Deadline extended for ISB Executive Committee (EC) Election 2019

The deadline for nominations for the ISB EC Election has been extended to 15 September, 2019

The election of the new International Society for Biocuration Executive Committee (ISB EC) will be held from 14 -20 October, 2019. The Executive Committee is composed of nine (9) members, each with a 3-year term. Being a member of the Executive Committee is a great way to become directly involved with the work of our society, and contribute to the decisions that are taken on behalf of the biocuration community. We would like to encourage all members interested in running for election to get involved in the process.

Serving on the ISB EC minimally involves attending monthly (1 hour)  teleconference meetings, following up on any action items from meetings, and  promoting the ISB’s activity to members and non-members. Examples of activities performed by EC members include reviewing micro-grant submissions, preparing call for participation for hosting Biocuration meetings, preparing materials for the ISB election, monitoring ISB mail and maintaining the website. There are specific positions such as Chair, Secretary and Treasurer that will require a larger time commitment, as they will be in charge of leading the steps of the EC and by extension the membership.

This year, there are two (2) open positions, as the terms of Andrew Su and Pete McQuilton will come to completion. (The current ISB EC members are here.)

2019 Electoral Process

A) The Nominating Committee:

A Nominating Committee (NC) has been formed to oversee the electoral process, to review applications, and establish the final list of candidates. We are very grateful for their assistance with the execution of this election. The members of the 2019 Nominating Committee are:

  • Marc Robinson-Rechavi 
  • Susan Clew
  • Rachael Huntley
  • Zhang Zhang
  • Raja Mazumder

B) Instructions to Candidates: 

  1. If you would like to run for a position on the Executive Committee, you must first register your intent with the NC by emailing
  2. Please fill out this form by 15 September 2019, which includes a ‘statement of intent‘, a brief biographical sketch, and a ‘conflict of interests‘ statement describing any activities, memberships of other associations, editorial positions on journals, etc. (Please email us at if you are unable to access this form.)

C) Timeline:

  • Nominations will be received until 15 September 2019.
  • The NC will review all candidacies and share their selections with the ISB Executive Committee by 29 September 2019.
  • Candidates must be announced to the membership and on website (with letters of intent) by 11 October 2019.
  • Voting will take place online over the course of one week from 14 October – 20 October 2019. (Further details about the voting process will be shared closer to the date). Lorna Richardson will act as election officer.
  • Only paying members* with registration fees cleared on or before 11 October 2019 will be allowed to vote. If you pay your registration via bank transfer, please allow at least 2-3 working days for the payment to be processed.

*Note – please contact us at if you have issues with registering or renewing your membership. Known issues exist with our membership payment system.

The Nominating Committee is looking forward to receiving your applications!

Qaaifah Gillani Syed and Zannatun Nayema awarded travel fellowships to BC2 conference

Congratulations to Qaaifah Gillani Syed and Zannatun Nayema, who have been selected for the [BC]2 Travel Fellowships.

Qaaifah Gillani Syed (University of Kashmir, IN)
Qaaifah Gillani Syed is a PhD student in the group of Shaida Andrabi in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Kashmir in India. Her research is focusing on Cancer Biology and by using different bioinformatics tools, she is studying the mitotic and oncogenic role of different kinases.
Zannatun Nayema (Kanazawa University, JP)
Zannatun Nayema is a first-year PhD student in the group of Atsushi Tajima in the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics at the Kanazawa University in Japan. Her main research focus is on the analysis of Genome Wide Association Studies connected to the Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes) and polygenic risk score analyses.

Read more about their fellowships here. Read the announcement about the travel fellowship opportunity here.

Biocuration 2019 – Workshop Reports


The COST Action GREEKC held a workshop inviting community feedback on its work to align efforts to curate, standardize, archive and share information about the regulation of gene expression. A status report was presented by the Work Group leaders, and feedback on the organisation of the next events was received. Some of the feedback that GREEKC needs can still be given through these surveys: “The Work of Curators” and “The Experience of Curators”. One of the main discussion points concerned a re-design of the Sequence Ontology, and a comprehensive set of term requests necessary to annotate the regulatory genome are now being worked on with the SO team (Eilbeck group, Utah). The status of the SO was further discussed with a much wider group of users within the Biocuration community, at an impromptu lunch discussion later during the Biocuration 2019 main event.  We hope to be able to present a significantly updated SO at our upcoming workshops, the first week of November 2019.

