BRIITE meetings occur twice a year. The meetings give IT professionals from biomedical organizations an opportunity to exchange ideas and insights that come from real experience in developing IT support for biomedical organizations.
The first BRIITE meeting in 2001 was an informal, ad hoc gathering of a few people who gathered to share ideas that were both practical (e.g., what's the best way to set up secure wireless LANs) and theoretical (e.g., what's the best approach to managing and analyzing expression-array data).
BRIITE meetings provide time for self-organizing discussion groups. Anyone can suggest a discussion group and if the topic attracts enough interest, it happens.
BRIITE meetings have a theme, with a few plenary speakers who address topics relevant to the theme. The sessions with plenary speakers cover substantially less than half of the full meeting time. The rest of the time is spent in smaller interactive discussion groups or in interactive plenary gatherings.
Plenary speakers are asked to talk more about larger policy or community or conceptual issues than about the specifics of their own work or the work of their research group. Thus, plenary presentations often inspire the discussion groups that happen later.
The meetings include a session called "Tech Exchange", which consists of brief (usually 10 minutes or less) presentations of "things that worked (or didn't) for us." In this session, meeting attendees are encouraged to share particularly effective (or difficult) IT experiences. Tech Exchange talks usually generate many questions and much discussion. The agenda for the Tech Exchange session is developed at the meeting, based on ideas offered by attendees.
Attendees report that one of the best aspects of BRIITE meetings is the opportunity to meet and interact with a diverse set of people with diverse roles in providing IT support to research-oriented biomedical institutions. The primary goal of BRIITE meetings is the opportunity for interactions among attendees. We consider a meeting to be a major success if contacts and interactions happen after the meeting that would not have happened otherwise.
Attendees in the past have ranged from MDs to biologists to bioinformaticists to business-trained CIOs to network engineers. At a past meeting, one MD commented that he had never before attended a meeting where such a diverse group interacted so effectively.