Updates from the OBF Event Fellowship Chairs

We are delighted to announce that Caleb Kibet and Hilyatuz Zahroh, two members who recently joined the OBF board, will be joining Malvika Sharan as the co-chairs of the OBF Event Fellowship program. Inviting contributions from the OBF board members, as well as bringing insights from their lived experiences, Caleb, Hilya and Malvika will re-evaluate how we can manage the OBF Event fellowship more effectively going forward. 

There is a growing body of evidence, including the report from BOSC 2021, that virtual events are indeed more equitable for our colleagues from the Global South (see references: [1] & [2]), who were inadvertently excluded from most international events which required expensive travelling before the pandemic. However, in 2021, we saw a decline in applications to the Event Fellowship where we specifically accepted applications requesting funding for online conferences. We suspected that, after a year of the pandemic, most people working remotely must have managed the basic setup to attend virtual events.  It is also possible that many potential applicants might consider the expense for participation trivial enough that they didn’t want to spend time writing proposals or dealing with the admin workload of requesting fee assistance, and instead pay it out of their own pockets. Furthermore, online events are often free and/or provide free recordings to watch after the event – removing the need to pay a registration fee. 

The goal of the OBF Event fellowship programme is to create opportunities for exposure to open science practises in bioinformatics and enhance collaboration among diverse researchers by covering participation costs for attendees from underrepresented groups. Considering the recent evolution of scientific events, there is a need to assess how we continue to support participants who represent their local research, exchange knowledge and benefit communities more widely through their participation in international scientific events. 

With the new co-chairs on board, we will reflect on changes we can make in this programme that benefits members from marginalised groups and low-income backgrounds through learning, sharing and networking opportunities – potentially helping them advance their careers and impact the directions of bioinformatics research at the international level. We encourage you to participate in the discussion via this GitHub issue: https://github.com/OBF/obf-docs/issues/88.

We have just opened the call for the first round of Event Fellowship applications for 2022; read details and apply before 1 April 2022.


[1] Harris, N.L., Cock, P.J.A., Fields, C.J. et al. BOSC 2021, the 22nd Annual Bioinformatics Open Source Conference [version 1; peer review: not peer reviewed]. F1000Research 2021, 10(ISCB Comm J):1054. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.74074.1

[2] Skiles, M., Yang, E., Reshef, O. et al. Conference demographics and footprint changed by virtual platforms. Nat Sustain (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00823-2