ISCB COSI Proposal

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UPDATE: COSI Membership is now confirmed following a vote of the group

Following a vote which ran between the 28 Jan 2014 and 31 Jan 2014 the group decided by a majority of 22 in favour to 0 against to accept the proposal to become an ISCB COSI. Many thanks to all of those who voted.

Proposal to make the Bioinfo-Core group an ISCB COSI

The Bioinfo-Core group has been informally affiliated with ISCB since it was set up, and for the last couple of years it has been more formally linked to the organisation by having the wiki site hosted and maintained by ISCB.

In the last year ISCB have asked us to consider becoming an ISCB Community of Special Interest (COSI) along with lots of other groups. This page aims to summarise what this would mean for us.

What are Communities of Special Interest (COSIs)?

A COSI is intended to be a re-branding of a set of groups which already exist and an umbrella under which new groups could be formed. COSIs are simply groups of computational biologists who share a common interest. Initially the intention would be that they would comprise the existing Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Workshops which are already affiliated with ISCB and who organise sessions within or around the ISMB conferences (3D-SIG, HitSEQ, BOSC etc).

Why does ISCB want to make COSIs?

Given that these groups already exist, why does ISCB want to do this?

In short this is mostly a branding and publicity exercise. ISCB is already working with these groups and has seen that they have become increasingly popular and useful and that they are now forming a significant part of the ISMB conferences. Although there is some acknowledgement of the involvement of ISCB with these groups it's not very well publicised at the moment. By creating COSIs ISCB wants to demonstrate the links between these groups and emphasise the involvement of ISCB. Making this common grouping will also make it easier to share infrastructure between the groups and will provide a platform under which other groups could form in the future.

What will this mean for Bioinfo-Core?

Practically, very little would change were Bioinfo-core to become and ISCB COSI. We already receive support from ISCB and our infrastructure is already hosted by them. The biggest change you'd be likely to see is that the wiki site would be moved to a more standardised template across the COSIs with more consistent branding. Other than that the way the group is organised and run would not change.

Becoming a COSI would have some obvious benefits to the group too. As well as creating this new infrastructure ISCB is also looking to publicise the COSIs. They will be devoting time at the next ISMB conference to introducing the COSI scheme and the founding groups. They will also be putting out articles in the PLoS journals describing the scheme and will then be putting out regular articles covering each individual COSI. They are also going to feature the COSIs more prominently on the ISMB web site and will have ways to let new ISCB members find groups which might interest them. All of this is good publicity for us and will help us to raise the profile of the group and potentially attract new members.

Are there any down sides for Bioinfo-core?

Not really. In effect we are running as a COSI already so this is just a lot of free publicity for us and a way to help back to ISCB in return for the support we've received from them. We retain control over our domain and mailing list so we always have the option to take back control of our infrastructure in the very unlikely event that we later decide that the ISCB affiliation is no longer in our best interests. No information from our group which is not already public will be passed on to ISCB and they will have no greater control over our infrastructure than they already have.

The one logistical problem which might cause us some trouble is that at the moment ISCB are suggesting that for a group to qualify as a COSI they need to be able to demonstrate that there are at least 10 ISCB members involved in the group. I'm sure that we would have no trouble meeting this target, but the problem is the logistics through which ISCB want to check this. Having to do an annual trawl of Bioinfo-core ISCB members to fill out a COSI membership form would be a pain. We're hoping to convince them that this is an unnecessary requirement (if we run an ISCB workshop then most attendees will be ISCB members anyway). This requirement and its implementation isn't finalised yet so we're still working on making this easier.

What happens next

Once the final ISCB COSI proposal is done (probably around Feb 2014) we'll circulate the information about this to the list and then will have a short period for discussion before setting up a vote on whether we should take up this offer. We will chose to become a COSI if a simple majority of those voting choose to support the proposal. From everything we've seen so far we will be very likely to recommend supporting this proposal and for the group to be named as one of the founding COSIs.