COMBINE 2011 Exit Survey

Question #1: If you had to pick one thing that you wish had been different about the meeting and could be improved, what would it be?

  1. The one thing I've thought of is on the organisation information -- I didn't realise when I booked my hotel how lacking public transport to the area was, since most conference venues have good links. It would have been nice to be alerted to this fact, and for the shuttle bus to have been mentioned on the website earlier. Had this happened I would probably have booked a town centre hotel instead.
  2. There should have been explicit break out sessions for the core elements (SBML, SBGN, BioPAX) as well as for interoperability.
  3. The overall structure of the meeting (not the organisation per se). Throwing everyone in one big room and hoping for the best only seems to result in at least a third of the audience not interested and doing something else. While I appreciate the ideal, the current format is not optimal, i.e., there is not enough time or opportunity for open, in-depth, detailed discussion.
  4. I would suggest less time for presentations and more for discussions in both full session and breakouts.
  5. The EVO link video resolution was poor, and the sound was worse.
  6. Possibility to stay longer at the meeting venue. Having extra 15-30 minutes after the meeting ends but before bus comes would be helpful for continuing discussions. Even better would be having two shuttles, one departing at 18:15 and another at 19:00.
  7. Stick to the schedule -- create timeslots designated to discuss fundamental topics rather than discuss those right after a talk.
  8. I think the COMBINE community could be helped with a bit more interaction with end-users, and should be more open to outsiders. To this end, do you think we could reserve a day for talks from modelers / biologists / users? In general, I think our presentations should contain a bit less raw programming code and a bit more gentle introduction, to make sure we don't scare away outsiders. The techno-babble could be reserved for break-out sessions, and also for HARMONY of course.
  9. It was looking good at the start, but very soon the wireless internet was the suck. I'm going to cheat and add a second thing. I think the location/agenda worked very well (more below); My one regret coming back was that I did not once see Heidelberg in the day. And of course I did not want to miss any of the meeting.
  10. I think the breakout sessions should be longer, with fewer presentations. Discussion about the new features of a language could be made in place of some presentations as well with everybody present.
  11. We shouldn't present too many software tools and their features in general. The presentations should be more about the development of the standards and what has been changed since the last meeting. Where are discussions needed? The presentation should present open questions followed by discussion and break-out sessions to solve the presented issues. But the discussion might not always be needed right after the presentation since in some cases you need to think about it.
  12. Bigger tables, since I cannot think of anything else more constructive.
  13. Everything was fine.
  14. Nothing. It seemed to be well organised and ran very smoothly. The mix of speakers and topics was great and seemed to encourage a lot of interaction between the different communities present at the workshop.
  15. Maybe a true poster session would have been nice or something to highlight the posters.
  16. Fewer presentations of the type "Well, here is what we have been doing lately" and more discussion among the whole group of issues identified before the meeting with the goal of coming to consensus.
  17. This is very hard to define because the meeting was very very good. One of the biggest bothers was all the speakers who did not try their presentations on the beamer beforehand. We lost a significant amount of time with that. And some presentations also lost slides/movies etc.
  18. It was a bit difficult to reach the location by public transportation.
  19. Run it during the week and not over the weekend.
  20. More discussions, less talks / presentations.
  21. More still water to drink.
  22. The length of the meeting. 5 Days was too long -- especially as a satellite meeting of ICSB.
  23. The timing should be changed. ICSB + workshops + COMBINE in direct succession is simply too many days in a row.
  24. The too-remote location which was impossible to reach except by the shuttle bus.
  25. A location more in the city.
  26. From my opinion the meeting was great. The only thing I found a little strange is that some people did up to 2-3 presentation (of course discussion sessions don't count!). Maybe there haven't been more presentation submissions, but that was a little unusual I think. I think one poster session would have been great.
  27. Begin on Monday.
  28. I could have wished for more time for discussions or smaller meetings. The presentation schedule, in my opinion, precluded time for informal discussions. I also would have left at least half, or even all, of Sunday free for those whose religious sensibilities would have preferred a day of rest.
  29. Not to put it back-to-back with ICSB. I am away from home for two weeks, and it is too long for me. If I can pick another, I wish the (or more) BioPAX people were there.
  30. It might be a good idea to have more time for breakout sessions, so that breakout sessions not take place in parallel to the talks. (Maybe one day just dedicated to breakout sessions.) Especially for this COMBINE meeting it probably might have been better to start on Friday and probably get some attention from participants of the ICSB. It might be an idea to use these last day of ICSB which it is often used for tutorials and workshops as a kind of COMBINE tutorial on ICSB for all the standards.
  31. I liked everything about the meeting, so there is nothing that comes to my mind.
  32. Organisation of break outs -- I thought this was a bit chaotic on the first day, but maybe it improved afterwards (which I don't know). I guess this can be simply improved by better stating who will be responsible for the break-outs: will it be in the hands of the organisers (in which case they should do the updates per mail and assign times and rooms well in advance), or should it rather be the duty of the person who announced the break out?
  33. This meeting was one of the most convivial, well-organized and warm-spirited meetings I've ever attended so I'm struggling to find anything I seriously would to change. Perhaps the number, names, locations and capacities of break-out rooms could be made available in advance of the meeting to allow a more orderly scheduling process that could start before the meeting? Some breakouts are spontaneous, but others can be predicted well in advance, which might cut down the incidence of conflicts.

