SBOL is being developed by a collegial volunteer organization, which runs primarily by rough consensus. As an organization, the SBOL development community holds the following values:

  • SBOL should be free and open standard, developed by an open and inclusive processes.
  • SBOL is a community that believes in fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion.
  • Leaders of the SBOL community are expected to actively foster a safe environment where all participants feel comfortable making their voices heard.
  • Leadership from new and diverse voices should be actively developed, including by participation in working groups and by public speaking at workshops.

Code of Conduct

The SBOL community is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment of participants in our meetings, email lists, and other communication mechanisms in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any of these venues, including talks, workshops, parties, email lists, Twitter and other online media. Participants in our meetings and discussions violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from our mailing lists and our meetings without a refund at the discretion of the SBOL editors.

SBOL Organization

The SBOL community has the following organization:

  • SBOL Development Group: general body comprising all members of the SBOL community, and ultimate authority
  • Ad-Hoc Subgroups: portions of the general development group focused on particular aspects of SBOL development.
  • SBOL Editors: operational executives for the community
  • SBOL Chair and Steering Committee: strategic planning and guidance for the community
  • SBOL Industrial Consortium: a pre-competitive organization of companies (or similar) investing in the SBOL community

SBOL Development Group

Membership in the SBOL Development Group is open to all interested parties. Individuals interested in joining the group should contact the editors.

The SBOL Development Group as a whole is the ultimate authority and source of legitimacy for SBOL standards decisions. All elections, standards changes, and governance changes are voted on by the SBOL Development Group according to the procedures below.

The primary means of communication for the SBOL Development Group is via the sbol-dev Google Group. All significant decisions on governance and the evolution of the standard must be discussed via this mailing list.

SBOL workshops should be held twice per year. These may be stand-alone workshops or in combination with another event, but must provide ample time for attending members to hold focused discussions on the development of SBOL.

All members of the SBOL Development Group are encouraged (but not required) to:

  • Attend the SBOL Workshops and other meetings
  • Participate in discussions on SBOL mailing lists
  • Support the SBOL standard in any tools and systems they work on
  • Provide constructive feedback for improving the standard

Ad-Hoc Subgroups

Certain activities of the SBOL community are expected to either generate noticeably higher volumes of communication (e.g., software development and support) or to address topics expected to be of interest only to certain special interest groups. When deemed appropriate, ad-hoc subgroups may be created for addressing such topics.

Subgroups must communicate via open lists that may be readily accessed and joined by any member of the SBOL Development Group. Any communication regarding standards changes, however, should be migrated back to the SBOL Development Group mailing list.

SBOL editors

As a matter of pragmatism, many organizational decisions and actions are delegated to an elected group of SBOL Editors, so named because their primary responsibility is ensuring the effective curation of documents for the community.

The responsibilities of the SBOL Editors are:

  • Equitably representing the community in voting, documents, and guidance of discussion.
  • Curation and dissemination of the SBOL standards and related documents (including writing, editing, and coordinating changes).
  • Maintaining an open and structured process by which members of the SBOL Development Group can modify and improve SBOL standards (including timely implementation of tracking, processing, responding to, and organizing voting on change proposals).
  • Ensuring effective development and maintenance of official SBOL software libraries and associated documentation and tutorials.
  • Coordinating scholarly publications and ensuring proper attribution of contributions.
  • Running elections and other community votes.
  • Organization (or delegation) of SBOL Workshops and other events.
  • Maintaining community infrastructure, including: the SBOL web site, source code repositories, mailing lists

The SBOL Editors shall hold weekly meetings to coordinate their execution of these responsibilities. These meetings should be open, and their minutes should be reported to the SBOL Development Group.

The SBOL Editors mailing list is Editorial communications should generally use this list to preserve records and aid organization. To preserve organizational memory, former editors are kept on the mailing list until they choose to remove themselves.

