ISCB-SC:pubs:10rules

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** to all delegates informing them about the things that have happened since the conference
** to all delegates informing them about the things that have happened since the conference
** include announcements for the next event if you are planning one
** include announcements for the next event if you are planning one
 +
** give credit where credit is due: recognize contributions by sponsors, speakers, OC, PC, etc.
== Acknowledgements ==
== Acknowledgements ==

Revision as of 05:01, 3 December 2007

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ISCB-SC:pubs:10rules

Our experience organizing successful scientific and educational events for students in the bioinformatics community (while operating on a low budget).

Contents

Preamble

More and more scientific career articles [ref Nat Genetics Article] are converging on the need for students and researchers to be able to 'know how' to organise a scientific meeting. Scientific meetings are at the heart of the scientist's professional life, since they provide an invaluable opportunity for learning, networking and brainstorming new ideas. In addition, meetings should be enjoyable experiences that add exciting breaks to the usual routine in the lab.

From our experience in organising the Student Council Symposium [ref Nature Article, ref BMC], a satellite meeting of an ISCB-related mainstream conference [ref PLoS], we ourselves have learnt a great deal of some scientific aspects not so well cared for in the usual academic curricula.

We argue that the experience of organising events by students has immense value for the development of the future scientist. Many skills are exercised, organisational, managerial, team work effort, etc. All of these skills are important assets that may make the difference for a successful scientific career path.

Before the Conference

  • Choose an appealing theme/topic for your target audience

When choosing a topic for a conference, it is important to have in mind the needs of your target audience. Make sure that you have a sufficiently wide range of areas, without being too general. Bear in mind that the greater the number of topics covered the more people are likely to come, but the less likely it is that it will allow to deepen into interesting questions. Emerging areas are more likely to attract greater interest.


  • Choose the right date and location

If this is your first conference, in order to maximise its impact it needs to be as far apart as possible from similar topics established conferences. A potential strategy that may ensure a great number of participants is to organise your event around a main conference, such as satellite meetings or Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Teaming up with mainstream conferences may also save you a great deal of work in terms of choosing the right location and admin work. If you decide to go on your own, you should consider the accessibility of the place, how easy is to fly there, its public transport, etc. Turistic resorts may also offer the posibility of making of it a holiday, so more people may be attracted to come to your event. Cheaper accommodation and cheaper airfares to your destination is always a plus.


  • Create a balanced timetable

A conference should a learning experience at the same time it is enjoyable. A conference is a place for sharing and exchanging of ideas. Having well known speakers always attract greater number of people, but submitted material of high quality from attendants should also have a prominent chunk of your time. Keynotes are extremely busy people so confirm them very early and try to mix senior sicnetists with young Principal Investigators (PIs). Young PIs may be more enthusiastic and inspiring for students, while top senior scientists will be able to present a more complete perspective of your fiels. Something that has worked quite well for us has been to ask propose to your potential audience a list of speakers and let them choose their preferred ones. Allow plenty of time for socialising too, breaks and meals are ideal occassions for meeting potential collaborators and fostering networking with peers.


  • Select carefully your key helpers I: the steering committee and the local organising committee

Many skills are required for a successful organisation of your meeting. You do not need to master all skills, but you will need an organising committee that is able to cover all of them. Some potential areas in which people from your organising committee could be separated as follows: 1) contents and design of website and promotion materials; 2) finances and fundraising; 3) reviews of submitted material; 4) on-site specifically related issues; 5) marketing and promotion; 6) programme and speakers. Your organising committee should be large enough to handle all the above aspects but not too large, avoiding free loaders on your committees. Your local organising committee will play a crucial role involving local institutions, speakers and companies. You may want to offer some time as industry talks or demos as a way to raise money. Local organisations can help you with administrative tasks, dealing with registration of attendees and finding accommodation around the venue.


  • Allow plenty of planning time
    • 9 months to a year because:
      • Submission deadlines need to be considered
      • production deadlines as well
      • confirming invited speakers and other aspects of the agenda
      • spreading the word (ie. marketing)
      • fundraising
    • give enough time for people to get their visas and book their travel in advance for cheaper fares and accommodation
    • get better rates on venues


  • Study all potential financial issues affecting the event
    • approach sponsors early
    • make clear how they will benefit
    • find best matching spnsors to your audience
    • even of this timee your approached sponsor does not support your event, keep the contact for the future
    • make an estimate of you cost for conference venue, meals,
    • make an estimate of how many people you expect
    • set registration fee appropriately
    • fellowships for people who could otherwise not come
    • awards for outstanding contributions
    • allow publication of abstracts in a journal, etc.

During the Conference

  • Meet everyone from the OC the day before the event
    • inspect the facilities
    • discuss responsibilities if you haven't done so before
      • contact point
      • registration (this needs to happen earlier i guess)
      • speaker liaison
  • Have contact information for all relevant 3rd party people
      • caterers
      • building manager
      • main conference organizer if you are having your event as part of another conference

After the Conference

  • Wrap-up all information aspects that may have a lasting impact in your community
    • particularly important if you are planning to have a similar event in the future
    • make evaluation publicly accessible
    • submit abstracts to journal
    • upload photos of the event to the website (videos too, if you have any!)
    • post names of winners of awards and travel fellowships on the website'
    • make an evaluation to improve the focus (if desired) of the conference
    • identify issues that you were not aware of - i.e. what people didn't like
  • Send one last email
    • to all delegates informing them about the things that have happened since the conference
    • include announcements for the next event if you are planning one
    • give credit where credit is due: recognize contributions by sponsors, speakers, OC, PC, etc.