Question #2: If you had to pick one thing that you think worked well about the meeting and you think should be done the same way in the future, what would it be?

  1. The food and refreshments provision was excellent.
  2. The debate about the future of COMBINE -- it showed many interests and facets.
  3. I think everything else went well. It was a very productive and interesting meeting.
  4. It was in other respects a great meeting. Oh and the food was excellent too :)
  5. Schedule was good.
  6. Organization of breakout sessions.
  7. COMBINE was a great place for collaborations, interactions and new ideas. The venue was great too. And the closing song, of course :)
  8. I think the location/venue worked perfectly. The town was a reasonable enough distance away that people did not "bunk off" mid-day, or arrive late, etc., since the bus schedule was limited. That made for an excellent turnout for pretty much the entire meeting, in stark contrast to NY Harmony.
  9. The Excel sheet to organize break out sessions worked well.
  10. Availability of drinks throughout; although I suspect most meeting venues do not have the facility !
  11. The time for individual talks in comparison to the audience presentations was well organized. Since coffee breaks are actually very important, I liked the number and time of breaks a lot.
  12. I thought the online spreadsheet organising the breakout sessions worked well.
  13. Everything was well done from a user point of view. At the end, everybody found a way to do what they wanted.
  14. Open, collegial atmosphere.
  15. The mix of lectures, presentations, and discussions. There were more discussions than in COMBINE 2010.
  16. The discussion sessions were good.
  17. The online events schedule that was kept continuously up-to-date.
  18. Good facilities.
  19. Great organisation, great facilities. Thanks, Martin and the other organisers!
  20. Having the conference dinner included in the price worked well. Pretty much everyone was there and the quality of the place was great. Free drinks helped too ;-)
  21. Picking a good venue with facilities designed to host such size/type of conferences.
  22. Except for the last day the schedule was perfect. That is most speakers were able to keep to the assigned time slot.
  23. The location was great. The presentations were interesting. I liked that there were two organized evenings so there is more time to just talk in a more relaxed environment.
  24. I really liked the Villa Bosch.
  25. Your online program schedule, continually updated and including presentation slides, was most helpful.
  26. Everything.
  27. The organisation of COMBINE directly after ICSB. The integration of the two keynotes.
  28. Lucian has to sing at the next meeting again. (-:
  29. Video/EVO recording :-)
  30. The mix of standards & tools talks was very effective. At first I thought the tool talks were not such a good idea -- after all, we're the developers, not the end users. But actually, it's very useful to gain inspiration from the way other people are implementing support for standards, see possibilities for code-sharing and re-use, etc.

Question #3: Was the length of this whole meeting (Sep. 3–7) appropriate and desirable, or too long, or too short?

This was a multiple-choice question. Here are the total number of replies for each choice:

  • Too long:   7
  • Too short:  0
  • Just right:  7

Question #4: Do you have comments about the length of the meeting?

  1. Slightly too long to be held back-to-back with the ICSB (time and costs) . However, if held as an independent meeting or overlapping with the ICSB tutorials, then the length would be ok.
  2. I think it could be tightened up by a day perhaps.
  3. Although together with ICSB it is quite long.
  4. Perfect I would say.
  5. Less would not be sufficient to discuss everything (as people complained in COMBINE 2010), more would just be too long for people interested in all the efforts and willing to stay.
  6. 4 days would have been perfect.
  7. It depends. I was not inclined to attend the last two days, if only because I my own work does not focus on SBGN.
  8. I'd rather say "pretty long" than too long. If you can make it slightly shorter (especially for times when the meeting is coupled with ICSB) this would be great.
  9. Not too long, but 4 days would be even better.

Question #5: Was the length of each DAY appropriate and desirable, or too long, or too short?

This was a multiple-choice question. Here are the total number of replies for each choice:

  • Too long:    2
  • Too short:   1
  • Just right:  12

Question #6: Do you have comments about the length of the days?

