rOpenSci Announces $2.9M Award from the Helmsley Charitable Trust

rOpenSci, whose mission is to develop and maintain sustainable software tools that allow researchers to access, visualize, document, and publish open data on the Web, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant of nearly $2.9 million over three years from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The grant, which was awarded through the Trust’s Biomedical Research Infrastructure Program, will be used to expand rOpenSci’s mission of developing tools and community around open data and reproducible research practices.

rOpenSci is a project at the University of California, Berkeley that began a little over three years ago as a small collaboration among a few researchers who intended to package data-retrieval scripts. The founders wanted the data underlying their analysis to be open and easily accessible to everyone. The project has since grown into a widely recognized worldwide collaborative effort that plays an important role in fostering open and transparent scientific practices across the research community. rOpenSci supports an ecosystem of more than 50 software packages, engages scores of collaborators from nearly two dozen countries, and has conducted dozens of workshops worldwide.

The rOpenSci team has improved tools for researchers who consume open data and work closely with scientists to help them develop research software. In addition, the project has fostered a thriving community of researchers who develop software through open peer review and conferences.

Funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will allow the rOpenSci team to develop new tools that support various pieces of the reproducible research workflow as the team continues to maintain the existing rOpenSci suite of software. The rOpenSci team is also planning a partnership with the Data Carpentry (DC) project, a not-for-profit organization that runs two-day training workshops to help researchers develop basic data science skills. This partnership will allow DC to run rOpenSci-themed workshops (lessons taught with an emphasis on rOpenSci tools for data sharing, acquisition, retrieval, and visualization). Over the course of this partnership, the team hopes to develop a comprehensive corpus of openly licensed teaching material to be used at two-day workshops, as part of classroom curriculum, or for self-guided learning. These new training activities will provide the project with a comprehensive set of community resources, including lessons and tutorials.

To scale up efforts in all of these areas, rOpenSci will be expanding its team over the coming months. New job postings, including those for a community manager, software engineer, and postdoctoral fellow, among various other short-term positions, will be posted on rOpenSci’s website. Over the coming months, the rOpenSci team will also announce details of a new fellowship program.

As we embark on a new phase for the project, we would like thank our community and contributors, without whom this effort would not succeed. We also offer a special thanks to Ethan White, Tracy Teal, and Greg Wilson for the feedback, advice, and encouragement they provided as we developed this proposal.

The rOpenSci project is a project based at UC Berkeley's Institute for Data Science and Berkeley Initiative for Global Change Biology with previous funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Founded in 2011, the project develops tools to support key parts of the data life cycle, from lowering barriers to access to validation and permanent archiving. A key part of rOpenSci’s mission is also to train the next generation of researchers as both consumers of data and developers of scientific software.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in health, place-based initiatives, and education and human services. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. The Trust’s Biomedical Research Infrastructure Program seeks to lower barriers for biomedical discovery through the development of research tools, training and collaborative platforms that improve the quality and reproducibility of preclinical research. For more information, visit helmsleytrust.org.

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