InCoB/ISCB-Asia: keynotes and curation

I recently returned from the InCoB/ISCB-Asia meeting. The meeting officially ended a couple of days ago but I am still digesting the good food, the good  conversations and the good science, all of which I know will be with me a good while.  In the interest of avoiding a copious monograph, I’ll try to stick to a few personal high points. However, I encourage you to check out the supplemental issues in Immunome Research and our fellow BioMed Central journals BMC  Bioinformatics and BMC Genomics for a more complete view of the meeting.

I would like to compliment the conference organizers for generating an excellent lineup of keynote speakers. Minoru  Kanehisa gave an update on the new developments in the KEGG databases, including their ambitious new resource KEGG  MEDICUS that aims to ingrate medical, pharmaceutical and genomic information for use by researchers, clinicians,  pharmacists and the public. Pascale Gaudet spoke on the ever-increasing need for biocuration and the importance of  biocurators, the ongoing efforts of International Society for Biocuration, and community standards and BioDBCore.   Several of her themes were echoed in the later sessions “Standards in Bioinformatics” and “BioCloud/Grid Computing for Sharing Bioinformatics Resources.” Jun Wang talked about three “Million Genomes” projects underway at BGI, leading  some members of the audience (at least those of a certain age who were raised in the States) to conclude that BGI may want  to invest in a signboard similar to the red one that used to appear in conjunction with golden arches. Alex Bateman  discussed the ways in which Pfam and Rfam have been working with the Wikipedia community to the mutual benefit of all  parties. He also gave a brief how-to for scientists looking to get involved in Wikipedia and a prod to those among us  (including myself) who lack social responsibility, using but not editing Wikipedia.

My favorite keynote was Arthur Olson’s. While I generally find myself to be a highly visual learner who derives little  additional benefit from other types of teaching aids, I freely admit that a set of tinker toys got me through O. Chem. Had the models and Tangible User Interface in development at the Molecular Graphics Laboratory been available when I was still in  chool, my scientific trajectory might have been quite different. They are doing some seriously cool stuff. And my  informal survey suggested that Olson’s shake-and-play self-assembling viral model would be a welcome present for the  scientist on your holiday gift list.

I also enjoyed Janet Kelso’s presentation on ancient genomics and evolution, Susanna-Assunta Sansone’s talk on the continuing progress of the BioSharing and ISAcommons communities (GigaScience is involved in both efforts), and the series of talks by Tin Wee Tan, Shoba Ranganathan and their collaborators on database standards development and their push for archive-able and easily reinstate-able databases. I am extremely grateful to have been invited to speak amongst so many prominent scientists at InCoB/ISCB-Asia (slides available on slideshare). My only real complaint about the meeting was the lack of network connections that kept me from Tweeting.

Thanks to all of you (including the many that remain unmentioned here as, despite my promises and best efforts, I’ve  already produced a tome-like blog post) who made the meeting both fun and productive. I had a great time in KL!

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