  1. Better to break up the day with semi-structured events; breakouts, task forces, etc.
  2. 9h each day is a little long, but with coffee/lunch breaks it was fine.
  3. I say just right, but I would really have liked one early finish or late start to look at the town for an hour or two. It's not much to ask really... We had a densely packed schedule.
  4. The length of the day was fine. There were plenty of breaks, but still a good 6 hours of organised activities.
  5. I found a schedule of presentations all day every day a tad long. Actually, I decided to skip two lectures one afternoon, and instead I walked over to Villa Bosch where I sat in the sun and read. I think some scheduled free time would have been greatly appreciated.
  6. Perfect. The break outs in the mornings combined with talks in the afternoon are a good mix. And the longer lunch break was good for relaxing.

Question #7: How did you find the ratio of presentations to discussions?

This was a multiple-choice question. Here are the total number of replies for each choice:

  • Too many presentations:   8
  • Too much discussion:        1
  • Just right:                        6

Question #8: Do you have comments about the ratio of presentations to discussions?

  1. The number of presentations was ok, but they could have been shorter: 10-15 minutes, more technical with more discussion. Unless the venue is set up for remote conferencing, remote talks should be kept to a minimum.
  2. 5min discussion right after a presentation is okay -- however the discussion of fundamental problems as well as discussions only involving 2-3 persons should be shifted. 20minutes of discussion (not necessarily about the presentations topic...) do not enhance concentration!
  3. I think we need to put some of COMBINE in parallel sessions. Sometimes there is not enough room for thorough discussions. Although I know some people will want to be at every session, it would be more efficient to force them to choose.
  4. Hmm. Limited choice ;p Not sure if there is more later, but I did like that one of the breakouts was so generically entitled, that it could have been listed at any scientific meeting. We need a short description about what will be covered in a breakout...
  5. Too much discussion tends to bore people who are not in the nitty-gritty details of the formats. But we need some since we do not see each other often other than HARMONY and COMBINE.
  6. If the meeting lasts 5 days next time then I'd like to see more time for discussion. If it's shorter -- say 2 days then that should be completely presentations.
  7. Even though the presentations were informative, for my own part, I would have appreciated more opportunity to discuss and get involved rather than sit in a lecture hall and take notes. Unfortunately, I am incapable of suggesting how to satisfy both these seemingly competing activities.
  8. I tend to think that we should not mix presentation and discussion sessions for the majority of topics, i.e., the different standards. I think that the issues are often too specific to be discussed with the whole audience (so the majority is bored), and should better be targeted in break-outs.
  9. 1 more breakout session would be good.

Question #9: What did you learn during this meeting? (It can be more than one thing.)

  1. I learned that there is only a minimal understanding of what semantic web technologies are, despite them being used in SBML model annotations. It might be worthwhile to have tutorials to bring people up to speed.
  2. I learned the most in discussions both in the full group, breakouts, and one-on-ones. What I was most interested in learning about was the status of various SBML packages, and I did learn this.
  3. What becomes possible if you have well maintained and annotated model code.
  4. I learned about, JUMMP, SBML-Quali, the ortholog database in PANTHER, new proposals for SBGN, many more ...
  5. The progress / issues / aims in related COMBINE efforts.
  6. On the standard front, I learned that several SBML packages were mature, with existing implementations. This is very important as a large chunk of systems biology models were not covered by SBML (think spatial models and logical models). I also learned that people could be identified by the their faeces' metagenome.
  7. The current status of the various standardization efforts. Making contacts with other people in the field.
  8. That someone has finally done something useful with SB ontologies and also an awareness of what the other standard efforts are doing.
  9. That the various standards are not carved in stone, and that with work and diligence one can contribute and make a difference. Being at COMBINE also allowed me to put faces to many names.
  10. I have learned about some nice applications of SED-ML and met people that were investigating SED-ML at the moment, which was nice as I hadn't been aware of some of these projects. For me, most use of the meeting was not the "learning" aspect though, but more to meet up with project partners that one usually only sees on EVO, Skype or via email. Meeting face-to-face once a year really helps to get some work done that is sometimes not so easy to do via other medias (such as drawing UML figures ;-)) and progress in developments.
  11. 1) Learned more about some of the l3 packages and current issues. 2) A potential new outlet for our software. 3) Learned about several new relevant software packages.

Question #10: Following up on the previous question, how was this facilitated by your presence at COMBINE?

