A Community Fund for Open Data Science

Code for Science & Society (CS&S) works to advance the power of data to improve the social and economic lives of all people through education, scientific research, and technology development. We focus on improving the sustainability of open source software, open scholarship, and the open data community.

Tackling the complex challenges of the 21st century—climate change, resource inequities, and global health crises, to name a few—will require robust, collaborative, transnational research networks with diverse data capacities. In 2020, CS&S developed a community-advised fund to support inclusive and accessible events in data science towards cultivating the relationships and skills needed for next-generation scientific practices, infrastructures, and technologies.

The Event Fund has an annual grant-making budget of 200K USD used to award grants of 10-20K USD. The fund is currently supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF8449; the Wellcome Trust, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

We take a community-centered approach to supporting events in the research-driven data science space that are grounded in the needs of the community. Supported events focus on tools, practices, and communities in research-driven open data science. The core tenets of the fund are:

  • Supporting emerging leaders. Grantees join a cohort program where they are mentored and supported through training on event organizing, community sustainability, fundraising, and accessibility and gain access to international experts who assist in advising the program.
  • Creating open resources. Grantees create and openly share inclusive data science training curricula. The program produces open resources on good practices in virtual event organization, developed in collaboration with community experts.
  • Making open data science more inclusive and accessible - on a global scale. Grantees’ events train data scientists around the world and prioritize equity and inclusivity. Events build skills in communities that have been historically underrepresented in data science.
2021 Event Fund Grantee Ni Kadek Dita Cahyani (Yayasan Biodiversitas Indonesia) demonstrates sample extractions and data analysis processes to remote audiences in eastern Indonesia to improve student’s learning experience in molecular study. Image source: Yayasan Biodiversitas Indonesia.

How is the fund governed?

The Event Fund is particularly special because it is community-advised, meaning members from the broader community make up the selection committee that determines which events should be supported, and an advisory committee, which makes strategic decisions about the Fund.

The Advisory Committee oversees governance, operations, and strategy, including recruitment for the Selection Committee. This is a volunteer position with members recruited from mid to senior levels. Funding decisions rest with a Selection Committee, composed of open data science champions who have proven track records of being strong community organizers who promote diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. We provide Selection Committee members with an honorarium after a year of service to acknowledge their valuable contributions to our program. Perspectives from senior community members with experience building and sustaining programs have shaped this fund to prioritize donor impact. Engaging early career data science professionals in the fund’s governance enables exposure to new communities and innovations in practice.

The fund is managed by the CS&S Event Fund Program Manager, Dr. Angela Okune who develops cohort experiences for grantees, enabling them to expand their networks, collaborate to improve their practices, and engage in hands-on professional development led by community experts. Dr. Okune comes to the program with over 10 years of experience in community engagement in open data and knowledge ecosystems. She is supported by Dr. Danielle Robinson, President and Co-Executive Director of CS&S, other CS&S staff, the conference fund's advisory committee, and Kris Wade, Client Operations Manager at the Sans Souci Group.

Who has been funded?

Find the full list of awardees here. The first cohort of grantees was announced in January 2021, representing 13 events with organizers from four continents and audiences around the globe. Some of the funded events, such as DataFest Kampala and Data Umbrella, focus on building data science skills. Other grantees, including Open Life Science and OpenScapes, provide mentoring in open data science practices. The second cohort of grantees was announced in September 2021, representing 11 events with organizers from five continents and global audiences. Some of the second round of funded events seek to understand issues associated with sustaining open knowledge infrastructure faced by regional research communities, while others strengthen a network of black scientists through community building, science communication, and advocacy tools. The third cohort of grantees will be announced by July 2022.

What impact has the Event Fund had?

Since its inception, over 350K USD has been awarded to two cohorts of grantees representing 24 event organization teams hailing from 21 countries across five continents. Audiences also span the globe with events reaching thousands of participants located in over 90 countries. The median size of grants received has been nearly $15,500 USD per organization.

Event Fund grantees have noted that the support has enabled them to deepen and expand their communities and mindfully build in the supporting infrastructure needed to run more inclusive virtual events that are sensitive to barriers of digital access, Internet connectivity, caregiving responsibilities, and language barriers, to name a few.

“Without the mobile Internet data [which was provided to participants that could have otherwise not afforded to join the virtual event], this event would have been so hard to run in a manner that was equitable and inclusive. The amount of the grant is significant in South African Rand and especially to support an event [which is often hard to get funding to support] so we are really grateful. This event really set the bar high and it will be hard to follow it up.”
- Event Fund Grantee
"The Event Fund gave us much more than money. It allowed us to meet other communities and similar initiatives; it gave us space to support each other among these communities and learn together to achieve our goals. I would also like to highlight that the proposals for our region often come from people who do not live or are not native to the region. In our case, CS&S was the first organization that trusted us and supported us so that we could carry out our activities, supported a proposal born and executed by Latin Americans for Latin Americans, respecting and valued local talent and knowledge."
- Event Fund two-time grantee

A participant at an Event Fund supported event stated:

“The experience was amazing and worth it. I really learnt a lot and hopefully will keep up on working on more OS. Love the diversity and networking that comes along with and am proud to have collaborated with my pair and contribution on the OS. thank you for the great platform.”

Looking ahead. We are actively seeking partners to continue the fund beyond 2022. Our structure enables funders to pool resources in a way that maximizes the impact of smaller grants and links funders to new communities arising to meet global challenges. Our deep experience in open source and open data science has enabled us to create a governance framework for this fund that reflects the diversity of the open data science community. Together, we can make the open data science community more impactful, inclusive, accessible, and globally-connected.