Of course, I am an organizer, so I am biased. But the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing (PSB) is about to start in a couple of days and I am psyched. The meeting started in 1995 and grew out of the Hawaiian International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICCS). It turns out that Hawaiian hotels empty out the week after New Year’s Day as tourists go home, and so they are willing to make deals with scientists who want to have conferences. PSB has switched islands every couple of years, but our most common venue is what is now known as the Fairmont Orchid. Why is this meeting so good?
1. We pick the sessions each year based on hot emerging topics in bioinformatics or computational biology. Each session is organized by folks in that field who get colleagues to submit papers for peer review. Our accept rate is typically around 33%, and so the quality is high. More importantly, the work is usually cutting edge and emerging. Once fields become “main stream” they can go to the other conferences in the field. No “general” track here.
2. The venue makes for lots of good opportunities for side conversations at the beach, pool, or other venues. It is a little isolated and so people can talk about science.
3. The cost is a little high, but not much higher than other major conferences in the field. The key is that lots of food is included in the registration fee (we negotiate with the hotel) and the rooms are really comparable in cost to in New York or D.C. We try to be very generous with travel awards, particularly to students and post-docs who are first authors on accepted papers. Our annual surveys of attendees indicate that the costs are not prohibitive and the venue is beloved.
4. The papers are all peer-reviewed and are indexed in PubMED. We give a hard-covered volume of proceedings to attendees, published by World Scientific Publishers. Importantly, WSP allows us to distribute the articles on line for free, and so almost all the articles from the last 15 years are at the PSB online website.
5. This year, my student Shirley Wu is co-organizing a session on Open Science. Because of this, there is a FriendFeed room for the conference. (I’m still trying to figure out what that is, but I’m sure it is very hip.)
6. In addition to a scientific keynote speaker each year, we also have a “Ethics, Legal, Social implications” (ELSI) speaker. This year it is Drew Endy (Stanford) for the former, and Greg Hampikian (Boise State) for the latter. You can see summaries of their lives on the PSB website.
Anyway, this is a great meeting, and I hope you will all consider it in the future.