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Effectively Communicating Bioimage Analysis workshop – a review

Posted by , on 15 March 2024

On February 12th-15th 2024, Beth Cimini and Kevin Eliceiri organised the “Effectively Communicating Bioimage Analysis” Workshop in Buxted (UK), with the support of The Company of Biologists. They gathered an impressive line-up of bioimage analysis superstars from all over the globe, and opened their doors to early-career researchers to apply for a seat at the (round) table. Many relevant issues were discussed around what it means to be a bioimage analyst, our role in the (bio)imaging community, teaching and training challenges and best practices, and career paths. 

Read on if you want to find out more of the participants’ impressions!

The workshop participants captured outside the beautiful venue in Buxted

Oliver Umney: I applied to this workshop, because I wanted to understand the biology community’s feelings towards the growing number of image analysis tools using machine learning. I wanted to listen to their thoughts on whether these tools are benefiting the community, whether the tools being developed align with what the community needs, and what risks they see to their adoption. Along the journey, I hoped to improve my own communication with non-developers, find out what tools exist that could help my research and join a community driving the use and development of tools built with the community’s interests at its core. The presentations gave context and raised important points for the discussions we had about the challenges of bioimage analysis. These discussions were my favourite part of the workshop, being able to discuss the wider goals and context of our research, breaking out from my own narrow research bubble. I learnt about the community’s vision of the future, their attitudes towards sharing tools and knowledge openly and their experience of what works and what doesn’t when engaging and training with the community. I enjoyed meeting people who are developing tools with the community and not just for the community, in response to what the community needs rather than what data scientists think the community should be using.

Joanna Pylvänäinen: I’m a researcher developing and using image analysis to understand cell migration. A central part of my work is communicating with fellow researchers regarding required image analysis tasks. I joined this workshop to learn how to improve my communication and other soft skills needed for my role. Indeed, this meeting taught me tools to share and communicate image analysis more effectively and empathetically. 

An exciting part of this meeting was a joint brainstorming exercise where we collectively identified challenges in our field. After grouping the identified issues into larger contexts, we formed working groups to discuss and tackle solutions to these challenges. There were groups for improving the training, recourse availability and regarding the scientific culture around image analysis. I joined a group that focused on discussing funding-related issues. We set up a plan to identify image analysts’ financial and intellectual value by surveying the image analysis experts and community using their services. I believe these surveys will offer valuable insights into the importance of our work and convince funders. Participating in this exercise was rewarding and will surely benefit my future career.

Overall, this meeting was a success, significantly enriching my knowledge and understanding of our field’s current and future directions. The chance to actively contribute to shaping the future was an incredible opportunity. As a cherry on top of the cake, I had the privilege of meeting and learning from some of my image analysis superheroes. Their warmth and welcoming attitude towards early-career investigators like myself was exceptional and left me inspired and motivated. I am eager to apply what I learned during this meeting to improve my work.

Arianna Ravera: As an image analyst with a background in data science engineering, effective communication with bio-researchers has always presented its challenges. With this in mind, I eagerly applied for this workshop with the intention of expanding my knowledge and refine my communication skills with fellow researchers.

The experience went far beyond my expectations. It not only allowed me to better contextualise my role within the university and community, but also provided me with a valuable platform to interact closely with leading experts in our field. Listening to their presentations and participating in both individual and group discussions was truly a pleasure and an honour. 

What really distinguished this workshop was its intimate setting, which allowed for this continuous interaction between participants, thanks to the limited number of participants selected. This environment offered me a unique opportunity to learn and think deeply about our research future, delving into various career paths, discussing strategies to solidify our positions within the research community, and sustain our relevance and value.

I’m happy to now put into practice everything I have learned over these four days and I look forward to the chance to participate in a similar experience again soon.

Caterina Fuster-Barceló: Having recently transitioned my focus towards bioimage analysis after engaging with biosignals, I found a new passion in the intricate world of images. Coupled with my enthusiasm for teaching and communication, discovering the workshop on proficiently conveying insights in bioimage analysis appeared as an ideal avenue for deepening my understanding, connecting with both new faces and familiar ones, and meeting those I had known by reading about them hundred times The prospect of being sequestered in a palatial setting for nearly a week, dedicated solely to the discourse on bioimage analysis, was intriguing. Yet, the reality of the experience surpassed all expectations. The ambiance, the people, the food, and the immersive learning and sharing sessions exceeded what I had imagined possible. The opportunity to live and engage closely with others allowed for a broadening of discussions beyond the core topic to include dialogues on emerging technologies like Generative AI and their integration into our field.

The workshop was an immensely enriching journey. Among my takeaways are extensive notes on organising similar educational events, strategies for teaching bioimage analysis with a focus on pedagogy and didactics, ideas for enhancing my training materials for conferences and lectures and much, much more. The knowledge and insights gained in that single week are invaluable, and I would eagerly participate again should the opportunity arise. I am profoundly grateful for the experience and the exceptional individuals I shared it with, marking a pivotal moment in my professional and personal growth.

Daniel Thedie: When applying to this workshop, I hoped to meet bioimage analysts, and hear their experiences and thoughts on bridging the gap between image analysis specialists and the wider research community. I work in a biology lab and have been confronted with the difficulty of developing tools that are both accessible and relevant to their end-users, as well as teaching image analysis concepts to non-specialist audiences. Therefore, I particularly enjoyed hearing about people’s experiences in teaching bioimage analysis, for example Elnaz Fazeli’s review of her experience with different teaching formats, or Jason Williams’ reflections on the best ways to efficiently train researchers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this workshop, interacting with this open and dynamic community, and learning how each person’s unique path led them to it. The relatively small number of participants made for easier connections and meaningful discussions, and I would very gladly take part in a similar workshop again in the future!

Elnaz Fazeli: I have been working as a staff member in an imaging core facility and as a university teacher for several years, during which time I have found teaching to be one of the most essential and exciting aspects of my job. I applied to this workshop hoping to learn about effective methods of teaching bioimage analysis and organizing courses. Additionally, I was eager to share my own perspectives and experiences. Throughout the workshop, I found myself inspired by the insightful talks delivered by participants, which not only covered teaching strategies but also delved into topics such as career development, operational aspects of bioimage analysis core facilities, national and international initiatives aimed at facilitating communication in this field, and philosophical perspectives on skill growth in bioimage analysis.

The workshop provided an exceptional opportunity for me to exchange experiences, expand my professional network, brainstorm ideas, receive guidance from experts in the field, and engage in fruitful discussions in a relaxed atmosphere. It served as a motivational boost, and I am excited to apply the knowledge I gained during the workshop to further contribute to the advancement of bioimage analysis.

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