Open Life Science: How far we've come

Posted by j.laird on 12 November 2020 - 10:00am

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Photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

By Yo Yehudi, Malvika Sharan and Bérénice Batut.

This is the second part of three parts of the OLS project and community report. The first part covered: Where we are and the third part is Where we want to go.

OLS-1 to OLS-2: cohort doubled in size

The post-cohort survey from the first round of Open Life Science (OLS) was overwhelmingly positive, despite the fact that most of the training and project development took place during the lockdown. The graduation calls were live-streamed and reports were shared widely on social media. As a result, more members with interest and expertise in Open Science reached out to join the next cohort. Many of the OLS-1 projects have established themselves as valuable resources in their communities, as described in the short report and OLS-1 reflection talk from BCC 2020. Particularly, our heartiest congratulations to an OLS-1 project Bioinformatics HUB of Kenya, which with incubator funding provided by OLS team, has recently established itself as a registered non-profit organisation in Kenya.

In OLS-2, a total of 32 projects by a group of 52 mentees were selected, which is a ~50% increase in project numbers and participants over the previous cohort. These project leads will be trained and mentored between September and December of 2020 with the support of 32 mentors and 67 members in the expert community. These members represent several countries from six continents and will advance the knowledge of Open Science in their communities. Six projects from The Turing Way affiliated with The Alan Turing Institute joined the project in the second cohort, as part of a collaboration. Through this collaboration, the international community of The Turing Way will be able to access mentoring and training support through OLS. Read more details about this cohort in this blog post.

We continue to invite feedback from our participants to ensure that they feel adequately supported and find their experience of working with OLS mutually rewarding. We encourage participants to develop their projects on their GitHub repositories and share with others in the program through a centralised GitHub-based issue tracker. They explore and discuss each other’s projects and share feedback on OLS-2 GitHub issues and shared HackMDs. They also volunteer to host coworking sessions to work and build connections with others in the program. We have pathways for our graduates to return as mentors and experts (many OLS-1 graduates have returned to OLS-2) and continue to gain support from the OLS even after they have finished their training.

Cohort expense and cost - and its shoestring budget

Our website helps to give us an incredibly professional face thanks to Bérénice’s tireless and utterly incredible efforts (including during her maternity leave). But, as shiny as our site might look, we’re still operating on a shoestring budget - most of the preparation work we do is out of hours and on our own time. Likewise, OLS mentors and experts are all currently unpaid.

The estimated real cost for each cohort is £24,259 in founder, mentor, and expert time, as well as some infrastructure costs. Ideally, we would like to meet these costs - as such it probably comes as no surprise that the OLS team is currently seeking funding and applying for external fund sources.

Many of the expenses required to run this project effectively have come from the founders’ own pockets. Some funding resources can be reached with requests for support to sympathetic organisations, however claiming some of our expenses can sometimes be challenging – not all items can be funded due to funding organisation’s policies, and administrative formalities and/or blog posts are required for each funded item. Whilst running a non-profit organisation outside of our day jobs, we’ve unfortunately become extremely time-poor and struggle to constantly look for small funds or offer invisible labour associated with funding obligations.

Software Sustainability Institute fellowship to support OLS-2

Two co-founders are fellows of the Software Sustainability Institute, which provided small fellowship funds with which we manage to support the communication and application management platforms required for OLS-2 (EasyChair, Zoom, professional mentor training etc.). We are grateful to receive personal and organisational support in redirecting this fellowship towards OLS infrastructure needs.

EOSC-Life Training grant to support OLS-3

For one cohort in 2021, OLS has been awarded EOSC-Life open call training funding of up to €20,000 to develop a special call to train and mentor up to 15 projects from within the EOSC-Life research infrastructure. This will partially cover costs for OLS-3, which will be designed over the next few months by including a new curriculum. This opportunity will help widen the accessibility of our service and resources for the EOSC-Life community while we continue to support our participants from developing countries.

Thanks to Neil Chue Hong, Bastian Greshake Tzovaras, Mateusz Kuzak, Andrew Stewart, Naomi Penfold, Fotis E. Psomopoulos, and Emmy Tsang for providing references and generous testimonials about the program. You can find a copy of our grant application on Zenodo.

The Open Life Science EasyChair application subscription is supported by the SSI fellowship awarded to two of the co-founders of Open Life Science. This post is the second part of their project and community report originally posted on their website: https://openlifesci.org/posts


Want to discuss this post with us? Send us an email or contact us on Twitter @SoftwareSaved.