Bioinformaticists compete in BioMed Central Rubik challenge at ISMB in Toronto

Last week’s Intelligent Systems in Molecular Biology 2008 conference in Toronto proved once again that bioinformaticists, genomicists and systems biologists are hugely enthusiastic about open access. Nearly everyone we spoke to at the conference not only read articles from BioMed Central’s journals, but had published in them and/or reviewed for them. As ever, it was also great to meet our editorial board members and to get their input on the development of our existing journals, and plans for new ones.

A recurring theme at this year’s ISMB conference, especially at the Future of Science Publishing session in which BioMed Central participated, was the need to integrate text mining techniques and biomedical ontologies to make published biomedical articles and data more readily interpretable by computers. Open access is widely agreed to be a basic prerequisite to facilitate such ‘semantic enrichment’, and several researchers expressed frustration that while the now-mandatory NIH open access policy was driving  the deposit of embargoed manuscripts versions of articles in PubMed Central, due to licensing restrictions those articles were not available for download and text mining, even once converted into XML. The NIH policy is thus only a step along the road towards full open access, though an important one.

That and the rest of the science aside, the highlight of the conference for many though, was surely BioMed Central’s Rubik Cube challenge. At 4.30pm on Tuesday, a large crowd formed in the exhibition hall, to watch a collection of highly competitive bioinformaticists compete to solve a BMC-series-branded Rubik’s Cube.

Eastern Europe has always been a dominant force in Rubik’s cubing (as with chess and number theory), and our two winners were no exception:

Winner:  Priit Adler, University of Tartu, Estonia  (1 min 51 secs)
Runner up: Ogsen Gabrielyan, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma KG, Germany (2 min 45 secs)

Mixed up BMC-branded cubes, ready for the competition.

 Carrie Calder, BioMed Central’s head of marketing, and competition master.

The winner, Priit Adler (left) and runner up Ogsen Gabrielyan (right) with their prizes.


Watch the competition as it happened (courtesy of the BioMed Central YouTube channel)

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