Science Gateways Bootcamp: Achieving Sustainability for Web-Based Platforms

Guest post by: Nayiri Mullinix

Also known as portals, virtual research environments, and hubs, science gateways provide Web-based access to shared data, software, computing services, instruments, educational materials, and other resources specific to a discipline.

The Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI) is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), USA, to offer—at no cost—resources, services, experts, and ideas for creating and sustaining gateways. SGCI was founded in 2016 with the mission of serving the creators of gateways for science and engineering research and education, including those in underrepresented communities in STEM areas. The Director of SGCI is Nancy Wilkins-Diehr of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, and the leadership team is comprised of five others, three of whom are women.

Science Gateways Bootcamp, which is a week-long workshop that we offer twice yearly, has quickly become one of our most popular offerings. The intensive workshop gives gateway developers an opportunity to leave behind day-to-day tasks to work closely with their team members. They tackle big questions by engaging in hands-on activities that help to articulate the value of their work to key stakeholders.

Erin Robinson, Executive Director of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Data Management Training, was one of 110 Bootcamp participants to date, 30% of which were women. For Erin, this focused time with teammates has proven invaluable. In reflecting on the experience, Erin said, Before coming to the SGCI Bootcamp, I only had a limited perspective on our gateway from the host institution stakeholder point of view. Taking the time to be fully present during the Bootcamp to work with my teammate on our project opened my eyes to the real impact our gateway could have, the broader impact we can make in our community, and the opportunities and actions that are low-hanging fruit to tackle in the next three months.”

Bootcamp participants work hard throughout the week on creating a strong development, operations, and sustainability plan. The added benefit of the lessons learned throughout the week is that participants also walk away with a flexible toolkit of proven and effective strategies in everything from business and finance to cybersecurity and usability. As Catrina Adams, Director of Education at the Botanical Society of America, states, the toolkit allows for future iterations and further evolution of gateway projects. She commented, “I’ve gained a flexible toolkit for sustainability planning. I now know the kinds of questions I should be asking and have a structure for refining my thinking on sustainability. The Bootcamp was intense, but fun as well.”

Now in its third year, the Bootcamp is still young, but we’re already beginning to hear of the lasting impact that the lessons have made among the 56 projects that have been selected for the program. One attendee, Carol Song of Purdue University, is leading the GeoEDF project which was recently awarded $4.5 million by NSF. When we congratulated her, she commented, “The Bootcamp experience was still fresh in our minds. We applied lessons learned there even during proposal writing – from identifying audiences, clearly connecting activities to goals and outcomes, to developing a sustainability plan.” Another Bootcamp takeaway for Carol was that SGCI is available to assist beyond that week, too, adding, “GeoEDF will utilize SGCI consulting services on usability and user-centered design and impact assessment, and leverage the SGCI student internship program.”

The really good news is that, thanks to funding from NSF, the Bootcamp is currently offered at minimal cost. If accepted, your team would only need to pay for travel, lodging, and a couple of dinners.

Want to learn more about the Bootcamp? You can do so by visiting our FAQ page, which includes links to blog posts about past Bootcamps filled with the testimonials of satisfied participants: https://sciencegateways.org/engage/bootcamp/apply.

The next session will be May 13-17, 2019, in Indianapolis, IN.

Ready to apply? You can do so here: https://sciencegateways.org/bootcamp. Have a question about the Bootcamp, or about SGCI in general? Reach us anytime at help@sciencegateways.org.

 

About the author: Nayiri Mullinix

  • Nayiri Mullinix is SGCI’s Community Engagement & Exchange Coordinator. Nayiri has followed her interests and curiosity throughout her career, pursuing a path that started in radio journalism and evolved into elementary school teaching, with record store clerking and the acquisition of several degrees peppered throughout. Eventually, she came to realize that what brings her the most joy is connecting people and ideas, which is much of what she does for SGCI.

Blog Editor: Jesmin Jahan Tithi, Research Scientist, Intel.