2008: First annual symposium of the Luxembourg Bioinformatics Network (LuciLinX)

The symposium took place on October 16th 2008 at the “Chambre de Commerce” conference centre. It was organised by the CRP-Santé, in cooperation with LuxInnovation, the National Agency for Innovation and Research, in the context of their Health Sciences and Technologies Cluster project “BioHealth”. Funding was kindly provided by CRP-Santé and the University of Luxembourg.

Following the presentations of the symposium, an open discussion took place between the public and a panel composed of representatives of each research institution and the invited speakers.

This is a summary of the thoughts the panel expressed, as well as several comments collected from the public.


The general opinion is that the event was a positive success, and a surprise for the local community and our guests. The surprise was to see how large the bioinformatics-interested community is in Luxembourg, and how strong the interest is to attend and participate in such get-together events.

Many comments centered thus about being glad to discover the wealth of bioinformatics resources in Luxembourg, the opportunities for collaboration revealed, and to be able to communicate, exchange, talk to professionals from so many different backgrounds and research areas.


The panel members took the opportunity, in view of the day's presentations and their own experience, to assess the current situation of bioinformatics research in Luxembourg, bring attention to challenges faced by our community in the near future, and suggest ways to tackle those challenges.

We mentioned earlier that people were surprised to discover the richness of our diverse bioinformatics competences. This diversity in itself is truly positive - but the fact that even locals were surprised to realise this hints at a communication problem, in the sense that we ourselves have no precise overview of available hardware and competences in our country.

Several panel members therefore strongly encouraged the audience to make information flow more easily, e.g. by centralising data about hardware, software, workflows and competences in a searchable database.

Another aspect of this topic is the effort that each researcher has to make to visit the weekly seminars and conferences organised by each research institution, and to centralise the different mailing lists that advertise upcoming conferences.

A very important point mentioned by several panel members touched the status of bioinformaticians within a research group. They emphasized the necessity to recognize the bioinformatician as an equal, and not merely as some geek technician who prefers to work alone in his corner; also to recognize the added-value brought by bioinformatics tools to research projects. The bioinformatics researcher has to be an integrative member of the research team.

Finally, the need to recruit competent bioinformaticians, to motivate students to study bioinformatics and life sciences, and the need to push bioinformatics research was stressed. As a matter of fact, most bioinformaticians are "users" of bioinformatics tools, only a restricted number develop their own tools and do pure bioinformatics research. The need for these competences is the more urgent considering the BioBank project, the emergence of deep-sequencing techniques, and other large-scale projects planned.


Many speakers expressed the wish to more strongly cooperate. One of many reasons is the realisation that some hardware and software platforms are too expensive, and our projects generally not resource-intensive enough, to justify having several machines / licenses in Luxembourg, each consuming a lot of money and turning idle most of the time. Discussions are on the way to investigate how to turn this wish into reality.

About the presentations

We received a certain number of comments about the types and grouping of our presentations. They mainly concerned the grouping by institution, not by topic, and the impression that some talks were more focused on biology than on bioinformatics.

This is however not to be worried about, as this organisation was clearly intended in this way. As it was the first time, the aim was to give every institution the opportunity to present their activities, even were they more distantly related to bioinformatics. For the purpose of easily getting to know those institutions and their teams, talks were organised per institution.

For future instances of this symposium, it is clear that subjects will be grouped thematically and more strongly bioinformatics-centered.

One of our guest speakers addressed a very important recommendation to researchers: to not only present positive results, but to reflect critically about the work done, even if results were not up to expectations. Indeed, reporting what went wrong and thinking together why an experiment went wrong and what can be done about it, is also very useful information for colleagues working in similar domains.