EMBnet - the European Molecular Biology Network, Moving forward: 2010 & beyond

Teresa K. Attwood, Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, Andreas Gisel, Etienne de Villiers


The world that gave rise to EMBnet 22 years ago has changed; EMBnet has changed too. Initially focusing on shared European community needs, the organisation now embraces partners from around the world, whose aims, aspirations and communities are very different. Over time, its centre of gravity has shifted: no longer needed as a mechanism for distributing the EMBL databases, EMBnet has moved on. In the past, its activities have been funded by membership fees and a series of European grants; now, however, against a background of emerging (government-funded) European infrastructural initiatives, EMBnet’s funding mechanisms need to be reviewed, in order to continue to sustain its core activities.
EMBnet is at a cross-roads. Before taking its next steps, it is appropriate to consider how the global bioinformatics landscape is evolving, and how EMBnet needs to adapt. This paper outlines a number of practical steps that could be taken, tempered by today’s funding climate. Its principal recommendations are that EMBnet should:
i)    review and properly define the roles, aims and goals of its Executive Board (EB) and Project Committees (PCs), and consider establishing additional PCs or Special Interest Groups (SIGs), with well-defined roles, aims and goals;
ii)    review how EMBnet and its collection of PCs/SIGs might achieve its goals, with or without further funding;
iii)    identify and exploit its Unique Selling Point (USP);
iv)    review and better understand who its communities are, what their needs are, and how to be more responsive to those needs;
v)    review, streamline and clarify its current membership scheme;
vi)    review how and why it might interact with other networks and organisations;
vii)    establish internal infrastructures that would allow it to make strategic ties to other bioinformatics networks and organisations;
viii)    establish internal infrastructures that would allow it to make more strategic responses to global funding opportunities;
ix)    review the evolving role and internal structure of EMBnet.Journal, and consider more tactical publishing strategies; and, in light of these considerations,
x)    review and revamp its current name, brand and Website.
This paper is an open invitation for every member of the constituency to help with this critical evaluation of EMBnet’s unique attributes and strengths; to consider how to build on these to create a competent, valuable and focused organisation that complements existing and emerging bioinformatics institutes, networks, associations and societies worldwide; ultimately, to maintain EMBnet’s relevance in 2010 and beyond.




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