Following up from BOSC’s OBF Birds of a Feather meeting

It was really great to meet so many of you at GCCBOSC this year! We will soon have a couple of Travel Fellowship blog posts talking about the conference, so we won’t provide too much of a general overview at this point, but we would like to share a little more about one of the Bird of Feather (BoF) events we ran – specifically the OBF community BoF.

The aim of this BoF was to engage anyone who was:

  • Curious about the OBF
  • Interested in suggesting ideas
  • Wanting to help or get more involved with the OBF

The OBF BoF started with a pre-dinner round where we all introduced ourselves and why we were interested in the OBF, and a second round after a quick bite and relocating inside – Portland can get chilly fast in the evening!

Motivations for participating in the BoF included a desire to help people who come from a software background learn more about the biology / bioinformatics side of things. Other participants shared the feeling that they loved the conference but weren’t sure how to take home the “open / good practices make for better software and better research” message we were trying to share.

We ended up with lot of brainstorming and helpful discussions – here are some of the topics.

OBF logo and site

The OBF logo is over a decade old now and looks a little… dated. When we floated the idea of redesigning it at the meeting, we didn’t expect to have sketches roughed out by several attendees before the end of the BoF meeting! We’ve ended up with three different design sets, which you can check out or comment on in this GitHub issue. We’re also considering updating the entire OBF site, if we can find someone to work on that (possibly a summer intern).

Increasing year-round sense of community

For many people, BOSC and the OBF are approximately the same thing – which makes sense, since BOSC is one of the biggest and most noticable things we do. We’d like to support open bioinformatics all year, though. Possible ways we could do this:

  • Local OBF / bioinformatics meetups or hackathons. If the OBF created guidelines for this, would you be interested in running a group in your area?
  • Newsletters with project updates, interesting open / bioinformatics news, events, etc.
  • “How to be open in bioinformatics” webinar – a sort of “open 101” for projects that are interested in being open but aren’t sure where to start. This would be a nice way to kick-start projects that want to present a poster or talk at BOSC but don’t yet meet the openness requirements. (Note that anyone is allowed to attend BOSC, whether or not they have any open repositories – it’s only presenting that mandates a fully open project.)

Joining the OBF as a project or individual

A pertinent question asked at the BoF was: why join, as an individual? Many people have attended BOSC multiple times and even been heavily involved in the community without officially being in the rolls of registered members. The primary reason to join is the ability for membership to vote on issues pertaining to the OBF. In the next few months, we’re hoping to run a vote on changing OBF bylaws pertaining to how projects join, as well as a plain to adopt a Code of Conduct that may apply to both the OBF and its member projects. If this matters to you because A) you care about a project that might be joining soon (there are a couple!) or B) you’d like to see the OBF adopt a more explicit behaviour standard in the form of a CoC, please join the OBF so you can vote!

Get involved

After reading all this, if you’re interested in helping out with any of the ideas or initiatives suggested, please follow up by any of these mechanisms:

  • Open an issue on our OBF-docs repo – this is our preferred method as it allows others to chime in easily and is less transient than a tweet.
  • Leaving a comment on this post!
  • Tweet to @obf_news

Also – please don’t forget to join the OBF if you haven’t already. Any BOSC attendee automatically qualifies for membership, and even if you haven’t attended BOSC before, if you’re reading this post there’s a good chance you’ll fulfil the requirements anyway. Details are in the form!