ICBO-BioCreative 2016 Micro-Grant Report

Micro-grant awarded to: Dr. Pankaj Jaiswal
Affiliation: Oregon State University
Website: http://icbo.cgrb.oregonstate.edu

Dr. Jaiswal (ICBO 2016 Conference Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) at Oregon State University), hosted the 2016 joint meeting of the BioCreative and the 7th International Conference on Biological Ontologies (a special focus event in the annual ICBO series).  The theme of the joint meeting was Food, Nutrition, Health and Environment for the 9 billion. The Program Chairs, Dr. Robert Hoendorf from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia and Dr. Cecilia Arighi from the University of Delaware, United States, together with program committee members did an excellent job of putting together the conference agenda.

Biology, bioinformatics, and biomedical research have seen a deluge of data in recent times from digital record keeping, samples, methods, observations, imaging, sensors, genotyping, phylogenomics, phenotyping and -omics studies.  While the generation of Big-Data is already successfully driving scientific research, providing the needed metadata (data annotating the BIG-data) is still a major challenge in the life sciences areas. For example, life scientists in all spheres are mining BIG-data either to make novel discoveries or to confirm existing results. However, our ability to draw the inferences needed for discovery depends on the quality of the reference and sample annotations (metadata descriptions) of data derived from assays of genotypes, molecular functions, phenotypes, pathotypes, environments, and treatments. Ontologies, a refined set of well-defined and structured controlled vocabularies, provide consistency and quality in metadata annotation. As the role of ontologies expands, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and data mining methods are being used increasingly for information extraction into the more structured and meaningful forms allowed by ontologies.

More than 160 participants (35% women) from 14 countries and ~90 cities attended this international conference, which provided a platform for fostering discussion, exchange, and innovation in research and development in the areas of biomedical ontology (including plants, agriculture, environment, and biomes, as well as human health and disease). Researchers and professionals from all spheres of biology, medicine, ecology, computer science, mathematics, text-mining, BIG-data analytics and related fields were invited to share their knowledge and experience.

At the meeting, more than 90 plenary talks and 11 software demonstrations were presented in 10 plenary sessions and 14 workshops. There were also 4 keynote talks, 2 invited talks and 39 poster presentations.  With generous support from our sponsors, including the International Society for Biocuration, we offered free registration to 35 individuals representing students, postdocs, minorities in the sciences, and early career researchers. The 2016 ICBO-BioCreative Conference Proceedings were published online and are freely accessible.

The conference concluded with a vote of thanks and the announcement for ICBO 2017 to be held at Newcastle University, UK.