BioHackathon 2008 has started
After a long 14 hour flight (not counting the connecting flight, and the additional 90 minutes train ride to get to the hotel), passing over the vast, beautiful, snowy landscape of Nunavut, the Northwest Territory, and the breathtaking Alaska Range, including majestic Mt. McKinley, I arrived last night in Tokyo for the BioHackathon 2008.
This event is a meeting of more than 60 programmers and service provider representatives from around the world to work on improving support for interoperability and web-services for the life sciences. Today we are on the 40th floor of Roppongi Hills, with an awesome sight on the dazzling sea of high-rises in Tokyo. As we learn later from Dr. Hideaki Sugawara, the Director of the CIB at DDBJ, today is also National Foundation Day, a public holiday celebrating the founding of the Japanese Nation.
The event is sponsored in part by the Database Center for the Life Sciences (DBCLS), a new center that was only founded last year, as Dr. Toshihisa Takagi, the Center’s Director, points out in his opening address. In fact, he says, the hackathon is the first event sponsored by the Center, and he looks forward to us setting the mark for future events.
The event was organized by Toshiaki Katayama, who I have known for a long time. Toshiaki founded BioRuby in 2000, and has himself been at several Bio* hackathons in 2002 and 2003, and in fact attended NESCent’s Phyloinformatics Hackathon in 2006 as well. As he tells us, he also co-founded the Japanese Open Bio* Research Group — a Japanese sister organization of the O|B|F and I had not been aware!
I’m very excited to be here, and honored to be invited. Interoperability and the programmable web, of which web-services are a key part, are among my core interests, and there are a lot of smart people convened here from really interesting projects. This afternoon, we will use Open Space Technology to nail down the concrete goals each of us will work on. I am looking forward to some stimulating discussions.
Personally, I’m very interested in making progress towards a common phyloinformatics web-services API, which I am for now simply calling PhyloWS, but more on that separately. In the past two weeks, several other suggestions have been made for possible subgroups (see the public archives of the mailing list), some of which would also be gratifying for me to be involved with, for example a Bio* interoperable BioSQL-based web-service API. In fact, Heikki Lehväslaiho reminds me that if I only got around to finally releasing BioSQL it would be a great outcome…