So, this year of Bio-Ontologies is upon me; I’m sitting in the airport waiting to fly in the wrong direction; although I’ve noticed that the airport signs no longer call this “waiting time” but “shopping time”.
It’s 12 years on now; I can’t remember whether this makes it the oldest SIG at ISMB, but it must be close. Perhaps it is surprising that a small meeting like this has lasted so long, but during it’s time the use of ontologies within biology has blossomed; to some extent, this is true of the outside world also. This year has carried on with the trend. Gone are the days that we used to get enough papers to fill the day, but no more; we’ve stretched the day out, we’ve added a poster session but still we get more. The number of attendees has gone up somewhat also. It’s good to see.
For me, bio-ontologies has also been the centre of my entry into the field; Edmonton was the first ontology paper that I ever presented — perhaps depressingly, still some of my best work. This year has special significance for me. I’m giving a paper myself for the first time since Edmonton; perhaps fitting to end off as I began, because this will also be my last year as conference chair. I’ve been involved now for 6 of the 12 years; while, I’ve enjoyed it and felt privileged to do the work, it’s enough. Organising is hard work, even now when I understand the process well. In the last few years, I’ve tried to push the workshop to be a bit broader than just ontologies, to take in all new forms and technologies for representing and distributing knowledge; I’ve met with some, but limited success. A workshop with a 12 year pedigree takes some time to move. I was heartened to see that it was the first SIG to get a subject on the official conference friendfeed. Web 2.0 is upon us. With luck, this will become a bigger part of the meeting. If so, this will be other peoples achievement, not mine. Did I mention that this is my last year?
I’m looking forward to giving my paper on functions and roles in ontologies. One of the more minor reasons for retiring, is that it’s easier to publish in a workshop which you are not organising. I’m surprisingly nervous about the talk; probably as much so as in Edmonton. I’ve been practicing the talk incessantly, to the point that my back is complaining from too much sitting. It’s my first ever single author paper. I’m hoping that people will like the paper; it’s message is simple and straight-forward. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s correct. Last years paper on a similar topic caused quite a fuss (which, let’s be honest, was partly my fault) and I know that some in the audience will be quite vehement in their opposition to mine. Even though I’ve been over it so many times, I have the back-of-my-mind fear that there is a big hole that I’ve missed.
I guess this is good; it means that I’m excited about my own paper in a way that I haven’t been for years. A bit of fuss will mean that other people are too, for good or for ill. In the end, I’ll probably be most disappointed if the paper goes with a whimper not a bang.