ISCB-SC:pubs:10rules

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'''Ten Simple Rules for Organising a Successful Scientific Event: Our Experience Organising Successful Scientific and Educational Events for Students in the Computational Biology Community (while operating on a low budget).'''
+
 
 +
'''Our experience organising successful scientific and educational events for students in the bioinformatics community (while operating on a low budget).'''
Manuel Corpas*, Nils Gehlenborg and Sarath Chandra Janga
Manuel Corpas*, Nils Gehlenborg and Sarath Chandra Janga
Line 8: Line 9:
== Preamble ==
== Preamble ==
-
More and more scientific career articles [1] are converging on the need for students and researchers to know how to successfully 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 need to be enjoyable experiences that add exciting breaks to the usual routine in the lab.  
+
More and more scientific career articles [1] 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 exploring new ideas. In addition, meetings should be enjoyable experiences that add exciting breaks to the usual routine in the lab.
-
The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council [2] is the young members' section of ISCB that focuses on the organisation of activities and events to facilitate the scientific development of its members. From our experience in organising the Student Council Symposium [3, 4], a satellite meeting of an ISCB-related mainstream conference [5], and other scientific events, we ourselves have learnt a great deal about aspects currently under-catered for in the usual academic curricula.  
+
The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council [2] is an organization within the ISCB that caters to computational biologists early in their career. The ISCB Student Council provides activities and events to its members that facilitate their scientific development. From our experience in organising the Student Council Symposium [3, 4], a meeting that so far has been held within the context of the ISMB [5] and ECCB conferences, we have gained some knowledge that is typically not part of an academic curriculum.
-
We argue that the experience of organising events by students has immense value for the development of the future scientist; many skills are exercised, including organisational, managerial, team work effort, etc. All of these skills are important assets that make all the difference to a successful scientific career.  
+
We argue that the organisation of scientific and educational events by students has immense value for the development of their scientific careers as many essential skills are exercised: organisational, managerial, team work effort, etc. All of these skills are important assets that may make a difference in a successful scientific career path.
-
We have grouped the ten simple rules for organising a successful scientific event into three categories: before the conference (six rules), during the conference (two rules) and after the conference (two rules).
 
