The current executive team (ET) has been around for two years, and will be stepping down soon. Starting from January 2017, a new leadership team will be heading the ISCB Student Council. This transition period is therefore an excellent time to look back at what has changed and what we have accomplished with the Student Council over the past few years.
Looking back at the candidate statements of the current ET when they were elected in 2014, and re-elected in 2015, most of us agreed on the main issues that needed to be addressed within the Student Council. These included reinforcing our infrastructure and funding to support our ever-growing activities, improve the transparency and communication of the organisation, and promote more interactions among the different Regional Student Groups (RSG).
Here we note some of the accomplishments and activities undertaken as a team with the help of many volunteers over the two terms.
We have more RSGs!
The number of RSGs has greatly grown from 21 when the current ET started in 2014, to more than 30 at the current time, thanks to the great efforts of the RSG committee and enthusiastic volunteers in various regions. Furthermore, in several regions such as Europe and Latin America, many RSGs from different countries have started collaborating on events and fostering interactions across borders.
More than doubled the funding for RSGs
In response to the growing RSGs, the ET has successfully sought 5000 USD (previously 2000 USD) from ISCB for funding the events organized by the RSGs across the world. The increase is merited as the number of RSGs is steadily growing, along with the excellent event proposals from the groups.
Survey among RSGs for feedback and quality of life improvements
Furthermore, the RSG procedures underwent thorough review and revision based on feedback through online surveys that saw participation from RSG leaders and regular meetings with the RSG committee. Many of the changes involved improving the efficiency of backend management within the organisation. The first changes that are now visible include ready-to-use templates for funding and renewal applications. Several other changes are pending, which will be picked up by the new team.
Higher visibility on social media
A big push was made to foster interactions between the Student Council and the overall computational biology community by making our presence much more visible on social media. Through the efforts of dedicated volunteers, news about the Student Council reaches a wider audience on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and the following for the organization has steadily grown over the past two years. We now have a sizable welcoming online community where members exchange experiences and ideas, share news and report on SC events.
A new community forum was initiated to provide an informal environment for discussions with the wider Student Council community, and expand dialogue and bridge communications with RSGs. With steady activity already in place, we hope that the forum will also help stimulate collaborations, discussions on career advice, research and much more.
Several successful symposia
The Student Council Symposia have remained the central events on the SC calendar and in the past two years we organised five symposia on four different continents. Each edition was well received by its attendees, in a large part thanks to the efforts of the symposium chairs, volunteers and the support from sponsors.
In the spirit of transparency and community involvement, the ET organised the first ‘megameeting’ on Hangouts-On-Air in the beginning of 2016 to explain Student Council's initiatives, take questions and suggestions from all over the world. The meeting is available on YouTube (ISCB Student Council Online Meeting 2016).
Improved knowledge transfer
In the past few years, there has been an increased focus to preserve knowledge and experience. Volunteers that take on leadership roles within the organisation now gain access to a wealth of information stored in wikis regarding past events, lessons learned and suggested timelines. This has already been very beneficial in getting new leaders up and running as soon as possible.
Launched new website, submission system and newsletter
Finally, talented volunteers have expanded our online infrastructure, which included a much needed full overhaul of the SC website (which may never be fully finished), creation of a dedicated SC submission system (to great relief of those who had to work with others) and a new system to send out newsletters to our members (which you are reading now!).
None of these accomplishments are solely our own, but were done as a community. Without the extremely motivated and competent volunteers that make up our organisation, and the continued support we receive from ISCB, none of these would have been possible. While it is impossible to list every single individual here, you all have our utmost thanks. It has truly been a pleasure to work with such a wonderful group of people.
Looking forward, there is a new leadership team on the horizon. This will not only result in changes for the ET, but as is customary, this is also a time when several other active volunteers bow out or move to other positions within the organisation. So you will be seeing a lot of new faces in the future, all of them extremely passionate about the Student Council and its goals of developing our research field. Join us in welcoming the new leadership!
Pieter Meysman (@chevaliersf)
Chair, ISCB Student Council 2015-2016
Student Council Representative to ISCB Board of Directors 2015-2016