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Survey results November 2010

After COMBINE 2010, we had conflicting reports about whether people liked the idea of co-locating COMBINE with the annual ICSB conference. In the exit survey as well as in informal discussions, people expressed opinions in both directions—some seemed to like the approach, others didn't. Mike Hucka and Nicolas Le Novère therefore ran a survey in the middle of November 2010 to try to determine the majority preference for future COMBINE meetings. This page reports the results of that survey.

The survey was conducted electronically using SurveyMonkey. It was announced to the following mailing lists: sysbio, sbml-discuss, sbgn-discuss, biopax-discuss. The closing date was November 21, 2010. In the final tally, there were 58 unique responses to the survey, out of a total of 59 respondents. (1 person filled out the survey twice.)

The introduction to the survey

For context and historical reference, below we reproduce the introduction that served as the lead-in text on the survey page:

Among the reasons that COMBINE is organized as a 4-5 day event are the following:

  1. By lumping several topic meetings together, it will save people time and money over the course of the whole year. This is because many people are involved in more than one area, which typically meant attending different meetings. A combined meeting, in principle, will actually reduce the overall number of trips those people need to make in a year.
  2. Past 2-day events have often been said to be too short. A longer event allows more time for discussion and interaction. Moreover, it is easier to justify a trip to a distant location if more time is spent at the location than traveling there.

There is no specific reason why COMBINE would need to be co-located with the annual ICSB conference, and indeed, COMBINE was always intended to be self-contained. Certainly, as COMBINE is envisioned as a 5 day event, a combined COMBINE-ICSB would result in very long stays away from one's home and would be undesirable for some people. However, other people have expressed a preference for co-location despite this.

The purpose of this survey is to assess the majority preference for co-locating versus not co-locating.

The survey questions, and the answer statistics

Question #1 was: Do you want COMBINE meetings to be always co-located with ICSB?. There were 4 possible answers. The following bar graph shows the response distributions:

Question #2 was: Do you want next year's COMBINE (2011) to be co-located with ICSB 2011 (in Heidelberg, Germany)?. There were 3 possible answers. The following bar graph shows the response distributions:

Question #3 was an open-ended essay question: If you have any comments related to this topic, please feel free to write them here. Below, we provide the anonymous answers here because they may be useful for additional context. (Some answers have been edited in remove identifying information.) The numbering of the answers is arbitrary.

  1. Would make it a heck of a lot easier to apply for travel funding. Doesn't have to be ICSB per se, but combining it with something relevant helps. Long stays are better for us travelling long distances than short stays.
  2. It is difficult to answer. I put down ""I don't care"" because I am not sure one way or the other. Combining 2 meetings together is a bit too long, but saves travel. The problem I see with the COMBINE is that it is hard to get into in-depth discussion in the main sessions. If we want to add more time for breakout session, the meeting can go even longer. I think if COMBINE is going to be 4 or more days, it should be scheduled separately.
  3. Conferences shouldn't be too long - for me 2-3 days is enough - better to be able to attend at least one of the conferences if they are at different times/places
  4. This is a difficult one, while sharing a flight with the ICSB is useful and sometimes it is useful to get travel funds for both together it does make the whole thing really long, so perhaps on a case to case basis. What is more important is to have the dates of the COMBINE/HARMONY known waaaaay in advance to take advantage of cheaper flights.
  5. I don't feel incredibly passionate about this, and will attempt to attend regardless, but even if I didn't have a young family, I'm not sure I'd be really keen on two weeks of solid conference/workshop!
  6. Co-location would considerably reduce travel costs for many participants.
  7. I would come to combine where ever it is located.
  8. I like iterations: one year COMBINE is in US, the next year - in Europe/rest of the world. If it collocates with ICSB - it is fine, but two COMBINEs in a row in Europe may be too much.
  9. The problem is that ICSB now coincides with the very first day of classes for me. While I can miss class to go to a meeting at the middle or end of the semester, I CANNOT miss the first class or the first week. So as long as ICSB is this same date, I will not get any benefit of having COMBINE with it. So while, I'd love to go to Heidelberg next year, I cannot.
  10. It's better, if it is in USA.
  11. There's an important place for the x.5 meetings in SBGN, the BioPAX meetings, and other project specific meetings. They allow community members (many of whom overlap) to focus on a particular communties specific concerns in depth. All I remember from the BioPAX part of COMBINE was an overview of the issuess, and not so much specifically discussing solutions. Many people I saw at last year's BioPAX meeting were not at the COMBINE meeting. Furthermore, at least with the BioPAX meeting, it served as a hackathon. The breakout sessions during COMBINE were not sufficiently broken away from the ongoing presentations. Even with these issues I'm still in support of a COMBINE meeting because they can minimize travel and bring about interoperable communities.
  12. Thanks again for organizing a super meeting!
  13. I think sometimes it makes sense to co-locate meetings, and often that will depend on the attendees starting location also. Personally, I don't think you can win this one. You will probably get an even split between the 2 main options...
  14. In general, I am a advocate of combining COMBINE and ICSB. However, a 14 days stay for both is too long. In my opinion, the best solution would be to held the COMBINE meeting somehow between two ICSBs.
  15. Visas are the main problem for me. If I'll need to apply for separate visas to participate COMBINE and ICSB I would prefer to have them as one long event.
  16. It's not a bad idea but for 2011 Heidelberg is very dull.
  17. There are already too many things combined with ICSB, so you often can't go there long enough, or miss some things since they are in parallel.
  18. Since most participants visit both, it save travel costs.
  19. I actually would change my vote to yes, if we reverted to the two day SBML forum which I prefer. As it stands, combining them makes for too long a trip.
  20. I think the first decision should be about a host venue, not about the ICSB. If the ICSB is in a convenient location, and someone's there to host, that's great, but if not, you shouldn't feel tied, or go with a suboptimal host.
  21. To the extent that the target audience of COMBINE meetings is limited to systems biologists who always attend ICSB, it's perfectly sensible to co-locate with ICSB. I just want to raise the possibility that COMBINE (and indeed each of the COMBINEd efforts) would benefit from the cross-fertilization afforded by co-locating with other meetings including even those attended primarily by experimental biologists (say, 1 out of 10 COMBINE meetings co-located with an experimental meeting). The leaders of each constituent group could get together at one COMBINE meeting and consider suggestions for desirable co-location meetings for the NEXT COMBINE meeting. ""Desirable"" could be a weighted sum of 1) likelihood of drawing an interested crowd of contributors to COMBINE, 2) probability that COMBINE stalwarts could learn from the ""other"" meeting, 3) whether a current COMBINE leader/member is in a position to promote COMBINE to the membership of the ""other"" meeting/society, 4) geography/weather/food/sports/history/arts in the proposed location. This can be seen as just another instance of the importance of casting a big net. I know modelers all over the world who have no concept of SBML, much less COMBINE, when I ask about them. COMBINE is a great idea. SBML is a great idea. But standards will ALWAYS fail if they don't bring ALL the stakeholders into the tent. The goals to reduce number of trips or time away from home are laudable for many reasons. If you want to co-locate, and not double the length of the trip, you could schedule COMBINE for, say, 9PM every night of a 4-day co-located meeting. Everyone will decide what is important enough to warrant a trip, what sessions they have most to offer/learn, and how much sleep they can do without in the name of science.
  22. I believe whatever comes out of this vote, a ""feasibility"" factor must be taken into account. For instance, we MUST have a local organizer. If not possible with an ICSB, then we should not co-localize.

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