The IMEx Consortium of Molecular Interaction databases

The IMEx Consortium is a collaboration between interaction databases willing to share data and curation effort. This workshop focused on the coordination and further definition of curation practices. Topics covered were curation coordination tools such as IMExcentral and targeted curation practices, glycan-related physical interactions, nucleic acid-protein interactions and the influence of variation upon interaction outcome. In a joint session with the GREEKC community, transcription factor-target gene interactions and causal relationships were also discussed, developing already active areas of collaboration between the two communities on the representation of this type of data. If you are interested in contributing to the work of IMEx, contact us on

Practical ontology applications, tooling and interoperability best practices for FAIRification

This workshop provided an interactive introduction to FAIRification and interoperability best practices in the context of ontology services and semantic web technologies such as the OBO Foundry, ontology service suite at the EMBL-EBI and ELIXIR’s Recommended Interoperability Resources (RIRs). The day started with a general introduction to interoperable data management and FAIR principles before a series of talks and practical demonstrations on resources including the OBO Foundry in general, and specifically OBO core, the single cell expression Atlas (scAtlas), the EMBL-EBI Ontology Tooling Suite and a number of ELIXIR Recommended Interoperability Resources (RIRs) such as FAIRsharing (slides), InterMine and BridgeDb. The workshop concluded with an open-floor discussion on the needs of the biocuration community with respect to FAIR resources and ontologies, and ontology and FAIRification best practice.

Curating Evidence for Gene:Disease Validity for Clinical Omics

Three Gene Curation Coalition (GenCC)  member groups (Genomics England PanelApp, ClinGen and Orphanet) presented an overview of their gene curation strategies and focus, leading to dialogue about the merits and challenges of each approach. The conversations reinforced some of the challenges we face in performing manual curation of gene:disease associations, and the rules we have in place to ensure consistent annotation. We reviewed where we could most benefit from incorporating additional ontologies and mappings into our resources, and areas that required further clarity; it quickly became apparent that even the term ‘panel’ can be ambiguous given its different use between resources- are we talking about a panel of genes, or a panel of people? Curators are already familiar with the need for consistent curation terminology, and the workshop provided the perfect opportunity to poll attendees for their views on clinical evidence descriptions. We were then able to demonstrate how the recent efforts of the GenCC to establish consensus terms for validating gene:disease associations will allow us to work together and allow efficient data sharing. Overall we hope that the workshop provided an insight in to the roles and diversity of data curation in the clinical setting.

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

The introductory slides explained what these terms mean and how they are being embraced by scientific institutes in different countries. This was followed by a more in-depth presentation by the invited speaker Dr Saher Ahmed, head of EDI at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK, who discussed gender discrepancies in the workplace, and highlighted some efforts at Sanger to address these issues, such as pay transparency, changes to their leave policies, and creating a family-friendly workplace. The remaining time exchanging views on the gender pay gap, maternity, paternity & carers leave, cultural differences in working practices and accessibility. As an outcome of this workshop, attendees agreed there is a need for the ISB to create an EDI subcommittee and that this workshop should be held at subsequent Biocuration meetings. The EDI subcommittee is currently being formed, and the exact roles are to be defined, but they will address issues including a code of conduct amongst the Society as a whole and at conferences, and accessibility at conferences and for ISB activities.

“Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted” – how biological resources should be evaluated

As scientific data output continues to grow, biological resources are increasingly critical for data discoverability and re-use. However, many highly-used biological resources find it increasingly difficult to secure and maintain funding. This discordance implies that the value of curated resources to the research infrastructure is still not fully appreciated in the wider scientific community, or that the money saved by curated resources is not fully factored into funding models. In this workshop, we hoped to address questions surrounding this disparity.  A short introduction to the issues was provided by Marc Gillespie. A funder’s perspective was provided by David Carr (Wellcome Open Research). Jo McEntyre (EBI, Literature Services, UK)  provided an overview of the Elixir indicators designed to evaluate resource quality in a standardized way.  Two major priorities emerged from the discussion. Firstly, knowledge bases not only capture data but also synthesize new knowledge. The differences in requirements for evaluating archive and knowledge-base database should be made clearer. Secondly, the need to educate the scientific communit and funding bodies about the hidden work and benefits of data curation is urgently required. Suggestions ideas and recommendations gathered during the conference and post-meeting are documented here, and we encourage curators to add further ideas, with an aim to develop into an ISB position paper during 2019-2020.

Biocuration in Industry

The Biocuration in Industry workshop was organised by Jane Lomax (SciBite) and Yasmin Alam-Faruque (Eagle Genomics) with an aim to discuss the experiences of, and challenges faced by, non-academic biocurators. The workshop attracted ~100 participants, with most coming from academia. The workshop began with short talks from commercial companies, including Nebion, Hoffman-La Roche, Healx and Eagle Genomics, who described their curation pipelines, standards and scientific interests, which included cancer immunotherapy, microbiomes and Parkinson’s disease. A common theme was the use of public standards and ontologies, emphasising the importance of key resources such as MONDO, GO, HPO and MeSH to aid drug discovery and knowledge management. This also came through in the subsequent panel discussion where the panel agreed that, in order to maintain the high-quality of these resources, there is an onus on the commercial sector to contribute back improvements to these open-source efforts. The main challenge for the panel, as in the academic sector, is data cleansing to create high-quality and reproducible datasets for downstream processes. However, this was seen as a valuable, and transferable, skill for biocurators as the biomedical industry increasingly recognises the need for clean data.

The Phenotypes Traversing All the Organisms (POTATO)

The POTATO workshop is part of an ongoing effort to reconcile phenotype ontologies across species. This, the second workshop in the series, brought together 24 curators and ontology developers from a variety of backgrounds including representatives of many important groups in the phenotype curation space: Monarch Initiative, the Alliance of Genome Resources, ZFIN, PomBase, dictyBase, PHIBase, GO, SGD, HPO, FlyBase, MGI, Phenoscape and more. The Phenotype Ontology Reconciliation Effort aims to align phenotype ontologies using a common set of design patterns. These design patterns depend on a variety of external ontologies including the Phenotype and Trait Ontology (PATO) and the multi-species anatomy ontology, Uberon. The workshop included training in editing these two ontologies. It also featured an extended session to develop a strategy to deal with shortcomings and current limitations of PATO and its usage, as identified by the Phenotype Ontology Reconciliation group. During this session, focus groups discussed a number of PATO related issues, including how to improve PATO definitions in general and how to improve PATO representation of increased and decreased amounts (including absence), frequencies and rates. A number of edits to PATO have already been implemented as a result of this work. The results of the discussion are currently being written up as a meeting report, which will guide future improvements to PATO.

Data Licensing Workshop

The data licensing workshop at Biocuration 2019 was focused on helping scientists to understand important factors in the selection of a data license, as well as the implications of that selection on downstream use and reuse.  We had a diverse line up of speakers who each shared their unique perspective — data owners, data miners, and a legal expert — followed by a robust discussion among all participants. The goal of the workshop was not to achieve consensus on the “best” license, but rather to share experiences, perspectives, and questions.

Mapping the Landscape of Biocuration

This well attended pre-conference workshop asked questions such as: What is the state of biocuration in 2019? Where are biocurators based? What are their skills and levels of expertise? What training do they need? What are the tools they use? As part of an ELIXIR Implementation Study, members of EMBL-EBI, and SIB ran a survey to capture information on biocurators and the resources they run, the life science/health domains they operate in, and their expertise and training requirements. In the workshop we described the current biocuration landscape, and ran an interactive session to compile feedback on career progression and training roadblocks. Slides from the workshop can be found here: Survey: 10.7490/f1000research.1116798.1; FAIRsharing: 10.7490/f1000research.1116785.1; TeSS: 10.7490/f1000research.1116784.1). More information on the Implementation Study and follow-up work can be found here:

Apply for travel fellowship to [BC]2 Basel Computational Biology Conference

ISB is happy to announce that it will provide two travel fellowships to current ISB members in the amount of 500 CHF (approx. USD $500) to attend the [BC]2Basel Computational Biology Conference, from September 10-11, 2019 at the Congress Centre in Basel, Switzerland.

To apply, and for more information, click here. Note, you must be a member* of the ISB to apply. The applicant must submit an accompanying letter explaining why s/he is requesting travel funds and how s/he envisions that attending the [BC]2 conference will benefit her/his career.

Application materials should be sent via email to with the subject line ‘ISB Travel Fellowships to [BC]2 2019′ by Sunday, 16 June 2019, 23:59 CET.

Notification of award will be sent via email on 24 June, 2019 and announced on the ISB and [BC]2 website after acceptance of the award.

Students, junior curators, curators from low-income countries, and curators from countries suffering from natural disasters are encouraged to apply.

The [BC]2 Basel Computational Biology Conference is the key computational biology event in Switzerland and one of the major bioinformatics events in Europe. It unites scientists working in a broad range of disciplines, including bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology. The conference will feature presentations of latest research results, workshops, tutorials, poster sessions, and keynote lectures by international experts providing a prime opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research in computational biology and bioinformatics, and to network with other members of our community.

This year’s thematic focus is on the use of “Big Data in Molecular Medicine” with plenary sessions on single-cell data, evolutionary medicine, clinical population genomics, systems biology of disease and multi-level data integration. Tutorials and workshops will focus on a variety of topics such as “Introduction and advanced usage of machine learning for biological problems”, “Handling and accessing genomic data”, “Analysis of single cell data” and “Analysis of viral and bacterial genomic data”.

In 2019, [BC]2 will take place in the context of Basel Life – Europe’s leading congress in the Life Sciences – and participants are free to attend all sessions of Basel Life including the EMBO meeting on “Next-generation molecular medicine”.

Click below for more details on:

*We have recently been experiencing some technical difficulties with our membership registration system. Please contact us at if you have any issues. If you are having difficulties with renewing or registering for membership, are still encouraged and eligible to apply for the [BC]2 travel fellowship.

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) at Biocuration 2019

The workshop on ‘Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)’ was chaired by Executive Committee member and GigaScience’s, Mary Ann Tuli. The introductory slides explained what these terms mean and how they are being embraced by scientific institutes in different countries. This was followed by a more in-depth and very informative presentation by the invited speaker Dr Saher Ahmed, head of EDI at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK. Dr. Ahmed discussed gender discrepancies in the workplace, and highlighted some efforts at Sanger to address these issues, such as pay transparency, changes to their leave policies, and creating a family-friendly workplace.

The remaining time was spent on some lively discussion by the 30 attendees, exchanging views on the gender pay gap, maternity, paternity & carers leave, cultural differences in working practices and accessibility. As an outcome of this workshop, attendees agreed there is a need for the ISB to create an EDI subcommittee and that this workshop should be held at subsequent Biocuration meetings. The EDI subcommittee is currently being formed, and the exact roles are to be defined, but they will address issues including a code of conduct amongst the Society as a whole and at conferences, and accessibility at conferences and for ISB activities.

Image credit: George Georghiou

Apply now for PgCert in Biocuration at Cambridge University

This one year, masters’ level course has been jointly designed by EMBL-EBI and Cambridge University, with input from members of this society.
It has been designed to be studies around full time employment – the course consist of 3 modules, each comprised of a 3 day face to face workshop followed by 8-10 weeks of study offsite, coordinated using the University online learning system.

For further details and links to apply please visit the website:

Applications for this year close on the 17th May, with the course starting in October 2019.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Call: Host the 14th International Biocuration Conference

Dear Colleagues,

The Executive Committee of the International Society for Biocuration would like to once again invite tenders to host the 14th International Biocuration Conference during the Northern Spring or Summer of 2021.

