Detailed Guidelines for Conference Organizers

The International Biocuration Conferences have supported a very successful series of meetings that bring together our community.  

Important dates: We recommend using this timeline to keep track of important milestones, announcements, and deadlines. You may customize it to include additional details pertaining to the local organizing committee and their hosting institutions.

Financial Agreement: To date (June 2023) there has been limited financial connection between the International Society of Biocuration and these meetings. Please read the webpage detailing the financial agreement and arrangements between the conference organizers and the ISB. It includes details regarding how USD $20,000 of seed money is transferred between conferences and profits are returned to the ISB.

ISB Conference Officer: The ISB Executive Committee will appoint a Conference Officer who will interface with you and the rest of the local organizing committee from the planning process and until the meeting is finalized. This appointed Conference Officer will be announced in 22 months before the conference date. 

Local Organizing Committee and Scientific Committee: You should plan on forming a Local Organizing Committee, which will be in charge of local logistics, as well as a Scientific Committee, which will be in charge of selecting keynote and invited speakers and poster presenters to the meeting. Typically there maybe 4-5 keynote speakers, 4-5 invited speakers and about 50 talks (excluding workshop speakers). It is okay for there to be overlap between the two committees. The Scientific Committee should include your biocuration colleagues from around the world, to assist in the process of organization. The Scientific Committee should also include the ISB Conference Officer, both to facilitate a constant connection between ISB and the Local Organizing Committee, as well as offer the hosting team added support by bringing knowledge of successful strategies and experiences from past biocuration conferences.

Registration fees: Please ensure that there is a minimum of 100 CHF difference between the registration fees for ISB members versus the fees for non-members. This will ensure that the conference encourages more members of the biocuration community to join ISB and that the ISB funds continue to be sufficient to provide travel grants for the community to attend the conferences.

A Commitment to Diversity: The International Society for Biocuration seeks to represent scientists in our field from all scientific and personal backgrounds. We recommend to take steps to welcome a diverse representation of speakers and participants by emphasizing plurality in participation from the planning stages until the closing of the event. This will only be achieved by encouraging diverse participants to join the conference: this means diversity in scientific background, in scientific positions (junior as well as senior researchers), diversity in gender, diversity in geographic origin, diversity in race, and in many other aspects of our vibrant scientific community. See guidelines for organizers for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Reviewing abstract submissions: Selection of abstracts by the scientific committee is an essential process. We should be innovative, fair in choosing speakers, and should focus on biocuration, its innovation, and particularly on analysis that drives the field forward. All abstracts should be reviewed by at least two members of the scientific committee, who have no conflict of interest with the abstracts they review. For transparency, reviews should include scientific arguments for acceptance or rejection, and not be limited to only ranking by numbers or categories. We recommend defining a rubric to help in reviewing the numerous abstracts. The biocuration conferences usually receive upwards of 150 submissions. An example rubric that was used for the 2020 program is below.

Presentation Title
Scientifically compelling?Yes/No
Broad appeal?Yes/No
New topic?Yes/No
Submitted to DatabaseYes/No
Speaker’s Geographic location
Requested sessionDrop down options
Recommend presentation?Yes/No
Recommend length of presentation30min/20min/10/min/5min/NA

Past conference attendees have noted that availability and licensing of the resources described in abstracts has been somewhat variable. Consider explicitly stating that both issues are factors that will be used when evaluating and selecting abstracts, and consider requiring formal documentation of license terms (e.g., in and/or

Previous conferences have had positive experiences implementing the Easychair ( system to manage submissions, review, and selection of abstracts. The Local Organizing Committee should look into this and other options for managing the submission process. Any costs incurred for Conference Managing Systems should be covered by the hosting institutions and the Local Organizing Committee or via conference registration fees.  

Selecting conference keynotes: It is the Scientific Committee’s responsibility to choose the conference keynotes, and the final list of keynotes must be approved by the ISB Executive Committee. Please ensure that all keynotes speakers selected conduct and present work that relates to the field of biocuration. Ensure that there is diversity in subject, considerations should be made to also cover a wide range of topics of interest to the wider membership, and not centered around a single subject or theme. The conference organizers should plan to cover all expenses for keynote speakers in the budget.

ISB Exceptional Contributions to Biocuration – Lifetime Achievement Award: This award, given bi-annually, recognises a person who has made exceptional contributions to the field of biocuration. The recipient would be required to present a 30 minute keynote talk at the Biocuration Conference, with all expenses paid by the ISB.

