rOpenSci Announces $678K Award from the Sloan Foundation to Expand Software Peer Review

  Karthik Ram  |   Noam Ross


July 15, 2019

We’re delighted to announce that we have received new funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The $678K grant, awarded through the Foundation’s Data & Computational Research program, will be used to expand our efforts in software peer review.

Software peer review has become a core part of rOpenSci, helping improve scientific software quality, drive best engineering practices into scientific communities, and building community and collaboration through open, constructive reviews. We’re excited to expand our work in this important area. Here’s what we’ll be doing in the next two years with this support:

New tools to manage the software peer-review editorial process: We’ve built our software peer review system on top of GitHub’s issue system, but as we grow, we need additional automation to make the process simpler and more automated for authors, reviewers, and editors. We will also be building more tools to test and measure code quality, flag areas for reviewers and authors to focus on.

Better training, documentation, and tools for adoption: We want other groups to be able to use peer-review, too, so we will be rolling out more documentation and training on how to set up peer-review communities, including setting up their own chatbot-based systems and automated reports of software quality customized to their own standards.

A new focus on statistical software: rOpenSci’s software ecosystem has always focused on reproducibility and managing scientists’ data lifecycle. Now we aim to expand that work into the critical area of statistical software. Over the next year, we’ll be setting up a new review board with expertise in statistical and computational issues in implementing packages that fit models and estimate statistical quantities. We’ll be working with the new board and the broader statistical software community to develop a set of agreed-upon standards for statistical package implementation and testing, then launching a new peer-review process and testing tools. This is an ambitious new challenge for us, but we’re excited to expand and engage our amazing community of contributors to meet it. Look out for more announcements in the coming months, including ways you can participate!

Speaking of which, we are hiring a new team member for this project! Our new “Software Research Scientist” position will play a key role in research and development of statistical software standards. Interested? See the job posting

Noam Ross of EcoHealth Alliance will be joining rOpenSci’s leadership team to co-lead these projects.

This grant continues our relationship between rOpenSci and the Sloan Foundation. Our project has received five previous awards from the foundation, including the initial grant that led to the formation of rOpenSci as an organization. We are grateful to Sloan for their ongoing support, especially to the Program Director Josh Greenberg for championing our work, the other officers and reviewers who provided feedback on our proposal. We’d also like to thank those who provided advice and support, including Ben Bolker, Max Kuhn, Andrew Gelman, Jonah S Gabry, and Leah Wasser. Mostly we’d like to thank our amazing community of contributors and volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible.