Minutes:2008 ConfCall

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Scheduled for Nov 19, 12:30 - 2PM PST via Conference call. Please email board@open-bio.org to receive call-in information so we will know how many callers there will be.


Old Business

  1. Approve minutes from BOSC 2008 Meeting

New Business

  1. To vote on a new member to the board, Kam Dahlquist
  2. Discuss leadership changes and plan how Board membership will be expanded in the next year
  3. BOSC 2009: planning is underway by BOSC committee, will discuss any input needed by BoD
  4. Treasurer's financial report from summer 2008, with accounts updated to be current for
  5. Any purchase or server hosting decisions
    • I put some thoughts regarding the OSC hosting offer on my talk page: User:Dag --Dag 20:34, 19 November 2008 (UTC)


Venue: held by conference call, starting 12.30pm Pacific Time (US).


  • Directors: Jason Stajich, Hilmar Lapp, Chris Dagdigian
  • Director nominee: Kam Dahlquist
  • Guests: Andrew McSweeny, Lonnie Welch, Steve Chervitz, Mauricio Herrera Cuadra


Hilmar calls meeting to order. All 3 current BoD members are present, so quorum for elections and decisions is reached. Brief introductions of the BoD members follow.

  • Jason moves to approve the minutes from BOSC 2008, Chris seconds. Motion unanimously approved.
  • Proceeded to vote on Kam Dahlquist's candidacy to the Board of Directors. Jason and Hilmar express their excitement about Kam volunteering to serve and gratitude about her patience with the amount of time it took to make this vote happen. Kam states her motivations and teaching and research interests, and how serving on the Board fits into that.
    • Votes cast as electronic ballots, using SurveyMonkey (with settings no IP logging, 3 votes max, one vote per computer).
    • Result: Kam Dahlquist is unanimously elected to the Board of Directors with 3 votes in favor, none against, and none abstaining. We warmly welcome Kam to the Board.

Leadership changes, Board expansion

  • Kam suggests to use BOSC, in particular BOSC 2009 which is currently being planned, as a vehicle to direct a membership and leadership volunteering drive
    • We could create a mailing list of people to target
    • Compile avenues for advertising.
    • ISCB student council, ISCB education committee would be good allies for recruitment of members and exchange of ideas and information
    • PLoS at ISMB 2008 has offered up ideas of mutual linking to each other on the respective websites. Kam would be willing to follow up on that if agreed upon.
  • What is the advantage of being a member, being a part of the organization?
    • Should create a concise statement of what those benefits are.
  • Should expand our mission statement to be broader about the support of open source software in bioinformatics, to better explain what the OBF stands for.
    • Pointer to and explicit support of OSI, lobby journals to encourage authors to use open-source licenses, promoting open source software to granting agencies
    • Education is another aspect.
    • We get interviewed on occasion by reporters. It would be great to have a statement of principles to point reporters and others to.
  • As an organization, we have oscillated between narrow project support and broader vision statement.
    • Have discussed pro-bono education activities to institutions that don't have the means to provide it.
    • However, the reality is that most people are brought to the organization through the software being developed under the OBF umbrella. The manpower on the Board is very limited at this point, and it is not clear whether the membership would actually support (resource-wise) a wider mission.
  • Kam suggests to draft a vision statement, which could then be approved by the Board and serve as a reference.
    • Jason motions to revisit the vision statement and to draft an updated statement, which would then be invited for feedback and input by the membership. Hilmar seconds, and motion passes with unanimous consent.
    • Suggested timeline is to have a draft up for people to look at one month in advance of the BOSC 2009 conference.

