Launch of Landscape Report on Climate Sensitive Infectious Disease Communities of Practice

In 2023, the programs team at Code for Science & Society engaged open source communities of practice developing modeling tools for Climate Sensitive Infectious Diseases (CSID). We are excited to share the landscaping report produced from this engagement.

READ the Full Report (PDF)

Breakout group discussion at Cape Town, South Africa during 2023 Co-Design Workshop. Photo by: Lihlumelo Hlumie

This work was conducted in close collaboration with our fiscally sponsored projects, Research Software Alliance (ReSA), MetaDocencia, and U.S. Research Software Sustainability Institute (URSSI), as well as the Ersilia Open Source Initiative and H3D Foundation. Funding for the work was provided by Wellcome Trust.

This project aimed to co-design and enable the foundations for a sustainable and robust CSID Community of Practice (CoP) through engaged research processes.

Through in-depth interviews with CSID researchers and an in-person convening of 45 diverse individuals with an interest in CSID software tools, we found great interest for a new CoP. This CoP would connect disease modelers with those who build software tools and climate change researchers to improve the effectiveness and usability of CSID tools. Since CSID tools require multiple areas of specialization—climate modeling, infectious disease modeling, research software engineering, end-user engagement—a CoP that draws together diverse experts from across these fields is integral for supporting successful CSID software tools. Delegates in attendance expressed their interest in being part of such a CoP and were keen to develop and lead it.

This CoP will need social and operational infrastructure to be sustainable

Our research highlighted that sustainable CoPs depend on social and operational infrastructure to thrive and grow (Sethi 2017; Ram 2023). This includes functional governance that adapts with the CoP's evolution; clear pathways to leadership that can help foster new talent and dynamism; reliable financial and operational infrastructure for long-term stability; and community engagement that promotes collaboration and the advancement of shared areas of interest. An emerging CSID CoP must foreground effective decision-making, culture-building, and operational strategies from its inception to avoid common pitfalls that often challenge new communities.

This CoP must proactively address barriers to participation and access

38% of the 37 tools used for CSID modeling, as identified by Ryan et al. (2023), were developed in the USA or UK, despite the primary intended users being in the global South. Persistent barriers to community participation such as a heavy reliance on volunteered labor and the inequalities that can result; asymmetrical power dynamics resulting from unequal funding distribution; and uneven access to data and technical infrastructure are some of the pressing challenges that a CSID CoP will need to consider to create an inclusive community. This work is international and interdisciplinary. To build a community that can effectively engage across multiple axes of difference, a CSID CoP must foreground discussions of governance, labor, and barriers to funding, access, and participation. This landscaping work has ignited a community ready to meet this great challenge.

The capacity of technical innovation and research to advance public health and mitigate the effects of climate catastrophe is intimately wound up with equity and transparency in the development and deployment of those technologies. Many disparate researchers working on related topics and issues would benefit from being in conversation, but, for a variety of factors, they are often not connected. Building on this initial landscaping work, we are keen to further the development of a community that charts new ways of fostering collaborations between scientists that avoid reproducing the usual power and knowledge hierarchies. Part of this work will involve critically evaluating what is considered valid “science” and who is recognized as a “scientist,” as these definitions often uphold unequal power structures, leading to underrepresentation and marginalization.

If you are interested in being part of this community, join the listserv to stay updated on happenings and next steps.

Featured image by Lora Ohanessian on Unsplash