The path from CDSBMexico 2018 to BioC2019

Path to BioC2019

Last year the Community of Bioinformatics Software Developers (CDSB in Spanish) organized a one week workshop designed to train R users how to write R packages and ideally contribute them to Bioconductor. The workshop itself was a success as described in our summary post about the event. However, we didn’t want to stop there. We formed CDSB and teamed up with TIB (“Talleres Internacionales de Bioinformática”) from NNB-UNAM with the goal of simulating the BioC yearly meeting where attendees can learn R, mature as R users and become R developers. We also organized this workshop because we want to see more Latin Americans at BioC.

BioC2019 application process

Time passed since our 2018 workshop as everyone continued on their regular jobs and training programs. BioC2019 was then announced and with it were announced the application guidelines for:

  • Presenting a talk or poster
  • Applying for a travel award
  • Proposing a workshop

Basically, those applying for a travel award had to:

  • Create a website or upload their CV to a publicly available website
  • Answer in about 150 words or less How have you participated in the Bioconductor project in the past?
  • Answer in about 150 words or less What do you hope to get out of the conference?
  • Write a scientific abstract of 300 words or less for the talk/poster proposal1.

The whole process, while designed to be welcoming, can be a bit daunting if this is your first time applying and if English is not your native language. Thus, when we reminded our community members about BioC2019 we offered our help for this application process.

Helping CDSB members

Given their experience with Bioconductor, Alejandro Reyes and Leonardo Collado Torres volunteer to help CDSB members. The reminder blog post and individually contacting some CDSBMexico 2018 attendees helped find and motivate members to apply. Simply encouraging them and telling them that they had a realistic chance made a big difference, that is, believing in them and the work that we’ve done already as a community. There were many emails, Slack message channels and documents shared, but ultimately the clean version of the process was the following.

  1. A CSDB member expressed interest in BioC2019 to a CDSB volunteer (Alejandro or Leonardo).
  2. A CSDB volunteer reminded them of the BioC2019 application process and clarified any rule questions they had. If appropriate, the CDSB volunteer also explained some options for creating websites hosted on GitHub.
  3. The CDSB member wrote their draft answers to the two questions, plus their draft abstract, in a Google Doc that they shared with the CDSB volunteers with edit permissions. Similarly, the CDSB member created a draft website.
  4. All CDSB volunteers provided suggestions on how to present their information more clearly to the application reviewers keeping in mind what the CDSB member wanted to express about themselves or their work.
  5. The CDSB member made modifications and if appropriate asked for another round of feedback.

Basically, the CDSB volunteers passed on the best practices they know for filling out these applications and writing abstracts, including here some timely advice from Wolfgang Huber (a longtime Bioconductor Project contributor).

The end result

In the end, three CDSB members went through the whole process and created their websites:

They all submitted their applications for the BioC2019 travel award before the deadline expired on March 15th 2019, something that we emphasized they should do!

A couple of weeks passed, and on April 2nd we were delighted to report that all three of them got 10 minute talks 🎙and travel awards ✈️approved. This is an enormous win for CDSB and a huge morale boost 🎉🥳.

We cannot hide our excitement about these news and are looking forward to seeing them at BioC2019! We hope that all of them will have a great experience 🙌🏽😃

A word from our CDSB members going to BioC2019

Like we’ve said, this is just the beginning and we want to keep helping others in years to come. We thus asked Ana, César and Joselyn to share a few words to future CDSB members on the BioC2019 travel award application process and the feedback they got from CDSB volunteers.

Ana

The application process for BioC2019 and the travel award is not so difficult at the end but when I read the requirements for the first time I was overwhelmed, I had never published a web page before and I needed it to cover one of the requirements that asked for a personal website or public CV! It crossed my mind that I would not apply but Leo and Alejandro cheered me up, supported and guided me to create my own website (now I do webpages in R for anything that I can, hehe). They also helped me with the remaining requirements and at the end, I was able to enjoy the application process, I truly appreciate all the assistance they provided me and I can’t wait to meet them in NY. Without a doubt, Leo and Alejandro are accessible and inspiring bioinformaticians and people, as a consequence CDSB is a friendly and engaged community with the aim to impulse Mexican bioinformatic development to the world.

César

When I attended CDSB Mexico 2018, the last thing I imagined was that the process would culminate in me receiving a travel scholarship for BioC2019; Impostor syndrome is absolutely real. When talking about my master’s thesis with both Alejandro and Leo, they encouraged me to go all the way with its code and try and make a contribution to the Bioconductor project in the process. Said task seemed insurmountable in the beginning. However, after attending CDSB Mexico 2018, my perspective changed significantly. A deciding factor in me taking the plunge to actually go through with the contribution and consequent conference application was the overwhelmingly constructive support I received from the community at every stage in the process, from my original idea, all the way up to the conference’s application. Along the process, I noticed that even when we often expect to have an absolutely perfect product (a personal webpage, an online CV or an r package and all that it entails) from the get-go, this is rarely the way in which things happen. Cliché as it may sound, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Being able to shift my mindset and recognize the incremental nature of contributing has definitely set a precedent for how i’ll be handling most career oriented endeavors from now on; hopefully with continued contributions to the Bioconductor project and the open-source domain! If there’s anything I have to say to future applicants and CDSB members is just that: Do it! Reach out! Apply while embracing the community that’s there for you! With a little luck and elbow grease, things might just go your way, as they did for me.

Joselyn

When Alejandro Reyes and Leonardo Collado told me about applying to BioC2019 I felt nervous. I did not consider to submit my work and even less to apply for a scholarship before receiving their e-mail. They gave me all their trust and support through the process. Now I have been elected and feel very excited with this huge opportunity. I realize how warm the CDSBMexico community can be and that is possible to be part of meetings like BioC2019, all you have to do is let go of the fear to do it.


  1. Or propose a workshop, but that’s too much to ask from those just starting their BioC journeys. It’s more appropriate for BioC veterans. ^
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Leonardo Collado-Torres, PhD
Staff Scientist II

Brain genomics #rstats coder working w/ @andrewejaffe @LieberInstitute. @lcgunam @jhubiostat @jtleek alumni. @LIBDrstats @CDSBMexico co-founder.

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