BOSC 2009

  • Kam as the organizing chair reports that the proposal is due today and will be submitted by her later today.
    • We will try something a bit unusual: the afternoon of the second day will feature an overlapping session with the Post-genomic Grand Challenges SIG (f.k.a. Post-ENCODE SIG), organized by Lonnie Welch.
    • We plan to recruit 2 keynote speakers.
    • Traditional sessions (Bio* updates, OSS, BoF, lightning talks) remain.
    • We will try to actively recruit people to submit abstracts to the theme sessions.
    • Authors presenting software will be asked to come prepared to give tutorials.
    • Regular genomics hackathon being planned concurrent with the tutorials, led by Lonnie Welch and some work of his group.
    • Kam is overseer and chair, Lonnie Welch will be co-chair and help with coordinating between the different theme sessions.
    • ISCB's approval is due Dec 17, plan is to hit the ground running from that point on forward. We will be setting up OCS or EasyChair to manage the conference submissions.
    • BOSC 2009 page and its discussion page have dates and links.
  • Lonnie invites ideas and input to the regulatory genomics software and design patterns themes.
  • Kam plans to subscribe all past conference participants to the BOSC-announce list, which is deemed fine unanimously.
  • Plan is to make the submitted planning document public after submission.

OSC Hosting Offer

  • Ashok Krishnamurthy joins the meeting. He is Director of Research at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC).
    • State-funded agency to provide computing services to the entire Ohio higher education community
    • Hosting OBF seems much in keeping with the long-term charge of the OSC
    • Would like to gather information on what would be involved in requirements and needed resources to take this back to his stakeholder community so they can decide.
  • Chris reports that currently we have 2 physical servers owned by the OBF, several virtual servers, located in a colocation cage with industry-standard security and network connection with several layers of redundancy. The source code server code.open-bio.org is hosted as a virtual server on BioTeam hardware.
    • Network bandwidth and colocation is donated by BioTeam.
    • Due to the BioTeam contract, network bandwidth is limited to 11MB. OBF services don't come anywhere near to this at present.
    • Most of the load originates from email.
    • We have most of the system administration done by volunteers, for example mailing list administration.
  • Chris suggests that the limited system administration resources may have been one of the factors in being rather careful about starting up new projects under the umbrella.
  • Maintenance and system administration is all run by volunteers.
  • There has been a long-standing discussion about deploying test installations of various OBF umbrella-related services (such as DAS) and databases (such as GBrowse, BioSQL), as testbeds for developers.
  • Lonnie's motivation was that the Ohio Bioinformatics Consortium is building infrastructure at present, which could synergize very well with the needs or goals of OBF.
    • Computing infrastructure for biologists, state-of-the-art turnkey solution for scientists.
  • Our current need doesn't really seem to be additional hardware, rather system administration resources.
    • Prebuilding ready-to-install images of the bioinformatics toolkits could be a unique service that OSC can provide.
  • Hardware and bandwidth to support OBF services: what are our current limitations?
    • Examples are databases for testing (BioSQL, GMOD, GBrowse), web-services (LSID, DAS, etc).
    • OSC would need a concrete proposal of what they would provide, and how it would be used and by whom.
      • Biggest limitation is human resources, hardware resrouces are less limited.
      • Ashok would work with Lonnie to create a value proposition.
    • Setup at BioTeam is tailored towards and focused on making the developers' life easy. Possibility for OSC to provide value on the computing environment, such as web services and other software installations, protected shell accounts, etc. Could be a learning resource for building the software developed within the umbrella.
      • Could also have good synergy with the Bioinformatics fellowship program at Ohio, students are always in search of thesis projects. Could also tie in with a Summer of Code participation.
      • Ashok states that would fall very well in line with the Ohio Bioinformatics Consortium's mission.
    • Steve Chervitz comments that this would likely create great interest in the DAS community, which has recently become quite active again. The community could also contribute to mentoring trainees, such as Summer of Code students or Ohio bioinformatics students.
      • IGB could also be hosted by OBF (is presently hosted at SourceForge, which has had problems).
  • Jason motions to draft a proposal to the Ohio Bioinformatics Consortium about which hardware resources the OSC could uniquely contribute, and what formal mentorship relationships could be developed for developer trainees.
    • Hilmar seconds. Approved by unanimous consent.
    • Jason is willing to provide ideas, Chris volunteers to help with fleshing out and write. Hilmar would also be willing to help. Aiming for 1st quarter in 2009.
    • Lonnie says that the Bioinformatics Scholarship program of OBC is just coming online, so having something in Q1 2009 would be good. Suggests to have a brainstorming call even before Xmas.
  • Hardware purchase decisions are postponed for when the proposal is written.
    • Our current systems are 32-bit, need to upgrade in 2009.