The ISB Conference Officer will inform you if the Lifetime Achievement Awardee needs to be included in the conference program.

Engaging funding agencies: Past conferences on occasion have invited program officers from funding agencies to give talks, serve on panels, and/or simply attend.  These interactions have generally been well-received as a way to facilitate two-way communication with funding agencies who have an interest in biocuration.

Conference Proceedings in Biocuration Virtual Issue at DATABASE: We would like to highlight that the proceedings for the meeting will be published in Oxford University Press’ DATABASE (, the official journal of the ISB.  You should make arrangements to encourage the ISB membership to contribute to this special issue, remarking that active ISB members receive a 20% discount on the publication fee. 

DATABASE Biocuration Virtual Issue: We recommend that the conference organizers have regular meetings with the DATABASE journal virtual issue editor, to coordinate the submissions and talks for the conference.

OPTIONAL – Lightning Talks: these are very short (usually 5 min) talks, assigned in case there are numerous interesting and valuable abstracts and it is difficult to select them or assign them into the agenda. This is optional.

Engaging the Community: During the planning months, you should make every possible effort to engage the wider biocuration community to both capture suggestions, and to welcome submissions from early stages of the planning process. This should be done by issuing messages with reminders about deadlines for submission, early-bird registration, hotel information, etc., via email, Twitter, WeChat, Journals (e.g., OUP Journals, BMC Journals, GPB, which is run and funded by BIG,etc.) and News Posts on the conference website and on the ISB website. We will be available to work with you and to facilitate distribution of these reminders to the membership via the ISB Twitter/Mastodon account and mailing list.

Tagline: Previous biocuration conferences created themes or taglines (“from big data to big discovery” in 2015 or “bringing knowledge to the people” in 2017). Defining a tagline is optional but can be very useful. The theme in the tagline should be reflected in the agenda.

Scheduling: Please be sure to check with conferences of overlapping interest to biocurators and do your best to prevent the biocuration conferences clashing with your own scheduled meetings. Co-scheduling the conference with other relevant conferences to allow members to attend both conferences in the same city could however be considered. Some conferences to consider include ISMB, AMIA, ICBO, BioCreative, FORCE11, etc.

Sponsorships: We encourage organizers to seek sponsorships. A list with examples of previous sponsors of the biocuration conference will be sent upon request. Some loyal sponsors such as Oxford University Press and GigaScience have supported the conference over the years. Organizers may consider looking for grant funding also, for example EMBO issues an award that may sponsor a European speakers’ travel and accommodation to conferences.

Special requirements: Please remember to consider special food requirements, such as vegan/vegetarian or participants with food allergies, and please offer alternative meals. Including these options during registration simplifies the process. Access and mobility requirements of attendees should also be taken into account.

Social events: We recommend that alcohol is prohibited during oral and poster session areas at all ISB meetings and events. However, limited alcohol can be made available during social events without a scientific focus.

Website: In addition to scientific information about the conference, such as presentation of keynote speakers and the scientific agenda, it is recommended to include logistics details: 

  • Visas: offer to issue and deliver a letter of invitation for international participants who may require a visa to attend the conference. Prepare and send reminders at least three months in advance. Original invitation letters with official letterhead and signature are often needed for a visa application. It is preferred, if possible, to send both original letters and scanned copies to avoid any delays. 
  • Details about the country, city, immediate community: Instructions on electricity, currency, cash etc. will be very useful to international travelers.
  • Travel and accommodations: We recommend including details on arriving at the venue, including maps, instructions concerning transportation to the conference venue, recommended hotels and hotel blocks for special discounts (if any) for conference attendees, etc.

Conference Code of Conduct:  On the registration form, please ask all attendees to agree to and abide by the ISB code of conduct

After the Conference: Please use the data submitted to provide a profile summary to the ISB EC of the information collected during the registration, including:

  • Number of attendees
  • Number of ISB members
  • Gender
  • Job Title (dropdown option: Undergraduate student, PhD student, Biocurator/software engineer/developer/Post-doc, Senior biocurator/software engineer/developer/Post-doc, Assistant or Associate Professor, Professor, Group leader, PI, other)
  • Country of attendees work Institute 

After the conference ensure that all names and email addresses of the attendees are deleted to meet ISB commitments to GDPR.

We are here to assist you through this process as much as needed: If you have any questions concerning the document describing the financial arrangements, the initial planning of the meeting, and in general interfacing with the ISB during this process please do not hesitate to contact us.

Last updated 9 September 2023