 +
== Rules ==
-
== Before the Conference ==
+
=== '''Rule 1 - Allow plenty of planning time''' ===
 +
Planning a conference should be both a learning experience and an enjoyable activity. We recommend a minimum planning time that ranges from nine months up to a year, depending on the size of your event, taking into account that bigger conferences require more time to prepare. Allow plenty of time to select your venue, for your attendees to book their flights early and for submission and review of material to be presented. Having outstanding keynote speakers at your event will also require you to contact them several months in advance.
-
* '''Allow plenty of planning time'''
+
=== '''Rule 2 - Study all potential financial issues affecting your event''' ===
-
Planning a conference should be both a learning experience and an enjoyable activity. We recommend a minimum planning time that ranges from nine months to up to a year, depending on the size of your event, taking into account that the bigger conference, the greater the planning time required. Allow plenty of time to select and reserve your venue, for your attendees to book their flights early (and therefore cheaply) and for the submission and review of material to be presented. High-profile keynotes especially will require many months advance notice in order to find a space in their busy schedules.  
+
Sponsors are usually your primary source of funds next to the delegates' registration fee. To increase the chances of being sponsored by industry write them a clear proposal stating how the money will be spent and what they can expect to get in return. You may also want to reserve a few time slots for industry talks or demos as a way of attracting more sponsors. Before approaching sponsors though, make sure you approach first the ones that match your interest topics the closest. If they say they are not interested this year, keep their contact as they might be able to sponsor you in future events. Approach them early rather than later in any case. The cost of your conference will be proportional to the capacity of the venue; therefore, a good estimation of the number of attendants can tell you a good estimate of your costs. You will need to include meals, coffee breaks together with the actual cost of renting your venue. Additional expenditures might include travel fellowships, publication costs of proceedings in a journal and awards for outstanding contributors. All these issues will determine how much you need to charge your participants to attend. [CAN WE MAYBE PRIORITIZE THIS A BIT? I.E. WHAT NEEDS TO BE PAID FIRST (VENUE?) AND THEN YOU CAN TRY TO FIND SPONSORS FOR INSTANCE FOR COFFEE BREAKS ETC.]
-
* '''Study all potential financial issues affecting the event'''
+
=== '''Rule 3 - Choose an appealing theme/topic for your target audience''' ===
-
Sponsors are a great source of income together with your attendants' registration fees. To increase the chances of being sponsored by industry, write them a clear proposal stating what the money will be spent on and what they get in return. You may also want to offer them some time for industry talks or demos as a way of attracting more sponsors. Make sure you first approach the sponsors that match your interest topics the closest. If they say they are not interested this year, keep their contact details as they might be able to sponsor you in future events. Approach them sooner rather than later in any case.  
+
When choosing a topic for your 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. The greater the number of topics covered the more likely are people to come, but the lesser the scientific interest. Emerging areas can attract greater interest, try to include them in your program as much as possible; let your audience decide their preferred topics if you have the capability of asking them.
-
The cost of your conference will be proportional to the capacity of the venue; therefore, a good estimation of the number of attendants can tell you a good estimate of your costs. You will need to include meals, coffee breaks etc. together with the actual cost of renting your venue. Additional costs might include travel fellowships, publication costs of proceedings in a journal and awards for outstanding contributors. All these issues will determine how much you need to charge your participants to attend.  
+
=== '''Rule 4 - Choose the right date and location''' ===
 +
Your conference needs to be as far away as possible from established conferences. Alternatively, you may want to organise your event around a main conference, in the form of a satellite meeting or Special Interest Group (SIG). Teaming up with established conferences may increase the chances of attracting more people (especially if this is your first time) and also save you a great deal of administrative work. If you decide to do it on your own, you should consider the accessibility of your location, how easy is to travel there, whether it has a strong local community in your field and has cultural or touristic highlights. Cheaper accommodation and cheaper airfares to your destination are always a plus in particular when your main target group are students.
 +
=== '''Rule 5 - Create a balanced agenda''' ===
 +
A conference is a place for people wanting to share and exchange ideas. Having many well known speakers will raise the demand of your event but this has to be balanced with enough time for presentation of submitted materials. We found that a mix senior scientists and junior scientists always work for the better. Young researchers may be more enthusiastic and inspiring for students, while top senior scientists will be able to present a more complete perspective of the field. Allow plenty of time for socialising too; breaks and meals are ideal occasions to meet potential collaborators and fostering networking among peers.
-
* '''Choose an appealing theme/topic for your target audience'''
+
=== '''Rule 6 - Select your key aides carefully: the organising committee''' ===
-
When choosing a topic for your conference, it is important to have in mind the interests of your target audience. Make sure that you have a sufficiently wide range of areas, without being too general. The greater the number of topics covered, the more likely people are to come, but the less time you will have to focus on a particular subject matter. Emerging areas can attract greater interest, so try to include them in your program as much as possible; let your audience decide their preferred topics if you have the opportunity to ask them.  
+
