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After the first Unseminar event (April 26th 2012) a surveymonkey survey was sent out by email. 30 participants responded. The free text answers have been summarised to highlight the key (often recurring) points. We plan to use the results from the survey to inform decisions and provide inspiration for forthcoming meetings.


Q1: Are you interested in attending future events?

Yes 100%

Q2: What were the things you found best/ enjoyed most about the event?

Above all, you valued the opportunity to meet others working in a similar field at other institutions. You felt the informal, friendly atmosphere was ideal for developing new contacts and collaborations. You enjoyed the discussion component of the event, and that both scientific and more general topics were addressed. The introductory talk was particularly popular….as was the pub!

Q3: What could be done differently/be added to the event that would help you to get more out of it?

Many of you made the following suggestions:

  • Discussions that last for longer and are held in smaller groups
  • Reduce the number of topics to allow more time for discussion
  • For less focus to be given to specific scientific projects, and more to the discussion of scientific practice, trends, and careers. Many of you appreciated the opportunity to explore these more general topics, which are independent of your specific field of research and sometimes not so readily available at your institutions.

Other suggestions made:

  • More structured discussion sessions
  • For a short introduction to be provided on bioinformatics in each institute
  • An introduction to participants’ past, present and future work
  • Hold the event in a larger venue
  • For beer to be provided!

Q4: How often would you like these events to take place?

Option Response
once a month 25.9%
every 2 months 48.1%
every 3 months 22.2%
every 6 months 3.7%

You felt that if the events were too frequent, attendance levels would suffer, and that this would be a shame for an event that relies on interaction.

Q5: The first event was 2 hours long, how long do you think that futures event should last?

Option Response
2 hours 71.4%
3 hours 21.4%
Don't know 7.1%

Other suggestions: 1.5 hrs, 90 minutes

Q6: What start time do you prefer?

Option Response
9 3.6%
16 17.9%
19 78.6%

Q7: Do you like the name “Heidelberg Unseminars in Bioinformatics” (HUB)? If not, what alternative name would you suggest?

Option Response
Yes 89.7%
No 10.3%

We had various suggestions for new names (from ‘Heidelberg’s United Bioinformaticians’, ‘to Heidelberg Umbrella Bioinformatics’), but it wasn’t always clear whether these suggestions were made because you disliked the current name, or because you just felt like exercising your creative flair for naming (un)seminars.

Q8: We would like to ensure that people participate from various scientific institutes and companies at the event. Any ideas on how we could get the word out to more people?


  • Social networks: Facebook, Twitter
  • Create a poster and distribute it to participating institutions
  • Word of mouth: ask participants to spread the word locally
  • Mass-mailing to institutes/PIs
  • Raise awareness at local conferences

Q9: Should we have flashtalks again?

Option Response
Yes 86.7%
No 13.3%

Q10: If you feel we should have them again, what should the flash-talks cover?

Responses were split into two: more general suggestions, and those that were specific topic ideas:

General suggestions:

  • Introductions to institutes and people (past, present, future work)
  • Avoid talks about published papers; more recent (unpublished) work would be better
  • Controversial bioinformatics-related topics

Specific suggestions relating to scientific projects:

  • Examples of real, technical challenges in bioinformatics
  • Talks on reproducibility of results
  • Talks on next generation sequencing, or genome-wide data analysis
  • A method that has been developed but doesn’t yet have an application
  • Achievements you’re proud of: ‘how I coped with 3 different data formats from 2 different labs and still got a result’

Specific suggestions relating to projects that support the science:

  • Hype vs. selling your work
  • Bioethics
  • Grant-writing

Q11: If you feel we should not have flash-talks again, why not?

Some felt that the discussion component of the unseminar was more valuable then the talks. Some others felt that flash talks should not be used as the basis for discussion, but simply as an opportunity to present current work.

Q12: What number of flash talks would you like to see at the next meeting? This time we had 2.

Option Response
0 3.8%
1 7.7%
2 50.0%
3 34.6%
4 3.8%

Some said that there should be one talk per topic, whereas others felt that the number should depend on the topic in question (some topics have more potential for discussion than others).

