Arun Gupta, Nicola Mulder, Manuel Corpas
Bioinformatics is a relatively affordable scientific discipline to establish as it requires intellectual capacity but not expensive laboratory facilities or equipment. This makes it a very accessible discipline to scientists in poorly resourced countries in Africa. The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) and the African Society for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (ASBCB) have teamed up to organize a major meeting in Africa in 2009 focused on the theme “Bioinformatics of Infectious Diseases: Pathogens, Hosts and Vectors”. This meeting, a new venture between ISCB and ASBCB and a follow on from a previous successful meeting held in Nairobi by the ASBCB, will be held this year in Bamako (Mali), hosted by the prestigious Malaria Research and Training Center, an important facility for malaria research in Africa. Although it will have a particular African focus, the meeting is intended to be a fully-fledged international event, encompassing scientists and students from leading institutions in the US, Latin America, Europe and Africa. By holding this event in Africa, we intend to stimulate local efforts for cooperation and dissemination of leading research techniques to combat major African diseases.
The meeting will consist of a 4-day conference followed by 2 days of practical workshops. The first 3 days of the meeting will include keynote presentations by 6 invited speakers from around the world. The last day of the conference will be a dedicated KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) day focused on the topic “Systems view of biological organisms”. KAUST has secured 20 full fellowships (valued at up to $1,700 each) to cover travel expenses, registration and accommodation for Africans attending the ISCB Africa ASBCB conference. Highly accomplished researchers will present the 2 days of post-conference tutorial workshops. Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, chairman of EMBnet, will give a keynote presentation and a tutorial during a workshop day.
We expect that most participants will come from Africa, and that the majority will be on the level of junior faculty, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. Travel fellowships will be awarded to African researchers and students to cover travel and local expenses, with priority given to those selected for oral presentations through peer review of submitted research paper submissions. Several other travel fellowships will be secured for non-African participants. Fellowships will be entirely dependent on the funds available. Hence, prospective participants are encouraged to seek their own sources of funding.
The conference will consist of a single track with oral and poster presentations. There will be a call for submission of abstracts (papers of up to 1000 words will be required for oral presentations); authors will indicate whether they aspire to give an oral or poster presentation. Graduate students, young investigators and all African researchers involved in the field will be strongly encouraged to submit an abstract describing their work. Submissions from all other parts of the globe are invited as well. The Scientific Committee will evaluate submissions, and the (few) selected abstracts from the oral presentation track will be invited for oral presentation, while others will be invited for poster presentation. Using this model we have previously established a powerful cadre of networking scientists – who have demonstrated that by meeting, they can establish networks of collaboration between Africa and the US and EU, as well as between African countries.
The first ASCBCB conference was published in a special issue of Infection, Genetics and Evolution (see: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2008.09.002 and http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2008.09.003). The organizers are in the process of negotiating and securing a publication for the proceedings of this 2009 conference.
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EMBnet is a bioinformatics-based group of collaborating nodes throughout Europe and around the world. Its combined expertise provides services to the molecular biology community.