some rather harsh but accurate commentaries on the food at the convention center).

A few of I’ve noted thus far:

The ISMB 2008 Room on Friend Feed

Buried Treasure’s notes on Tumblr (with pictures!)


Biomed Central’s Blog (with Freebies!)

Plos Computational Biology (with more Freebies!)