Q13: What do you think the ideal length of the flashtalks would be?

Option Response
5 minutes 44.4%
7 minutes 25.9%
10 minutes 22.2%
15 minutes 3.7%
N/A 3.7%

Q14: What did you think of the length of the discussion sessions?

Option Response
could be shorter 6.7%
was about right 40.0%
could be longer 40.0%
should be much longer 13.3%

Some of you felt that having only one topic per session would be good as it would allow for longer discussions. Some felt that the length should be flexible.

Q15: Should the discussion sessions be organised differently?

Option Response
Yes 41.4%
No 58.6%

On the whole, you seemed to value the freedom afforded by the discussion sessions, but would like to see them structured a bit better (some felt the moderator had a key role to play in this), so that everybody gets to have their say. And to this end, many (again) suggested smaller groups.

Q16: For example would you like to see smaller group sessions (4-5 people) that feed-back their ideas to all participants?

Option Response
Yes 59.3%
No 40.7%

Q17: Which topics for future meetings/discussion sessions would you be interested in attending? Any comments on the list that we gave you?

Option Response
10 biggest challenges in bioinformatics 60.0%
Role of bioinformatics in Omics analysis 20.0%
How has bioinformatics changed biology 43.3%
Dealing with problems of reproducibility of high-throughput/omics datasets 36.7%
Why is ELIXIR important us? http://www.elixir-europe.org/ 33.3%
How to exploit cloud computing for bioinformatics 46.7%
Standards (i.e. data standards) in bioinformatics 43.3%
How/should bioinformatics get more involved in governmental etc. policy? What could/would we like to do about this? 20.0%
How high-impact bioinformatics publications come about 40.0%
How best to publish bioinformatics studies and datasets 40.0%
Problems and advantages of sharing bioinformatics data 33.3%
Integrating, processing, and exchanging data 50.0%
Visualising bioinformatics data 56.7%
Modeling in biology - features of attractive systems to model, successes, failures 36.7%
Pros and cons of personalised medicine 30.0%
Effectively communicating bioinformatics to the public and to non bioinformaticians 46.7%
Integrating and exploiting media and social media in bioinformatics research and outreach 30.0%
Forging effective collaborations with clinicians/MDs 16.7%
The horrors of collaborations i.e. the bad side of the success stories 13.3%
Career opportunities for bioinformaticians/biologists/etc. - how to boost your career 56.7%
Future required skill sets in biology, best way of mixing physics, biology, chemistry, etc. 30.0%
What can we do to improve bioinformatics education and training? 26.7%
Obtaining Funding (commercial/academic) to do bioinformatics 56.7%
Similarities/differences between use of computers in biology compared to chemistry, physics, libraries, etc. - what can we 20.0%

Specific suggestions:

  • For medical doctors and experimentalists to attend some of the meetings, to help encourage communication between them and bioinformaticians
  • Common mistakes made in modelling biological systems; ‘Standards: beyond data’; ‘Interoperability in bioinformatics’; Disease modelling; Philosophy of biology

Regarding the list we gave you: Some of the ideas could be merged, or explored during the same meeting

Q19: What kinds of “sessions” you would be interested in attending? Any comments on the list that we gave you?

Option Response
Poster session 6.9%
Introductions to the large bioinformatics-employing organisations around Heidelberg 65.5%
“speed-dating” http://www.joe.org/joe/2003april/tt4.php 62.1%
Classic “technical” presentations (e.g. 20/30 minutes research talks) 31.0%
Discussions with non-bioinformaticians (MDs, lab biologists) 55.2%
A hackathon 20.7%
Developing/improving biocomputing-related wikipedia pages together 20.7%
Training sessions on technical/non-technical topics of interest (provided by HUB participants) 44.8%

Specific suggestions:

  • HUB should remain relatively abstract (focussing on the promotion of ideas and collaborations), until it attracts more participants. This may encourage others, such as group leaders, to attend. Although, (less abstract) workshops run more senior participants, may help attract students.
  • A lecture

Regarding the list we gave you:

  • For the ‘hackathon’, teams should be allowed to go away for a few weeks and come back to present their solution. One hour would not be enough time to produce good quality solutions.