Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of on “International Symposium of Biomedical Imaging (ISBI)” conducted from 28-31 March 2022 at ITC Royal Bengal in Kolkata.

ISBI is truly international. It is a symposium on the ground. It is a symposium on the cloud. Last week, international authors, delegates and students from biomedical imaging interacted seamlessly where the ground met the cloud to exchange their groundbreaking research ideas.

All physical global conference under one roof after COVID? Not yet. All virtual conference on zoom? Dime a dozen. A hybrid conference? Very very challenging. ISBI conference pulled off the unthinkable at Kolkata. Kolkata is an Indian city rich with heritage, music and literature. Kolkata’s first Nobel Laureate won Nobel prize in Medicine back in 1902. As a fitting tribute, 120 years later, Kolkata hosted India’s first IEEE global conference on Medical Imaging. Host Hotel ITC Royal Bengal is iconic, truly Indian and responsibly luxurious. Organizers are professors of imaging research from different reputed universities of India. Kudos to them. After 104 meetings over two years, they checked many firsts for ISBI, including India, CMT platform, double blinded peer reviews and a hybrid conference.

ISBI in the royal hallways of ITC

It was my first ISBI conference. Unlike technology conferences that go all over the place, ISBI is very focused on one thing called imaging and it excelled in it. It was amazing to learn how deep learning continues to influence medical imaging analysis and decision making. Right from Ultrasound to Photoacoustic and CT to MRI scanning of imaging and beyond, right from supervised to semi-supervised to self-supervised learning of machine learning, right from compounds to pre-clinical trials to clinical trials of drug discovery and development, right from bench to bedside, bedside to patient, and patient to practice of translational medicine and beyond, right from infections to diabetes to tumors to strokes of life-altering diseases, right from outpatient treatment to the operation theatres, right from engineers to radiologists to doctors to device makers, right from abstracts to posters to oral presentations of state-of-the works in imaging, the conference mixes and matches them all in its pursuit of symbiotic research in imaging for holistic healthcare.

ISBI venue decorated with local artworks

The conference is a host to the hundreds of research engineers who transformed themselves into biomedical researchers, engineering professors who shifted their research areas to disease diagnostics for making their works impactful, and physical science experts who turned their attention to solving human healthcare challenges and beyond.

The ISBI Indian Crew

Here are the excerpts from my conversations with few of the brains behind ISBI in India.

Prof. Jayanthi Sivaswamy of IIIT Hyderabad (ISBI General Chair)

Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood, from IBM Research, USA (ISBI Program Chair)

Prof. Debdoot Sheet of IIT Kharagpur (ISBI Local Organizing Chair)

Prof. K.V.S. Hari of IISc Bangalore

Bhat: Share about your journey with ISBI and how ISBI came to India?

Hari: ISBI is a joint effort between Signal Processing and EMB societies. ISBI in India is a 4 years of effort. Bids are submitted to a Committee that assess the viability on membership base, technical ecosystem, location and more. The idea is to grow the local community. We ensure that good technical content is in place. Committee looks at going to new regions and bringing in diversity of profession, geography, affordability and more. Researchers in India may not even attend ISBI if it is in a far away country as international travel and stay can get really expensive. Membership base is growing in India and IEEE shall cater to the needs of the members. Topics of ISBI are essential to healthy living. We want this community to expand.

Jayanthi: My student had a paper in ISBI’s very first edition around 2003. ISBI is a launching pad for young researchers aspiring to get into the top tier conferences. I have been regular at ISBI. Only 3 out of 18 ISBI conferences happened in the east. If it is one person who made ISBI happen in India, it is Debdoot who initiated it. You need someone young and full of energy to make it happen.

Debdoot: In 2018 and 2019 or so, I ended up advocating ISBI in India. The conference in Venice is where the lot of planning for Indian proposal happened. We quickly brought in the key personnel from IEEE India to brainstorm at that time. We bid to the steering committee of EBS and BISP.

Tanveer: I go for the best name I could get in general. I go after the likes of Nobel laureates who pull the buy-in from the people of next level. MICCAI is not as adventurous as ISBI esp. in terms of the imaging. SBIE medical reviews is on one end of the spectrum and then we have MICCAI. We wanted ISBI to be the second best choice, very close to the top tier. This year we introduced many firsts at ISBI.

Jayanthi: ISBI needed to have double blinded review and we made it happen. CMT is the next one that brought TPMS matching system to ISBI. Hopefully ISBI put in a student league and it is still work in progress.

Bhat: How could you pull off a first hybrid conference for ISBI?

Tanveer: This is the first IEEE conference with not just one but four parallel sessions. We tried out many platforms. We used the dumbness test to select the conference partners. We looked at 3 important UI features: 1) Search 2) Calendar based browse 3) Network. We also made sure this is truly global and causes no inconvenience for the global speakers.

Debdoot: A 25 member team worked behind the scenes to make this seamless hybrid happen. The anchoring technical partner we picked after lot of screening. Conference Catalyst for the online conference and Cygnus for the physical conference. Hybrid makes it expensive but is worth it.

Jayanthi: Hybrid here to stay COVID or not. Virtual is always expensive.

Bhat: How did Krishna Ella happen?

Tanveer said the biggest draw comes from plenary. We wanted to bring who is who of the Indian pharma industry as the conference is happening in India.

Bhat: What is unique about ISBI?

Jayanthi: New technologies, New methodologies and one page abstracts generate curiosity and conversations. This is unique for ISBI. Single track sessions are all plenary. We don’t need workshops as we do have parallel tracks. ISBI is the foot in the door for early researchers. Goal is to grow the community.

Rapid Fire with Jayanthi

ISBI: Home for medical imaging research.

Research: Essential for progress.

Imaging: Access to what the eye can’t see.

Review: Quality Feedback

India: Huge opportunity

Guide: Lodestone for discovery

Happiness: Making headway

Professor: Best recipe to stay young at mind.

Student: Your guide too

Human body: Ultimate quest

Device: Exploration. Device is a living thing then Battery and internet are oxygen.

Industry: Converts ideas to consumables

Rapid Fire with Debdoot

ISBI: Red carpet

Imaging: understanding of the world within Heisenberg’s principle

Research: Jungle gym

Rejection: One more attempt

Scanner: Toy

Kolkata: Cultural capital of India

Industry: A chef

Rapid Fire with Hari

Imaging: Essential

Deep Learning: Exciting

Medical Devices: Important

Radiologist: Critical

Invasive or non-invasive: Non-invasive

Startup or NGO: both

Signal vs Pulse: signal

Clinical-trials: Critical

Academia: Pillar

Industry: Pillar

Government: Pillar

Where there is a will, there is a way. Scanners are the lanterns that let the willful travellers explore the human body cave. It’s mysterious and magical. It’s scientific and authentic. Come let us join hands in impacting human lives by being part of the solutions to their health challenges.

Selfless Volunteers
They made ISBI India happen
With some authors from around the world

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: