June 29, 2020

Go global and go affordable

A conversation with Dave Clements, Galaxy project

BCC 2020 logo

This summer’s Bioinformatics Community Conference will be the second joint conference between Galaxy and the Open Bioinformatics Foundation and the first held online.


This year's conference is a series of events, starting with two days of training, featuring a schedule based on a community poll. There will be five parallel tracks with three sessions each day. A three day meeting follows training. In moving online, the days are shorter (about 5-6 hours including lunch and breaks) than they would have been for an in-person meeting. The schedule includes keynotes, accepted talks, lightning talks, demonstrations, and birds of a feather (opportunities for people to gather who have similar interests). At the end will be four days of co-fest (collaboration fest), which is centered on extending open source bioinformatics, with code, training material and documentation. The goal of the first two days is to grow the community of contributors, while the second two days are more about tangible deliverables.


There will be two schedules per day set 12 hours apart to welcome participants in the eastern and western hemispheres. Organizers in Australia will lead the eastern hemisphere programming, while organizers in North America and Europe will lead western hemisphere programming. All training sessions will be live. Some content and instructors will be the same for both hemispheres, while others will differ. Talks will be pre-recorded, with the exception of keynotes. Question and answer sessions will be live for talks in their own hemisphere and asynchronous for the other hemisphere.


Virtual events are hard because it’s difficult to replicate the energy and informal social opportunities of an in-person event. The organizers are still figuring out how to structure live poster sessions and demonstrations to allow synchronous presentations for both eastern and western hemispheres. It’s hard work to have schedules for eastern and western hemispheres! To make it work, there need to be committed co-organizers around the world. Another challenge concerns marketing, particularly how to convey all of the pertinent information about your event in a brief email or Tweet.


Moving online makes things much more affordable than in-person events, which can be upwards of $200,000, with about half of the cost going to lodging. Registration costs are tiered and range from $12-$120. There’s no need to generate revenue; they just want to cover costs.


Go global and go affordable. If you’re interested in expanding your meeting, find communities that are already established and ask them to spread the word. Leverage your connections to reach out to communities that have been historically underrepresented.