DIMACS Workshop and Working Group Meeting on Bioconsensus

October 25 - 26, 2000
DIMACS Center, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ

Mel Janowitz, Rutgers University, melj@dimacs.rutgers.edu
Francois-Joseph LaPointe, University of Montreal, lapoinf@ere.umontreal.ca
Fred McMorris, Illinois Institute of Technology, mcmorris@iit.edu
Boris Mirkin, University of London, mirkin@dcs.bbk.ac.uk
Fred Roberts, Rutgers University, froberts@dimacs.rutgers.edu
Presented under the auspices of the Special Focus on Computational Molecular Biology.

Consensus methods developed in the context of voting, decision making, and other areas of the social and behavioral sciences have begun to have a variety of applications in the biological sciences, originally in taxonomy and evolutionary biology, and more recently in molecular biology. Typically, several alternatives (such as possible taxonomies, alternative phylogenetic trees, alternative molecular sequences, or alternative alignments) are produced using different methods or under different models and then one needs to find a consensus solution. There are, already, several hundred papers in this developing field of "BioConsensus." In this workshop, we will explore ways to make use of the consensus methods of social choice theory in solving problems of biology, with emphasis on molecular biology.

Here are several of the major themes of the workshop. How have consensus methods of social choice theory already found use in biology? In turn, how have some of the specific problems of the biological sciences given rise to new concepts of consensus? Algorithms for some of the well-known consensus methods of social choice theory have the potential for application to biology, with appropriate modification, but many of these consensus problems are NP-complete in their most general setting and call for approximate algorithms or heuristic methods. What would be involved in applying traditional consensus methods to molecular biology problems? Consensus methods in molecular biology tend to be chosen because they seem mathematically interesting or useful rather than on the basis of any reasonable biological model. What is a reasonable basis for choosing a consensus method? Are there reasonable axioms having biological meaning that characterize different consensus methods?

This workshop will bring together mathematicians, computer scientists, and biological scientists to discuss these and other issues. The workshop should be viewed as forming a basis for a continuing dialog that will lead to future collaborations. In particular, we are hoping to have a follow-up workshop six to twelve months after this one.

Directly following the workshop, there will be a DIMACS distinguished lecture by Gene Myers, Vice President of Celera Genomics, on the topic "Whole Genome Assemblies of the Drosophila and Human Genomes".

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Document last modified on December 7, 2000