Greetings from Your Community Manager!

Stefanie Butland  


October 12, 2016

I feel both proud and privileged to join rOpenSci as your Community Manager. I’ve been a compulsive community builder since the early 2000’s, but it has rarely been part of my job description. Now it seems like all roads have led to this. After a couple of fine days of indoctrination at the UC Berkeley home of rOpenSci, I’m settled into work in beautiful Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.

So much of my perspective of rOpenSci comes from being a newcomer. I was impressed with the funding from three major grants (you must be doing a few things right!), @ropensci having nearly 11,000 followers on Twitter, the awesome staff, leadership team and advisory board, growing from one full time person to four (with two more positions to open up), and having an enthusiastic community that is known for helping each other out and getting things done.

My Open Science Epiphany

I completed my MSc in Biology at York University in Toronto, doing fruit fly behaviour genetics in a lab with a strong foundation in ecology and evolution and I’ve done molecular biology-based research in bacteria, plants, insects and mammals. My open science epiphany came in the late 90’s when I found so many different sequences of my favourite enzyme in public databases that I could learn more and faster by comparing these than I could by slowly cloning and sequencing one more example! check out my science.

This hooked me on bioinformatics and I worked in a core facility (for a former GenBank Coordinator!) connecting wet-lab biologists with data, software and approaches to advance their research. There, I learned the value of open data sharing, data curation and the curators themselves. I also did some Perl programming in a hunt for human disease-causing genes. During this time, I was part of an amazing team that trained hundreds of people in the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops and helped instructors get on board with providing open access to all training materials.

My proudest community building experience (so far) was co-founding the Vancouver Bioinformatics User Group - VanBUG. These days, Vancouver is known for being a bit of a bioinformatics hub, but in the early 2000’s there were just a few researchers and developers distributed across the city in different universities, research centres and companies. We established a monthly seminar and networking series featuring local, national and international speakers, but more importantly, attendees found collaborators, commiserators, mentors, jobs, ideas and friends. VanBUG is now in its 15th year with an impressive history of speakers, including Jenny Bryan back in 2004!

In 2014, after years as a research scientist/embedded bioinformatician, I made the scarey but wildly fulfilling transition from doing science with the goal of publishing papers to enabling great science by connecting researchers and resources at the interface(s) of the life sciences, medicine, and computational sciences at the University of British Columbia and the Personalized Medicine Initiative.

Your Community Manager

I’m excited to help broaden the understanding and reach of rOpenSci to the researcher community, particularly in domains that aren’t yet well represented. One of my favourite/most gratifying things is to connect people who have complementary needs and skills or interests. In the context of rOpenSci, I’m keen to connect people who have specific research needs with developers who are keen to work in that domain, or connect newer developers with more experienced ones, ultimately helping people do great, open, reproducible research.

Soon, in this blog, I’ll introduce you to our first rOpenSci Fellowship recipient and our soon-to-be-selected new Postdoctoral Scholar in Sustainable Software and Reproducible Research.

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés / Chance favours the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur, 1854).

In the short term, I’ll be doing a lot of lurking, connecting, listening to and chatting with many of you to gain an appreciation of what you need to be successful in doing open and reproducible research and working with the core team to address those needs. I’ll be learning how the community talks about rOpenSci and thus, how to represent rOpenSci in all its richness.

Big thanks go to the Helmsley Foundation for funding this position and to Jenny Bryan for enticing me by saying that the rOpenSci community has her “A+++ five-star rating”.

Talk to Me

Tell me about your challenges and your triumphs. What do you want to read in the blog? What would you like to learn in a Community Call? (What would you like to present?) How do you define diversity and how can we cultivate it? Who are the connectors in your communities that we should be talking with?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Ask a question in the discussion forum. Follow @ropensci and me @stefaniebutland on Twitter. Subscribe to hear about new blog posts.

Let’s do this!


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