SBOL Editors are elected by a community vote, following the process below. Editors serve initially for a two-year term, and upon unanimous approval of the editors and chair, an editor’s term can be extended for an additional third year. After completing their term as editor, a person may not run for editor again for at least one year. To maximize continuity, editors' terms should be de-synchronized. There are 5 editorial positions, currently held by:

  • Lukas Buecherl, University of Colorado
  • Tom Mitchell, Raytheon BBN Technologies
  • Gonzalo Vidal Peña, Newcastle University
  • Georgie Hau Sørensen, University of Bristol
  • Carolus Vitalis, University of Colorado

Previous SBOL Editors (including their affiliation when they were editors):

  • James Scott-Brown (University of Oxford)
  • Prashant Vaidyananthan (Microsoft Research)
  • Pedro Fontanarrosa (University of Utah)
  • Hasan Baig (University of Connecticut)
  • Vishwesh Kulkarni (University of Warwick)
  • Zach Palchik (Zymergen)
  • Curtis Madsen (Sandia National Labs)
  • Nicholas Roehner (BBN Technologies)
  • Angel Goñi Moreno (Newcastle University)
  • Umesh P (Kerala Technological University)
  • Tramy Nguyen (University of Utah)
  • James McLaughlin (Newcastle University)
  • Robert Sidney Cox (Kobe University)
  • Raik Grunberg (University of Montreal)
  • Jacob Beal (BBN Technologies)
  • Bryan Bartley (University of Washington)
  • Kevin Clancy (ThermoFisher)
  • Michal Galdzicki (University of Washington)
  • Goksel Misirli (Newcastle University)
  • Ernst Oberortner (Boston University)
  • Matthew Pocock, (Newcastle University)
  • Jacqueline Quinn (Google)
  • Cesar Rodriguez (Autodesk)
  • Mandy Wilson (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute).

SBOL Chair and Steering Committee

The positions of SBOL Chair and Steering Committee are a means for organizing strategic planning and coordination amongst PI-level members of the SBOL community.

The SBOL Chair is the head of the SBOL Steering Committee. The SBOL Chair is responsible for ensuring regular steering committee meetings are held, for effective moderation of these meetings, and for being an advertised public point of contact for outside organizations.

The SBOL Chair is elected by a community vote, following the process below. Chairs serve for a four year term. In order to ensure a smooth working relationship between the SBOL Chair and SBOL Editors, the SBOL Editors can remove a chair by a no-confidence vote amongst the SBOL Editors at any time.

The rest of the SBOL Steering Committee are appointed (and removed) by the SBOL Chair. The Steering Committee has no fixed size or fixed term, but should generally comprise the set of PI-level members who are strongly active, have a strong stake in SBOL, and are willing to assume community leadership responsibilities.

The SBOL Steering Committee shall hold monthly meetings to coordinate around strategic issues for the community (e.g., funding, setting key priorities and goals). These meetings should be open, and their minutes should be reported to the SBOL Development Group. The SBOL Steering Committee should also convene an external advisory board to help maintain strategic links with other communities and to obtain useful advice in guiding the community.

The SBOL Steering Committee mailing list is Communications should generally use this list to preserve records and aid organization. To preserve organizational memory, former chairs and members are kept on the mailing list until they choose to remove themselves.

The SBOL current chair:

Prashant Vaidyanathan (April, 2023-), Oxford Biomedica

Previous Chairs:

  • Chris Myers (2019-2023), University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Anil Wipat (2015-2019), Newcastle University
  • Herbert Sauro (2010-2015), University of Washington, Seattle

The SBOL Steering Committee is currently (listed alphabetically):

  • Jacob Beal, Raytheon BBN Technologies
  • Thomas Gorochowski, University of Bristol
  • Goksel Misirli, Keele University
  • Chris Myers, University of Colorado, Boulder

Past SBOL Steering Committee Members (listed alphabetically):

  • Kevin Clancy, Synthetic Genomics, Inc.
  • Ernst Oberortner, Takara Bio, USA
  • Timothy Rudge, Newcastle University, UK
  • Herbert Sauro, University of Washington
  • Anil Wipat, Newcastle University, UK

The SBOL chair has also organized an international advisory panel comprising a range of experts in standards and synthetic biology. The panel will provide an external perspective for SBOL, with advice on how SBOL can grow to meet the needs of the wider community.