Individuals and organizations interested in applying may do so by sending a proposal to the ISB Executive Committee ( on or before August 31, 2019.

The successful bidder will be notified by October 1, 2019. The ISB Executive Committee will publicly announce the selected organization or individuals during the 13th International Biocuration Conference, the venue for which will be announced at the Cambridge conference.


Proposals should be short; length should not exceed one side of an A4 or US letter size sheet, using 11 point font.

The proposal should contain:

  • The name and institution of the local organizer

  • Details of the proposed venue for up to 350 participants

  • The range of dates available for the conference

  • A brief outline of a strategic plan to attract a broad range of participants from the Biocuration community

  • As fair gender representation is positively encouraged by the ISB; we would also like to know how the applicant intends to promote this.

In a continued effort to bring our meeting to curators in all geographic regions, we strongly encourage ISB members to put forward proposals to bring the ISB meeting to your region once again, or for the first time! Based on ISB meeting region rotation, for ISB 2021 we are encouraging an Australasian location, but will also consider other locations.


Asia and Australasia



For more information about the ISB and our previous conferences, please visit:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Your colleagues at the ISB Executive Committee.

Anne Morgat and Val Wood – recipients of the 2019 biocuration awards

It is our great pleasure to announce the recipients of the 2019 biocuration awards

Dr. Anne Morgat from the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics for the Biocuration Career Award. Anne has worked for over 15 years on the development of resources and vocabularies for the description of enzymatic reactions and metabolic pathways, such as UniPathway and Rhea, and their integration in UniProtKB.

Dr. Val Wood from the University of Cambridge for the Exceptional Contributions to Biocuration Award. Val leads the Model Organism Database for the fission yeast PomBase. Her team has made essential contributions to the Gene Ontology (GO) consortium, from the ontology development, through annotations and quality control, as well as informatics methods. She has been a huge innovator in the biocuration field, pioneering community curation with the CANTO tool, and developing Fission Yeast Phenotype Ontology (FYPO), a cellular phenotype ontology, to annotate phenotypes of mutant alleles.

Congratulations to Anne and Val!

Nominations for 2019 Biocuration Awards – now open

The International Society for Biocuration is happy to announce the 2019 Biocuration Awards.

In 2019 ISB will give two different awards to people who have made a significant impact in the field of biocuration. We welcome your nominations!

Description of the awards:

1) Award for Exceptional Contributions to Biocuration
ISB’s Exceptional Contributions Award recognizes a person who is a leader or a pioneer in the field of biocuration, and whose work has been fundamental to the advancement of biocuration.

2) Biocuration Career Award
The Biocuration Career Award recognizes biocurators in non-leadership positions who have made sustained contributions to the field of biocuration. Those who hold Principal Investigator or Group Leader positions are not eligible for the Biocuration Career Award.

Each award recipient will be invited to present a talk at the 2019 International Biocuration Conference that will take place in Cambridge (UK) in April (, with all expenses paid by ISB.

Nomination process:
Nominations will be reviewed by the 2019 ISB Awards Committee, comprised of one member of the ISB’s Executive Committee (ISB-EC) and six (6) additional members from the wider research community; these members were nominated by the ISB-EC based on diversity in area of expertise, organization type, role, and geographic location.

Who can nominate and/or be nominated?

  • Any currently active ISB member may nominate anyone in the field of biocuration, whether the potential nominee is a member of ISB or not.
  • Members of the ISB can make no more than 1 nomination per award.
  • Current members of the Executive Committee or the ISB Award Committee are not eligible for the awards.
  • Self-nominations will not be considered.

How to submit a nomination:

Nominations should be sent via email to the awards committee at with the subject line “Biocuration Awards Nominations”.

The nomination email should contain all the following fields:

  • Nominator details (name, e-mail and affiliation, member of ISB);
  • Nominee details (name, e-mail and affiliation);
  • Type of award nomination (either Exceptional Contributions to Biocuration or Biocuration Career Award);
  • Short list of scholarly contributions (a maximum of 50 words);
  • Brief description of why you are recommending this person (a maximum of 350 words).

Deadline for submitting nominations:  Friday 4-January-2019