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the International Society for Computational Biology for their support towards its Student Council, in particular BJ Morrison-McKay and Steven Leard. We are also grateful to all the Student Council leadership for their enthusiasm and work in the many activities.

References

  • Eleni M. Tomazou & Gareth T. Powell, Nature Reviews Genetics 8, 724-726 (September 2007)
  • Manuel Corpas, Nature 436, 1204 (August 2005)
  • Nils Gehlenborg, Manuel Corpas, Sarath Chandra Janga, BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8(Suppl 8):I1 (20 November 2007)
  • Lengauer T, McKay BJM, Rost B (2007) ISMB/ECCB 2007: The Premier Conference on Computational Biology. PLoS Comput Biol 3(5): e96 doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030096

Before the Conference

  • Choose an appealing theme/topic
    • general scientific topic but focus on a particular question that students are interested in eg. academia vs. science, future of the field, etc. or pick a particular scientific topic that is just emerging (see BioSysBio)
    • regular annual conference typically run by large societies???
    • make decision whether you want a general conference or an event that focusses on a particular topic - make sure you have a sufficiently wide range of topics in the former case
  • Choose the right date and location
    • either long before or after other major conferences in the field or as part of a major conference
    • teaming up with a larger event will save the delegates a lot of money
    • Locations should be easy accessible (train and plane, also local public transport)
    • budget accommodation should be within reasonable distance.
    • choose a place where attendees can make of it a holiday


  • Create a balanced timetable
    • Allow a significant proportion of the timetable to submitted, reviewed and accepted material
    • Give ample time for socialising during the conference
      • allows people to meet their peers
      • colloborations
    • confirm keynote speakers very early
      • they are busy so the book out quickly
      • having the names of keynote speakers helps to promote the event
    • mix top senior scientists in the field and young PIs
    • find a good mix and people that are committed to the student community
    • Young PIs can give good insight into what it takes to get faculty or postdoc positions
    • Top senior scientists usually have a great overview of the field and can comment on developments that are to be expected in the future and how current topics fit into the bigger picture
    • big names makes your conference more attractive
    • Surveys of your target audience can tell you what are the most suitable speakers
    • Panel discussions where keynotes show they personal side are most inspiring to young researchers
    • include social activities and time for networking
  • Select carefully your key helpers: the organising committee
    • Wide set of skills required
      • website and printed materials
      • reviewers from a wide range of areas
      • finances and fundraising
      • organization
      • marketing
      • evaluation
      • managing/organisational skills
      • local organization
    • should be large enough to handle all aspects but not too large
    • try to avoid having free loaders on your committees
    • involve local organizations by inviting a speaker from the local community
    • involve local organizations by inviting representatives from local companies (you might want to offer one spot for an industry talk as a means to raise money)
    • will help to give easier access to venues, local organizing team/volunteers, etc
    • Sponsors from the local area might be easier to target
    • local organizations could take over administrative tasks (registration, find accommodation)
    • give credit where credit is due: recognize contributions by sponsors, speakers, OC, PC, etc.
  • Allow plenty of planning time
    • 9 months to a year because:
      • Submission deadlines need to be considered
      • production deadlines as well
      • confirming invited speakers and other aspects of the agenda
      • spreading the word (ie. marketing)
      • fundraising
    • give enough time for people to get their visas and book their travel in advance for cheaper fares and accommodation
    • get better rates on venues


  • Study all potential financial issues affecting the event
    • approach sponsors early
    • make clear how they will benefit
    • find best matching spnsors to your audience
    • even of this timee your approached sponsor does not support your event, keep the contact for the future
    • make an estimate of you cost for conference venue, meals,
    • make an estimate of how many people you expect
    • set registration fee appropriately
    • fellowships for people who could otherwise not come
    • awards for outstanding contributions
    • allow publication of abstracts in a journal, etc.

During the Conference

  • Meet everyone from the OC the day before the event
    • inspect the facilities
    • discuss responsibilities if you haven't done so before
      • contact point
      • registration (this needs to happen earlier i guess)
      • speaker liaison
  • Have contact information for all relevant 3rd party people
      • caterers
      • building manager
      • main conference organizer if you are having your event as part of another conference

After the Conference

  • Wrap-up all information aspects that may have a lasting impact in your community
    • particularly important if you are planning to have a similar event in the future
    • make evaluation publicly accessible
    • submit abstracts to journal
    • upload photos of the event to the website (videos too, if you have any!)
    • post names of winners of awards and travel fellowships on the website'
    • make an evaluation to improve the focus (if desired) of the conference
    • identify issues that you were not aware of - i.e. what people didn't like
  • Send one last email
    • to all delegates informing them about the things that have happened since the conference
    • include announcements for the next event if you are planning one
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