Financial report

  • Cash balance gets swept into a money market account and earns very little interest ($125).
  • The current balance stems nearly entirely from the early BOSC conferences, and was hence earned several years ago.
    • Our revenue from BOSC has completely dried up due to ISCB handling the BOSC budget and finances.
  • Received two donations at BOSC 2008 ($1,000 from Helicos, $250 from an anonymous donor)
    • The $250 donation was awarded to two student presenters as travel support. Still need to send those checks.
    • The $1000 check has been deposited. The funds will be used to pay the keynote speaker expenses.
  • Minor expenses (primarily domain purchases or extensions) are mostly donated by Chris.
  • Kam repors that the current balance of the escrow account with ISCB is $14,847.25. This increased from 2007 because we made a surplus at the 2008 conference and did not pay expenses out of escrow.
    • Keynote speaker expenses and compensation will be reimbursed from bank account, not the ISCB escrow. This still needs to be completed.
  • Comment from Andrew that the cost of attending BOSC is too high and that that was the main reason for him not to attend in 2008.
    • We have no control over how ISCB sets the registration fee. We could try to influence the amount, but past experience shows that this is not likely going to affect much if anything.
    • But we can institute a student scholarship program. Need to investigate how we can award scholarships out of the ISCB escrow; this will likely need to be tied to reimbursing travel costs.
    • Should assess how many students we have had in 2008, and see whether a scholarship program can change this.
    • Postponing an actual motion on this until we have the numbers on the table on costs, how much we can afford, and how much impact we could make.
  • Chris apologizes for having dropped the ball several times on the course to re-establish the corporation in good standing, and to becoming 501(c)3 approved.
    • Chris offers his resignation if requested by the Board. None of the Directors motions to request this, so the offer is dismissed.
    • Reminds us that the 501(c)3 process takes a non-negligible amount of work, and we should be sure that the effort is worth the benefits and in line with our future mission. Cost would be up to $4,000 one-time for the IRS paperwork, and annual expenses for financial and accounting compliance could be $1,500-2000.
    • Incorporated as a Delaware not-for-profit fraternal organization. We are back in good standing with the State of Delaware (which requires $75 in fees annually).
  • Conclusion is to revisit this question when we draft the extended mission statement. It is deemed critical that we know what we would spend the money for if we are going down the route of fund-raising.

Final remarks:

  • Phone conference worked pretty well, and could work well going forward in helping us make decisions when we need to rather than being stalled due to quorum issues.
  • Chris suggests to integrate Webex or a Webex-like service to have more interactivity.

Meeting adjourns at 2.40pm Pacific Time (US).

Note added in proof

After the meeting Steve Trutane (f.k.a. Chervitz), and in response Hilmar, provided additional information and comments on the 501(c)3 status alternatives. Specifically, there is mechanism called Fiscal Sponsorship (see also http://www.publiccounsel.org/cdp/fiscal_sponsor.pdf) which may offer a promising alternative that avoids the hassle and costs of gaining and maintaining 501(c)3 status ourselves, yet would retain the benefits for donors. It turns out that the Software Freedom Conservancy mentioned during the meeting is exactly such a Fiscal Sponsorship offering entity with a focus on open-source software projects. For the purposes of becoming a Conservancy member, the core OBF activities (such as providing project infrastructure and running BOSC) might then become their own sub-project.