It's not required that a single person is a master in all skills necessary for the successful organisation of your meeting, but the organising committee has to cover all of them. You might want to separate the areas of responsibilities between your aides depending on their interests and availability. Some potential responsibilities you should delegate are 1) contents and design of website; 2) promotion materials and marketing; 3) finance and fundraising 4) review and submissions 5) local organisation 6) programme and speakers; 7) awards. Your organising committee should be large enough to handle all the above but not too large, avoiding free loaders. It is invaluable to have a local organising committee; they will be able to involve local institutions, speakers and companies. Local organisations may also help you with administrative tasks, dealing with registration of attendees and finding suitable accommodation around the venue.
-
* '''Choose the right date and location'''
+
=== '''Rule 7 - Meet everyone from the organising committees the day before the event''' ===
-
If this is your first conference, it needs to be as far apart from established conferences as possible, to lessen competition. Alternatively, you may want to organise your event around a main conference, in the form of a satellite meeting or Special Interest Group (SIG). Teaming up with mainstream conferences may increase the chances of attracting more people (especially if you have not organised one before) and also save you a great deal of administrative work. If you decide to do it on your own, you should consider the accessibility of your location, how easy it is to travel there, whether it has an interested community locally and finally, whether it has cultural/turistic attractions. Turist resorts may offer the possibility of making your conference a holiday, so more people may be attracted to come to visit, especially if accommodation is not too expensive. Cheaper accommodation and cheaper airfares to your destination are always a plus.  
+
For many people in the organisation may be the first time they come to the place, so it is crucial that they get familiarised with the venue. Make sure you have inspected all the facilities and the necessary materials for presenters: poster boards, pointers, a working computer, projectors, etc. Only then it is advisable to distribute responsabilities for the helpers: some of them will be needed at the registration table, some others carrying the microphones during sessions, recording if you have it, organise and change presentations, introduce the speakers, etc.
-
* '''Create a balanced timetable'''
+
=== '''Rule 8 - Have contact information for all relevant people during the event''' ===
-
A conference is a place for people wanting to share and exchange ideas. Having many well known speakers will raise the demand of your event but this has to be balanced with enough time for presentation of submitted materials. We found that a of mix senior and junior scientists works best. Young researchers may be more enthusiastic and inspiring for students, while top senior scientists will be able to present a more complete perspective of your field. Allow plenty of time for socialising too; breaks and meals are ideal occassions for meeting potential collaborators and fostering networking with peers.  
+
You want to be best prepared with a contingency plan if something goes wrong, especially if you need to make last minute decisions. We recommend that you have a list of the all names of the organisers, their mobile phones and their specific duties at hand. Also have the names and contact information of caterers, building managers, administrative personnel, technicians and the main conference organiser if you are having your event as part of another conference. It is also important that you have a designated meeting point where someone of the organising committee is going to be available at all times to help with problems.
-
* '''Select carefully your key helpers: the organising committee'''
+
=== '''Rule 9 - Wrap-up the conference properly''' ===
-
You do not need to master all skills needed for the successful organisation of your meeting, but the organising committee should cover most of them. You might want to separate the areas of responsabilities among your helpers depending on their interests and availability of time. Some potential responsabilities you may be able to delegate are: 1) contents and design of website; 2) promotion materials and marketing; 3) finance and administration 4) fundraising; 5) reviews of submitted material; 6) local organisation issues; 7) programme and speakers; 8) awards. Your organising committee should be large enough to handle all the above but not too large, avoiding free loaders. It is invaluable to have a local organising committee; they will be able to involve local institutions, speakers and companies. Local organisations may also help you with administrative tasks, dealing with registration of attendees and finding suitable accommodation around the venue.  
+
At the end of the conference you should give credit to everyone who helped to make the event a success. If you have awards to present this is the right time for the awards ceremony. Dedicate some time to thank your speakers and sponsors as well as everyone involved in the organization of the conference. Also collect feedback about the event from the delegates through questionnaires. This evaluation will help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your conference and give you the opportunity to improve possible future events.  
-
== During the Conference ==
+
=== '''Rule 10 - Make the impact of your conference last ===
-
* '''Meet everyone from the organising committee the day before the event'''
+
After the conference don't waste anytime submitting papers or abstract as a supplement to a journal if your budget permits this. Upload photos and videos of the event to the website and post the names of presenters that have received awards or travel fellowships. It is also a good idea to link the results of your evaluation to the website. Once the journal publishes your supplement its a good idea to send one last email to all delegates including a summary of the activities since the conference. This is particularly important if you are considering to hold future editions of your conference. In this case you also should include some information on your plans for the next event.
-
It is crucial that everyone helping to orgainse the event becomes familiarised with the venue. Make sure you have inspected all the facilities and the necessary materials for presenters: poster boards, pointers, a working computer, projectors, etc. Only then is it advisable to distribute responsabilities to the helpers:  helping at the registration table, carrying the microphones during sessions, recording if you have the equipment, organising and managing power-point presentations, introducing the speakers, etc.  
+
-
* '''Have contact information for all relevant people'''
+
== Conclusion ==
-
You need to have a contingency plan ready if something goes wrong, especially if you need to make last minute decisions. We recommend that you have at hand a list of the all names of the organisers, their mobile phone numbers and their specific duties. Also have at hand the names and contact information of caterers, building managers, administrative personnel, technicians and the main conference organiser if your event is part of another conference. It is also important that you have a designated meeting point where a member of the organisation is going to be avaliable at all times or where helpers may find someone to ask.  
+
We have presented a set of simple rules for the organisation of a scientific event. Our experience comes primarily from events catering to the student community in the field of Computational Biology. However, we believe that our rules apply to any scientific event regardless of their target audience or topic. We have organised both satellite meetings associated with a major conference (Student Council Symposium at ISMB [6]) and helped with the organisation of standalone events (BioSysBio [7]). We believe that knowing how to organise scientific events should be part of the educational experience of the developing scientist as well as a distinctive mark of a successful scientific career path.
-
== After the Conference ==
+
== Acknowledgements ==
 +
We would like to thank the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) for their support with the organisation of the Student Council Symposiums, in particular BJ Morrison McKay and Steven Leard. We are also grateful to the Student Council leadership for their enthusiasm and hard work.
-
* '''Make a lasting impact in your community'''
+
== References ==
-
This is important for you as the organiser, particularly if you are planning to organise future events. If you had evaluation sheets given to your audience for feedback, make this information publicly accessible through your website. Evaluations may help you improve the focus of your conference and will let you know if there are issues that you were not aware of, or things that people did not like. Get your submitted materials ready for publication in a journal, bearing in mind that this may cost money depending on the journal. Upload onto the website photos and videos (if you have any) and post the names of the people who have received awards and travel fellowship recipients. Always give credit where credit is due: recognise contributions by sponsors, speakers, organising committee, etc. Giving some simple gifts to your keynotes will leave them a good impression. You might need their help for future events.
+
-
* '''Send one last email a couple of months after the event'''
+
#Tomazou EM & Powell GT (2007) Look who's talking too: graduates developing skills through communication. 8, 724-726 (September 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrg2177
-
Apart from reminding them of a (hopefully) memorable event, it is useful to inform delegates about the things that have happened since the conference ended. By then videos and photos will have been uploaded, related articles published and announcements about your next conference will be ready if you are brave enough to repeat the experience!
+
# The International Society for Computational Biology Student Council. http://www.iscbsc.org
 +
# Corpas M (2005) Scientists and Societies. Nature 436, 1204 doi:10.1038/nj7054-1204b
 +
# Gehlenborg N, Corpas M, Janga SC (2007) Highlights from the Third International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council Symposium at the Fifteenth Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB). BMC Bioinformatics 8(Suppl 8):I1
 +
# 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
 +
# 3rd ISCB Student Council Symposium. http://www.iscbsc.org/scs3
 +
# Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology and Bioinformatics (BioSysBio) Conference. http://www.biosysbio.com
-
== Conclusions ==
+
==THIS IS THE PREVIOUS MATERIAL:==
-
We have presented here a set of guidelines and suggestions for the organisation of a scientific event. Although our experience comes from catering to the student community in the field of Computational Biology, we believe that these principles are valid for any scientific event, regardless of their target audience or topic. We have both organised satellite meetings associated to a mainstream conference (Student Council Symposium at ISMB [6]) and helped the organisation of standalone events (BioSysBio [7]). As we have shown, a wide range of skills are required for the successful organisation of a scientific event. We believe that knowing how to organise scientific events should be part of the educational experience of the developing scientist as well as a distinctive mark of a successful scientific career.
+
-
== Acknowledgements ==
+
== Before the Conference ==
-
We would like to acknowledge the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) for their support towards the organisation of the Student Council Symposiums, in particular BJ Morrison-McKay, Suzy Smith and Steven Leard. MC would like to thank especially Phil Bourne and Mike Gribskov, who, while doing an internship at Bourne's lab (summer 2003), let MC put forward the proposal for the creation of the Student Council. Thanks to Michal Linial and Rita Casadio (our liaisons at the ISCB Board of Directors), Burkhard Rost (the ISCB President), and all the ISCB Board of Directors for being so supportive of our work at the Student Council. We are also grateful to all the Student Council leadership and current and past Student Council members for their enthusiasm and hard (unpaid) work. We would not have done much without your help. 
+
-
== References ==
+
* '''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
-
* Tomazou EM & Powell GT (2007) Look who's talking too: graduates developing skills through communication. 8, 724-726 (September 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrg2177
+
* '''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
-
* The International Society for Computational Biology Student Council http://www.iscbsc.org
 