The SBOL Advisory Board is currently (listed alphabetically):

  • Dr. Traci Haddock, iGEM Foundation
  • Dr. Hennig Hermajakob, EMBL-EBI
  • Prof. Jean Peccoud, Colorado State University
  • Prof. Manuel Porcar Miralles, I2SysBio
  • Dr. Elizabeth Strychalski, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Prof. Claudia Vickers, University of Queensland
  • Prof. Chris Voigt, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Past SBOL Advisory Board Members (listed alphabetically):

  • Prof. Matthew Chang, National University of Singapore
  • Prof. Richard Kitney, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Victor de Lorenzo, Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia-CSIC
  • Dr. Sarah Munro, US National Institute of Standards and Technology / Stanford University

SBOL Industrial Consortium

The SBOL Industrial Consortium is a pre-competitive organization of companies (or similar non-company organizations) investing in the SBOL community. As the SBOL Industrial Consortium operates pre-competitively, all products of activities supported by the SBOL Industrial Consortium shall be free, open, and support the core values of the SBOL community.

The SBOL Industrial Consortium will organize an Industrial Advisory Board to provide an industrial perspective on SBOL. The SBOL Chair shall hold quarterly meetings with the Industrial Advisory Board. These meetings (which may co-occur with Steering Committee Meetings) should be open and their minutes should be reported to the SBOL Development Group.

Subject to these constraints, the SBOL Industrial Consortium is otherwise organized independently and operates under its own internal governance. Similarly, membership in the SBOL Industrial Consortium neither implies nor impairs membership in the SBOL Development Group.

Voting Procedures

Elections Process:

Before any election, there is a nomination period of 5 working days. All members of the SBOL Development Group are eligible for all offices (except those that are term-limited). Any member can self-nominate or can nominate any other member. Voting runs for 5 working days, starting at the end of the nomination period. All members of the SBOL Development Group are eligible to vote. Candidates are elected by plurality.

Voting process:

  1. Any member of the SBOL Developers Group can submit an SBOL Enhancement Proposal (SEP) to the editors and/or to the community at large. See SEP #1 for a description of when and how to write and submit an SEP.

  2. SBOL editors are expected to move a given SEP draft to a vote once they agree that there has been sufficient debate. However, any member of the SBOL Developers Group can initiate the vote as long as one other member of the group seconds the motion.

  3. SBOL Editors post a voting form (see below), for a final discussion period of 2 working days.

  4. Voting runs for 5 working days, starting at the end of the discussion period. All members of the SBOL Development Group are eligible to vote.

  5. SBOL Editors may extend the voting period by up to an additional 5 working days when they feel that an insufficient number of votes have been obtained.

  6. SBOL Editors tally and call the vote. First vote will be judged by a 67% majority to indicate “rough consensus”.

    1. If rough consensus is not reached, discussion of 3 working days is to follow. SEP authors can modify or withdraw their proposal during that time.
    2. The reasons for decisions must be recorded with the results of the vote.
    3. Any second followup vote will be ruled by 50% majority and will be treated as the decision.

Voting form must:

  1. State clearly the SEP number and title being voted on and provide a link to this SEP.
  2. State the eligibility criteria for voting, “All members of the SBOL Developers Group are eligible to vote.”
  3. Provide the following options for the vote:
    • accept — vote to accept the SEP
    • reject — vote to reject the SEP
    • abstain — no opinion, abstain votes will not be counted when determining majorities
    • defer / table for further discussion — keep the SEP in draft stage so that it can be again put to a vote after further discussion and amendment (in contrast to “abstain” this vote will be counted when determining majorities).

Ground-rules for moderating discussions in SBOL breakout sessions

  1. No interruptions; signal to moderator that you wish to speak. If a person goes on too long, however, the moderator may ask them to give the next person a turn to speak.
  2. Moderator maintains a queue of speakers, calling on each in turn.
  3. Pause periodically for “step back” and explicitly invite comments by less-heard voices, possibly specifically inviting individual people. Spend at least 30 seconds waiting before continuing.
  4. Speaking about people or value judgements promotes conflict rather than constructive discussion. Instead, speak about ideas and facts in terms of specific concerns and consequences.
    • e.g., “You are wrong” is problematic for communication because it is about people (“you”) and value judgements (“wrong”). It will tend to promote rather than resolve conflict.
    • Instead: “I am concerned that proposal X will have negative consequence Y.”
  5. Heated conversation suppresses sharing of legitimate concerns. If discussion is getting heated, it should be paused, the emotional concern acknowledged, and restarted with a cooler tone.
  6. Side issues should be recorded to revisit later if they become a significant distraction.