From 2012 to 2021, the Moore Foundation’s Data-Driven Discovery Initiative addressed several challenges in modern data science, including handling overwhelming amounts of data with new techniques, better tools, and improved data-driven practices. The initiative also considered the need for a larger, more diverse scientific community with increased global perspectives to tackle complex data problems.
Well-run and properly supported events are breeding grounds for collaboration and idea sharing in any area of study. But in some communities, it can be difficult for research-focused data science events to receive adequate support to successfully address region-specific concerns. As part of its activities to conclude the Data-Driven Discovery Initiative, the foundation looked for ways to further democratize event support and strengthen underserved data science communities. In 2019, the Moore Foundation partnered with Code for Science and Society (CS&S), an organization focused on equitable and open-source research, data and technology initiatives.
2021 Event Fund Grantee Ni Kadek Dita Cahyani, Yayasan Biodiversitas Indonesia, is running events with young researchers in Eastern Indonesia to facilitate collaborative analysis of molecular data. Image credit: Ni Kadek Cahyani, Yayasan Biodiversitas Indonesia.
With foundation support, CS&S established the Event Fund as part of an effort to dedicate resources to developing, expanding, and deepening data science communities across the world. Specifically, the fund was built on the idea that refined selection processes and community input could lead to more productive events and conferences that increase global participation in the field. Beyond funding, CS&S also invested in these communities by providing training for event organizers, incorporating outside knowledge into event planning, and enabling the development of best practices.
CS&S took a uniquely community-centered approach with their model, drawing the advisory and selection committees from active members of the data science community, strongly emphasizing diversity and inclusion. Members have rotated on and off the committees, ensuring dynamic perspectives, expertise, and new ideas. Calls for proposals were developed with transparency in mind to ensure trust in evaluation and decision making.
Through this program, funders and grantees alike have been able to expand their global reach. To date, the Event Fund has awarded over $525,000 to three cohorts of grantees from 27 different countries. Examples include:
- Data Umbrella works to increase participation of underrepresented persons in data science, open sources and Python from the regions of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. With the Event Fund support, Data Umbrella hosted scikit-learn sprints for those in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East towards expanding their community and contributing to their software sustainability.
- LA-CoNGA Physics Hackathon connected university students and early career scientists from Latin America with local companies and institutions to work on a project using physics data.
- Environmental Enforcement Watch hosted a series of online workshops in which environmental activist groups, environmental justice communities, subject area experts, and members of the public were brought together to collaboratively analyze & make actionable data from EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database using data science tools.
- The Kenya Bioinformatics Network and OpenScienceKE trains researchers on open science and bioinformatics. They collaborated to run an open science symposium, bioinformatics workshops, instructor training events, hackathons for collaborative mini-projects, and a conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
Festus Nyasimi of the Bioinformatics Hub of Kenya presenting at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. Image credit: Twitter @Festus_nyasimi
These events have been incubators for knowledge sharing and new voices. Local communities have first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges they are facing, and often modest support allows them to begin addressing them.
As Yanina, a 2020-2021 Event Fund grantee from Latin America shared, “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 and learn together to achieve our goals. CS&S was the first organization that trusted us and supported a proposal born and executed by Latin Americans for Latin Americans, respecting and valuing local talent and knowledge."
This model’s global reach reflects the diversity of the data science community and exposes grantees to the collective knowledge of the field. Because event participants are often early in their careers, these training and networking opportunities have served to support the next generation of data science practitioners. It has also allowed funders to expand their network of potential grantees, with some partners directly investing in grantees afterwards. CS&S also secured additional funding for the Event Fund from Wellcome Trust and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to expand opportunities and ensure durability of progress. The Event Fund will be opening its next open call in fall 2023. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“With the conclusion of the Moore Foundation initiative, we wanted to find a way to empower the community to support important conferences and events that would be sustainable into the future. The Event Fund funding model has been very successful and had a much bigger global footprint than we originally anticipated.”
In the past, these data science spaces may have been exclusionary, but pushing to distribute funding and knowledge development more evenly normalizes inclusivity, promotes equity, and moves the field in a positive direction.