Thursday, 30 July 2015


ISMB/ECCB 2015 (and HitSEQ 2015) was held in Dublin, just across the Irish Sea from us here in Aberystwyth. So off we went, to find out the latest research in bioinformatics. There were many parallel tracks, but the recurring themes of the talks I attended were:
  • lots of work on human genomics, particularly disease, particularly cancer
  • single cell analysis, finding variation (SNVs) from clonal populations, haplotype resolution
  • sequencing technologies: RNA-seq, sequencing of methylation, Hi-C sequencing, ultra deep sequencing and lots of promise for long reads
  • reference sequences: most people were working with a reference rather than de-novo
  • training bioinformaticians, maintaining software, keeping a core of bioinfomaticians
  • the Burrows Wheeler transform - does it solve every large-data problem?
  • graphs, and ways of cleaning up graphs, adding weights to graphs, finding minimal/maximal components of graphs
There wasn't very much about the following topics, though they did make occasional appearances:
  • text mining
  • metagenomics
  • multi-omics
Too hard? Dropping out of favour? Or perhaps people working in these areas just don't attend this particular conference?

Aberystwyth PhD students with their posters: Stefani Dritsa, Sam Nicholls, Tom Hitch, Francesco Rubino

The keynote talks tended to be of the kind that long-established group PIs do well. They're the "Here's a summary of all the work my group has been doing for the past 5-10 years to answer this particular biological question" talk. While I admire their determination and group size, I feel that they're speaking only to a subgroup of the audience with this kind of talk, and that a keynote should somehow also aim to more generally inspire the audience to go out and do great work, have new ideas, think in new directions, and not just to have learned a little more about that specific subject area. The far more off-the-wall non-keynote talk by David Searls about a bioinformatic analysis of James Joyce's book Ulysses fascinated the audience, and provided exactly that. He received a huge round of applause.

The jobs notice boards were full (below are just 2 of the notice boards). More bioinformaticians are clearly needed!

Many of the conference talks are now online, but you need to be a member of ISCB to see them The papers are also collected in a special ISMB/ECCB issue of Bioinformatics.