Pretty much as expected, ISMB was small this year as it was sited in Brazil; while those of us who got there really enjoyed the place, I think it put many people off. The small size of the conference made it very friendly and easy to find people, which was good. The centre itself was excellent in most ways, with the only really problem being the air con, which was fairly noisy and somewhat overwhelmed the AV.

BioOntologies took a particularly heavy hit in terms on submissions — most people needed a main conference publication to justify the travel. It was lucky that we had merged with BioLink for the year, or we would had to have cancelled the day. Hopefully next year will be better, as this is our 10th anniversary meeting — a long time for a SIG to be going.

The main conference was quite good; it’s noticable that the days of the microarray normalisation and sequence searching talks are largely over; thank god for small mercies. The ontologies section was quite interesting as two of the three papers were heavily biological in content — Katy Wolstencrofts paper was excellent (okay, I am an author which makes my biased), while Larisa Soldatova gave a great talk on their experimental ontology, EXPO, written for the robot scientist, the videos of which were entertaining. The last paper, on a ontology of function was more theoretical, being about an upper or middle ontology. It seemed sensible at the time, but these things need to be tried out in reality — it’s hard to make a critical judgement in the short term.

Next year is Vienna. It should be better attended, but I do wonder about ISMB. Bioinformatics has no reached a point where it is part of most biologists lifes. Those with a more theoretical bent are moving off in a systems biology route — this gives them lots of opportunity to argue and discuss which probably explains why, 3 years on, no one has a decent, clear and consistent definition of systems biology. Perhaps, Brazil will mark the ending of ISMB’s day in the sun?

Originally published on my old blog site.