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Instructions for Organizers of NIMBioS Working Groups

NIMBioS Working Groups focus on well-defined scientific questions at the interface between biology and mathematics that require insights from diverse researchers. Working groups have up to 10 participants and meet up to 3 times over a two year period, with each meeting lasting up to 2.5 days. This document provides instructions for organizers and describes some best practices for conducting a successful NIMBioS Working Group.

Before the meeting:

  • At least two weeks before the Working Group meeting, provide NIMBioS (Jennifer Spar, and participants with a clear but flexible AGENDA for the meeting, including the overall goals. Flexibility is important. Be prepared for last minute schedule changes from cancellations due to a variety of reasons. Remember any changes to a Working Group's composition must be justified by the Working Group organizers and approved by the Associate Director for Scientific Activities. Sometimes people cannot make a meeting and want to send a graduate student or postdoc instead. In general, NIMBioS does not approve such changes, but exceptions may be possible.
  • The AGENDA should include times for breakfast, lunch, a reception, and a group photograph. If you have questions about scheduling a group photo, or scheduling breakfast, lunch, or the reception, please contact Jennifer Spar (
  • Have participants provide short introductions (1 brief paragraph) on the Group's "Basecamp" site. BASECAMP is an online communication tool for posting agendas and other documents as well as emailing all participants. NIMBioS will establish a Basecamp site for each Working Group.
  • At least two weeks before the Working Group, provide participants via the Basecamp site access to relevant background information related to the Working Group topic (e.g. papers, presentations, datasets). Organizers should also ask participants to post resources they feel are relevant to the topic as well.
  • Select a subset of participants to give presentations on topics focused on the goals of the Working Group (e.g. needed background, available data, existing models). Ensure that presenters and co-organizers are clear about what their roles will be in the upcoming meeting.

During Working Group meetings:

  • On the first day of the meeting, have participants briefly introduce themselves and give their research perspectives on the goals of the group.
  • At the start of each day, communicate the objectives for the day to the group.
  • Remember that everyone in the group has different levels of expertise in different areas. Allow for plenty of questions and discussion after presentations.
  • When forming subgroups within the group, ensure that each subgroup understands clearly their short and long-term objectives. Link these objectives to the larger Working Group goals.
  • Ensure that participants in each subgroup understand how their work will tie in to the work of the other subgroups to achieve the overall Working Group goals.
  • Be organized, but flexible. Allow new ideas to be explored, but keep the group focused on the ultimate Working Group goals.

Before the conclusion of the first meeting:

  • gain a clear consensus on the specific objectives for the Working Group;
  • define the products that will be produced by each of the subgroups;
  • ensure that each participant clearly understands what his/her contribution will be at the next Working Group meeting; and
  • ensure that each subgroup has clearly defined plans for how work will occur remotely between meetings.

Between Working Group meetings:

  • Immediately following each meeting, write an informal summary of the meeting and post it to the Basecamp site for all participants to reference.
  • Within two weeks of the conclusion of each meeting, provide the necessary reports to NIMBioS via email to the Associate Director for Scientific Activities Sergey Gavrilets ( Reporting Requirements for Organizers.
  • Stay in regular contact with Working Group participants to monitor progress toward objectives and address any issues that arise.
  • Remind Working Group participants to upload any relevant resources to the Basecamp that may be of interest to the group.
  • Because subgroups rely on collaborations, it is important that all Working Group participants attend subsequent meetings. Organizers should strongly encourage attendance at all Working Group meetings by all members of the group.
  • Be sure to report to NIMBioS any publications or other products that arise from work related to the Working Group. NIMBioS support should be cited in publications and products. Click here for suggested acknowlegment formats and information about press releases. Click here for NIMBioS logo image files for inclusion in presentations about NIMBioS-related work. Results may be reported here: /research/products

After Final Working Group Meeting:

Final report for working groups should be submitted within 2 weeks of the last meeting and should cover all the previous meetings using the format above but with appropriately increased text length.

Click here for a pdf version of Instructions for Organizers of NIMBioS Working Groups.

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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