-
* Corpas M (2005) Scientists and Societies. Nature 436, 1204 doi:10.1038/nj7054-1204b
+
* '''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
-
* Gehlenborg N, Corpas M, Janga SC (2007) Highlights from the Third International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council Symposium at the Fifteenth Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB). BMC Bioinformatics 8(Suppl 8):I1
+
* '''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.
-
* 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
+
* '''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 ==
-
* The Third Student Council Symposium http://www.iscbsc.org/scs3
+
* '''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
-
* Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology and Bioinformatics (BioSysBio) http://www.biosysbio.com
+
* '''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

Revision as of 15:35, 5 December 2007

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ISCB-SC:pubs:10rules

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

Manuel Corpas*, Nils Gehlenborg and Sarath Chandra Janga

(* To whom correspondence should be addressed)

Contents

Preamble

More and more scientific career articles [1] 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 exploring new ideas. In addition, meetings should be enjoyable experiences that add exciting breaks to the usual routine in the lab.

The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council [2] is an organization within the ISCB that caters to computational biologists early in their career. The ISCB Student Council provides activities and events to its members that facilitate their scientific development. From our experience in organising the Student Council Symposium [3, 4], a meeting that so far has been held within the context of the ISMB [5] and ECCB conferences, we have gained some knowledge that is typically not part of an academic curriculum.

We argue that the organisation of scientific and educational events by students has immense value for the development of their scientific careers as many essential skills are exercised: organisational, managerial, team work effort, etc. All of these skills are important assets that may make a difference in a successful scientific career path.


Rules

Rule 1 - Allow plenty of planning time

Planning a conference should be both a learning experience and an enjoyable activity. We recommend a minimum planning time that ranges from nine months up to a year, depending on the size of your event, taking into account that bigger conferences require more time to prepare. Allow plenty of time to select your venue, for your attendees to book their flights early and for submission and review of material to be presented. Having outstanding keynote speakers at your event will also require you to contact them several months in advance.

Rule 2 - Study all potential financial issues affecting your event

Sponsors are usually your primary source of funds next to the delegates' registration fee. To increase the chances of being sponsored by industry write them a clear proposal stating how the money will be spent and what they can expect to get in return. You may also want to reserve a few time slots for industry talks or demos as a way of attracting more sponsors. Before approaching sponsors though, make sure you approach first the ones that match your interest topics the closest. If they say they are not interested this year, keep their contact as they might be able to sponsor you in future events. Approach them early rather than later in any case. The cost of your conference will be proportional to the capacity of the venue; therefore, a good estimation of the number of attendants can tell you a good estimate of your costs. You will need to include meals, coffee breaks together with the actual cost of renting your venue. Additional expenditures might include travel fellowships, publication costs of proceedings in a journal and awards for outstanding contributors. All these issues will determine how much you need to charge your participants to attend. [CAN WE MAYBE PRIORITIZE THIS A BIT? I.E. WHAT NEEDS TO BE PAID FIRST (VENUE?) AND THEN YOU CAN TRY TO FIND SPONSORS FOR INSTANCE FOR COFFEE BREAKS ETC.]

Rule 3 - Choose an appealing theme/topic for your target audience

When choosing a topic for your 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. The greater the number of topics covered the more likely are people to come, but the lesser the scientific interest. Emerging areas can attract greater interest, try to include them in your program as much as possible; let your audience decide their preferred topics if you have the capability of asking them.

Rule 4 - Choose the right date and location

Your conference needs to be as far away as possible from established conferences. Alternatively, you may want to organise your event around a main conference, in the form of a satellite meeting or Special Interest Group (SIG). Teaming up with established conferences may increase the chances of attracting more people (especially if this is your first time) and also save you a great deal of administrative work. If you decide to do it on your own, you should consider the accessibility of your location, how easy is to travel there, whether it has a strong local community in your field and has cultural or touristic highlights. Cheaper accommodation and cheaper airfares to your destination are always a plus in particular when your main target group are students.

Rule 5 - Create a balanced agenda

A conference is a place for people wanting to share and exchange ideas. Having many well known speakers will raise the demand of your event but this has to be balanced with enough time for presentation of submitted materials. We found that a mix senior scientists and junior scientists always work for the better. Young researchers may be more enthusiastic and inspiring for students, while top senior scientists will be able to present a more complete perspective of the field. Allow plenty of time for socialising too; breaks and meals are ideal occasions to meet potential collaborators and fostering networking among peers.

