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Life after Corba: Speakers Address Spectrum Of Bioinformatics Topics at OMG s OiBC 2001

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In line with its commitment to cast a wider net in the life sciences computing community, the Object Management Group Life Sciences Research Domain Task Force preceded its technical meeting last week with a conference, Objects in Bio- and Chem-Informatics 2001, held July 9-10 in Danvers, Mass.

Presentations on best practices in object-oriented programming shared the stage with talks on reusable software components, design patterns, and distributed computing methods, belying the conference’s title, but also serving as proof that the OMG is seeking input from a broader segment of the bioinformatics field. Michel Sanner, who spoke about the Scripps Research Institute’s use of re-usable software components for structural bioinformatics, noted the broader-than-expected range of topics and thanked the organizers for inviting him to present a paper that wasn’t related to object-oriented architecture at all. In a talk on the challenges of integrating microarray data, 3rd Millennium’s Nat Goodman even questioned the effectiveness of enforcing standards through groups such as the OMG.

Other presentations covered the use of ontologies in the life sciences, approaches to sharing data through publicly available resources and peer-to-peer distribution, and component-based software systems. Grant Heffelfinger of Sandia National Laboratory discussed the accelerating use of the lab’s terascale computing capabilities for biological, rather than defense, applications. Tim Clark of Millennium Pharmaceutical outlined the intended role of the Informatics Interoperable Infrastructure Consortium and how the I3C and the OMG may work together to develop future standards.

David Benton, co-chair of the LSR DTF, opened the conference with an overview of the OMG’s new direction, highlighting its recent adoption of a platform-independent model-driven architecture, which the group expects will attract more bioinformatics programmers than its previous Corba-based approach. OiBC attendees were also encouraged to respond to a request for information issued by the OMG (available at www.omg.org/lsr) for ideas on where the group should turn its attention as it seeks to support the next generation of computational tools for the life sciences.

While the conference was not an attempt to “convert” attendees to participate in the OMG, organizers encouraged the approximately 170 attendees to attend the subsequent LSR technical meeting. They estimated that around one-third of the OiBC attendees were OMG members.

LSR co-chair Scott Markel deemed the OiBC conference “wildly successful.” Around 10 participants remained for the technical meeting at the end of the week, bringing total attendance to 30, and Markel was pleased with the response rate on the meeting evaluation forms.

Markel said the OMG is leaning toward sponsoring annual OiBC conferences.

— BT

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