  1. It was essential to talk face-to-face to get this information.
  2. At COMBINE, I get quick updates on the state of a lot of projects that are relevant to what I do. Without COMBINE, it would be harder to learn about similar work, which would lead to more redundant work being done.
  3. It was good to talk to interested people and hear their problems, and to communicate to them what we are doing to assist them.
  4. We do not have time to browse every week to see if something has changed. Having reports on all packages at once is crucial.
  5. Making contacts works most effectively when people are physically together in the same space.
  6. By attending the presentations.
  7. Dedicating a few days to full immersion in the sys-bio standards world is probably essential to get a sufficiently global understanding of all that is going on to be able to contribute effectively to actually COMBINING the standards. E.g., the 'refactoring' of SBRML, or the new Validation language may not have come about without people from each community recognising they share a common set of features.

Question #11: Tell us about the good, the bad, and the ugly, in your opinion, about COMBINE 2011. Since this survey is anonymous, you can feel free to be as direct as you want to be. We won't be offended—we're asking for the feedback, after all. We will read all of the feedback and act on as much of it as is practical.

  1. Good: diverse community; driven by use cases. Bad: incomplete distinction between research (which needs to be respected) and community project development (which needs large scale involvement and approval); i didn't see explicit (real) problems and an analysis of how they could be overcome, and a comparison with the approach taken.
  2. While I applaud the idea behind COMBINE, such occasions should be used for in depth and specific standard related discussions which unfortunately now feel somewhat superficial. This situation is not helped by attempting to have discussions in large venues where not everyone is invested in the topic at hand. Hopefully, in future, a more focused COMBINE will be able to achieve this.
  3. It's all good.
  4. Organization was great (bus shuttle, catering, conference rooms).
  5. Using Google Docs to schedule breakout sessions was a good idea, but we need to know in advance how many rooms there are, what their capacity is, and where they are, so that sessions can be assigned to rooms earlier. The earlier one knows where a given breakout will be, the less confusion there will be.
  6. Good - venue, duration, food, coverage of COMBINE efforts, discussions. Bad - BioPAX was just not there, sorry to say, and CellML was limited. For a COMBINE effort, I think it's quite worrying that we are mostly the extended SBML crowd. Ugly - Nothing ugly.
  7. Please keep the way in which this conference is organized.
  8. The good: Martin Golebiewski was incredible, receives the Oscar for Best Organiser; Lucian Smith was fantastic, Oscar for Best Last Words. The bad: The temperamental wireless network. The ugly: the condescending or even aggressive attitude of some of the members of the SBML community towards others was unsettling. This community has historically been open and friendly in the past. What happened?
  9. The parallelization of the breakout groups was a good idea, even if it didn't always work out quite as planned. I would have liked some parallelization of presentations too, to enable a shorter meeting.
  10. Nice place, good facilities, a bit too much in the building all day, too many presentations, not focused enough on specific topics, too few discussions. I'm wondering if it would be good to have one of the meetings (COMBINE or HARMONY) more specifically devoted (and also split) to specific standards, such as only one meeting (2-3 days) for SBML, only one meeting (2-3 days) for SBGN and so on.
  11. This is an issue for both HARMONY and COMBINE. IMHO there is not enough time for focused discussion on one standard, which is compounded by the fact that those committed to multiple standards often have to choose which parallel discussion to participate in. After 3 COMBINE events I feel that the previous separate Forum meetings were much better in getting focused work done on a single standard. That said, I think the concept of COMBINE and HARMONY is good. My preference would be for COMBINE to be a short 2 day meeting of presentations with a focus on interaction between the standards and updates on the standards. Perhaps having an additional tutorial day focused on *user* education. In the same way HARMONY could focus on interaction and interoperability rather than essentially being a forum for parallel discussion meetings. To discuss individual standards we'd go back to the previous model of individual Forum meetings. I know this is counter to one of the aims of reducing travel time, costs etc, but you *did* ask ;-(
  12. The workshop was well organized and executed; better than most I'd say - so congratulations.
  13. Just one thing: after a long first meeting day somewhere in a remote place, please offer a bus shuttle to the hotels and reserve a bit of time for the participants before the reception :) Which was great, as all of COMBINE was perfectly organised! Well done :-) And thanks for taking all the effort to organise such meeting!
  14. 1) Very good idea to invite "new faces" from other projects that, although not currently in COMBINE, may join in the future. 2) But given the talk about "'industry needs this or that standard to be stable" perhaps there should be an effort to invite people from industry to attend. 3) Full marks for organisation, meals, shuttle-bus, admin staff, endless coffee/drinks, Sunday breakfast, lunches, location, conference dinner, website, keeping to time, inspirational keynotes and EVO feeds! ( And anything else I missed.) And it's good the surveys now conclude with a "Done" button rather than a "Next" button as some have done previously.