Rule 6 - Select your key aides carefully: the organising committee

It's not required that a single person is a master in all skills necessary for the successful organisation of your meeting, but the organising committee has to cover all of them. You might want to separate the areas of responsibilities between your aides depending on their interests and availability. Some potential responsibilities you should delegate are 1) contents and design of website; 2) promotion materials and marketing; 3) finance and fundraising 4) review and submissions 5) local organisation 6) programme and speakers; 7) awards. Your organising committee should be large enough to handle all the above but not too large, avoiding free loaders. It is invaluable to have a local organising committee; they will be able to involve local institutions, speakers and companies. Local organisations may also help you with administrative tasks, dealing with registration of attendees and finding suitable accommodation around the venue.

Rule 7 - Meet everyone from the organising committees the day before the event

For many people in the organisation may be the first time they come to the place, so it is crucial that they get familiarised with the venue. Make sure you have inspected all the facilities and the necessary materials for presenters: poster boards, pointers, a working computer, projectors, etc. Only then it is advisable to distribute responsabilities for the helpers: some of them will be needed at the registration table, some others carrying the microphones during sessions, recording if you have it, organise and change presentations, introduce the speakers, etc.

Rule 8 - Have contact information for all relevant people during the event

You want to be best prepared with a contingency plan if something goes wrong, especially if you need to make last minute decisions. We recommend that you have a list of the all names of the organisers, their mobile phones and their specific duties at hand. Also have the names and contact information of caterers, building managers, administrative personnel, technicians and the main conference organiser if you are having your event as part of another conference. It is also important that you have a designated meeting point where someone of the organising committee is going to be available at all times to help with problems.

Rule 9 - Wrap-up the conference properly

At the end of the conference you should give credit to everyone who helped to make the event a success. If you have awards to present this is the right time for the awards ceremony. Dedicate some time to thank your speakers and sponsors as well as everyone involved in the organization of the conference. Also collect feedback about the event from the delegates through questionnaires. This evaluation will help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your conference and give you the opportunity to improve possible future events.

Rule 10 - Make the impact of your conference last

After the conference don't waste anytime submitting papers or abstract as a supplement to a journal if your budget permits this. Upload photos and videos of the event to the website and post the names of presenters that have received awards or travel fellowships. It is also a good idea to link the results of your evaluation to the website. Once the journal publishes your supplement its a good idea to send one last email to all delegates including a summary of the activities since the conference. This is particularly important if you are considering to hold future editions of your conference. In this case you also should include some information on your plans for the next event.

Conclusion

We have presented a set of simple rules for the organisation of a scientific event. Our experience comes primarily from events catering to the student community in the field of Computational Biology. However, we believe that our rules apply to any scientific event regardless of their target audience or topic. We have organised both satellite meetings associated with a major conference (Student Council Symposium at ISMB [6]) and helped with the organisation of standalone events (BioSysBio [7]). We believe that knowing how to organise scientific events should be part of the educational experience of the developing scientist as well as a distinctive mark of a successful scientific career path.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) for their support with the organisation of the Student Council Symposiums, in particular BJ Morrison McKay and Steven Leard. We are also grateful to the Student Council leadership for their enthusiasm and hard work.

References

  1. Tomazou EM & Powell GT (2007) Look who's talking too: graduates developing skills through communication. 8, 724-726 (September 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrg2177
  2. The International Society for Computational Biology Student Council. http://www.iscbsc.org
  3. Corpas M (2005) Scientists and Societies. Nature 436, 1204 doi:10.1038/nj7054-1204b
  4. Gehlenborg N, Corpas M, Janga SC (2007) Highlights from the Third International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council Symposium at the Fifteenth Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB). BMC Bioinformatics 8(Suppl 8):I1
  5. 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
  6. 3rd ISCB Student Council Symposium. http://www.iscbsc.org/scs3
  7. Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology and Bioinformatics (BioSysBio) Conference. http://www.biosysbio.com

THIS IS THE PREVIOUS MATERIAL:

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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