Announcing the New Cohort of Event Fund!

Code for Science & Society is excited to announce the fourth cohort of Event Fund!

2024 CS&S Event Fund Fellows

Bria Massey is based in Maryland (United States) and works with Justice Informatics Group as her community of practice. She is seeking to address a disconnect between health data and the personal stories they represent. Nowadays, Bria argues, most funding is skewed heavily towards STEM fields, leaving subjects like the arts and humanities destitute. Consequently, establishing spaces that encourage reading and critical thinking has become more challenging. In response to this challenge, Bria suggests initiating a virtual book competition – Books Beyond Borders – to address these obstacles and cultivate a deeper comprehension among individuals interested in liberation, healthcare, and technology.

Chris Emezue is based in Canada and works with Lanfrica as his community of practice. Chris pushes the boundaries of defining software engineers beyond programmers, computer scientists, and “geeky people writing code.” He posits that “research software engineers” are essentially “builders”: people who build stuff (platforms, software, tech, ideas, etc) to facilitate research and life betterment. He believes the skill of building is not reserved to a few “software engineers” but rather an innate skill that we all have, and can be ignited. With Lanfrica, he wants to ignite this in the hearts of language users.

Elizabeth Ondula is based in California (United States) and works with SUITERS-RL (Simulations, Usability, Interpretability, Theory, Ethical Real-World, Societal implications) as her community of practice. Elizabeth hopes to use the Event Fund to demystify this reinforcement learning (RL) – a technique in Artificial Intelligence that mirrors the trial-and-error process inherent in human and animal learning – and its practical applications to a diverse audience with varying levels of expertise in AI and software development.

Georgiana Wright is a creative technologist based in Alabama (United States) and works with Black Public Media and HBCUs as her community of practice. She has previously worked at Apple, Microsoft Research, and Rockstar Games as a machine learning intern where she focused on building interactive prototypes that ranged from using generative AI for 3D avatar stylization to refining the game economy in Grand Theft Auto 5. She was a 2021 Black Ambition Prize HBCU winner, a Black Public Media NCU Fellow, and has dreams of building more interactive experiences catered to black women. She hopes to use the Event Fund to address the disparity in immersive technology education and opportunities for underrepresented individuals.

Henri-Count Evans is based in Eswatini and works with DigiMethodsAfrica as his community of practice. He works as a lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Eswatini. He hopes to use the Event Fund to combine regional hackathons and workshops for building open-source tools for studying digital media platforms (social media and websites) by Southern African media scholars. The idea is to develop R and Python scripts that Southern African scholars could use to study digital media (scraping, cleaning, analyzing and visualizing data). The event would unfold in two interconnected phases: hybrid hackathons and workshops.

Sam Amegavi is based in Kumasi (Ghana) and works with "IT IS WHAT IT IS" as his community of practice. Sam hopes to use Event Fund to host a one-day conference or meetup where people who use the tools of digital craftsmanship re-examine the historical significance of technologies of their trade. Going beyond the usual career-based problem solving and job-related skills development "IT IS WHAT IT IS" dreams of spaces and programmes that address ontological questions around web and Internet technologies and how these technologies could have emerged differently if say a more racially diverse lay group had the means to pioneer it.

About the Event Fund

The Event Fund is a community-advised fund established in 2019 to support inclusive and accessible events in data science, including machine learning, open data, and artificial intelligence. Read more about the governance of the Event Fund. Over $585,000 USD has been awarded by the Event Fund, including this year’s cohort, representing 43 organizing teams hailing from 29 countries across five continents. Read more about the past impact of this program.

In response to feedback from previous cohorts, this year we are leaning into a cohort model to connect across time and space. With a focus on supporting Black Research Software Engineers (RSEs), this cohort is more tightly connected, by design. In addition to awards of $10,000 USD each, beginning this month, we will be running a 6-month program for Event Fund fellows augmented by a public seminar series.

Representation of Black people in these spaces is only the beginning of necessary deeper engagement with issues of equity and inclusion in software engineering. Organizational issues need to be carefully interrogated to understand not only who is not present within a community but why they are not present in many of these spaces (and how to change the spaces to be more genuinely open to divergent thinking and lived experiences).

Thus we are keen to push the definition of diversity beyond a focus exclusively on increasing the number of people that represent a particular identity category and instead encourage the RSE community to turn a gaze on the organizational structures, norms, and culture that exert pressure to conform on those who participate as professionals in a field. Such invisible pressures to professionalize hegemonically reproduce existing ways of being and knowing. Instead, working with this cohort, we start from the hypothesis that we cannot create spaces truly open to diverse lived experiences and world views unless we support different ways of approaching research software engineering and give folks space to grow, play, and change. This cohort is not only an edification of our Event Fund programming, but a resistance to how DEI initiatives require people to dilute what makes them different (from whiteness) in the first place to participate.

We hope that through this cohort and the events facilitated by resourcing from the Event Fund, RSE communities of practice will be able to improve their own processes to support long-term community health and more diverse voices to grow within these spaces.

Please join us in congratulating the 2024 cohort of Event Fund fellows and register for our public programming taking place in June! To stay up to date, join our mailing list.

About cycle 4: The latest call for applications (RFP #4) drew 40 applications from 18 countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, New Zealand, Australia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Germany, United States of America, Senegal, Brazil, Eswatini, Malawi, South Africa, Canada, and Zambia. We appreciate the enthusiastic response to our request for proposals and the time and effort of our applicants. Grantees were selected based on the points of exploration outlined in the open call.

Acknowledgements: This program is made possible through support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant G-2023-20907) and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Previous supporters of the Event Fund include the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Wellcome Trust. We thank the Event Fund Advisory Committee, Selection Committee, and funding partners for their support in developing this community-advised fund for research-driven data science communities around the globe.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash