Festus Nyasimi: Journey to the ISMB/BOSC 2022 conference

The Open Bioinformatics Foundation (OBF) Event Fellowship program aims to promote diverse participation at events promoting open source bioinformatics software development and open science practices in the biological research community. Festus Nyasimi, A co-founder and lead of the Bioinformatics Hub of Kenya Initiative (BHKi), attended the ISMB/BOSC conference 2022, supported by this fellowship granted to him in the first round of 2022.

In mid-May, I attended a different conference where I shared my experience with community building in the bioinformatics space with one of the attendees. I had a chance to brief them about the BHKI community we are building and growing in Africa. Immediately they suggested I should check out the ISMB/BOSC conference happening on July 11th – 14th, 2022.

I looked into it immediately, and I was lucky to find the late abstract submission round was still on. I sent in an abstract on our community, its activities, and the progress we have made in the region. A few weeks later, our abstract was strongly accepted for poster presentation and iced up with free registration. Bam!!! This felt like a Lebron James slam dunk or Steph Curry swish three point shot. Never felt this happy to go share our work with a larger bioinformatics community.

In the happy moment, the rush to plan for the conference set in; this included travel, accommodation and misc stuff. The rest of the team and I worked on the presentation alongside our training activities; this is one amazing team. Considering we are a young and growing community mostly running training through volunteering and small grants to cater for the training, we had to find a source of funding to cater for the conference fee and that’s where the OBF Event fellowship showed up perfectly. Honestly, I least expected this but I didn’t discount myself and gave it a shot; I always tell myself, if I don’t knock, I will never know the answer”.

Fast forward, here I am at the conference; I got to attend some sessions i.e. BioInfo Core, NetBio, Varl, MLCSB and Educational COSI, where I learnt many new skills in Bioinformatics the BOSC track started. Some of the things I learned I will propose to the organizing team we develop tutorials for the community to learn from. The opening day of BOSC was the peak of the conference for me; I had an opportunity to learn more about open-source software, how to efficiently contribute to ongoing projects and how to help communities grow. I also had a chance to join the GA4GH VRS hackathon at the conference. I had a good opportunity to represent the BHKI community on what we are doing and received great responses from attendees who visited my poster. The light was shining on our community; I hope the spotlight will be on and attract more collaborators to help us achieve our mission of a collaborative and inclusive hub.

Some of the cool people I meet at BOSC: panelist Jenea Adams and keynote speaker Jason Williams.

I learned how to advocate for our community to grow well towards achieving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals; these are necessary for a strong, welcoming and collaborative community. Interacting with attendees at the conference provided me with an opportunity to learn more about leadership and how to be a good leader from a different perspective. I look forward to keeping in touch with other communities to grow further collaborations, especially in community empowerment.

Generally, the whole conference turned out to be the best one I have attended in many months through the pandemic, and I am so thankful to OBF, all organisations and team members who made it possible for me to attend the conference. Looking forward to more of these sweet moments.

This Twitter post got my notifications blowing a trumpet! While you are here, check out the BHKI website and Twitter we have some cool stuff. 🙂

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