OBF Community Support Sponsorship

The following outlines a potential new grant programme, subject to approval by the OBF membership in a formal vote, which the OBF board would hope to launch this year.

Motivation

In 2016, the OBF introduced a “Travel Fellowship” to help individuals attend meetings, aiming to improve diversity in the bioinformatics community. Awardees were reimbursed (with receipts) after the event in which they participated, with a standard cap of USD $1000. The Travel Fellowship was later renamed the “Event Fellowship” reflecting that with the COVID-19 pandemic (and hopefully longer-term changes in scientific conferences to promote the participation of diverse members in online events and reduce carbon emissions), attending events no longer automatically means travelling in person.

This fellowship and some of the applications to it have drawn our attention to the fact that for similar amounts of money, we may be able to help grassroots projects running event(s) in their own communities. It would be practical if we do not have to handle itemised receipts for reimbursement, as that would be a significant time overhead for volunteer board members. Instead, the proposal is to follow the existing model of sponsoring conferences whereby the organisers of the event OBF has agreed to support to invoice us an agreed amount (e.g. USD $1000) before the event, and in return our logo appears on their event webpages and materials, acknowledging our support. Where appropriate, applicants will be encouraged to become OBF Affiliate Projects.

This mechanism will require the event organisers to have some sort of bank account or fiscal sponsor (e.g. a university staff member’s budget, a local hackerspace) where we can transfer the funds.

The scope explicitly excludes well-established organisations, which are able to solicit donations and sponsorships on their own. Since some of the OBF’s funds are donated to us by other organisations, we can hopefully be a useful intermediary between our supporters and smaller efforts globally.

Scope

Single events like a scientific meeting, small conference, training workshops, hackathon, or time-limited series like monthly seminars. An organisation can receive only one financial award per calendar year, to ensure that we can offer this support to the wider community.

Essential:

  • Strong bioinformatics component
  • Strong Open Source / Open Science component
  • Code of Conduct

Desirable:

  • Applying for OBF affiliate membership (need indicative time scale). If the group is already an affiliate member, rather than using this scheme, please email the board directly to discuss direct funding.
  • The event that is not yet well-established or well-funded
  • Promotes diversity of bioinformatics participants
  • Organisers largely based in countries on the World Bank’s low or lower-middle-income list
  • Meeting materials will be shared under an open licence (e.g. talk slides/videos under CC-BY)

What is not in the scope:

Well established groups able to attract their own donors and sponsors directly (e.g. ISCB, The Carpentries)

Budget

An initial commitment of $10,000 over two years as an evaluation period, with an individual grant award cap of USD $1000 per event or $2000 for an event series.

Logo and text

We would need a standard logo/image banner, URL, and perhaps text for the event to use.

Argument For

With this scheme, OBF will be able to offer benefits to community projects that are aligned with OBF’s mission but are working on a low budget or without any organisational support. This will be an opportunity to reach the demographic and communities that are not yet served by OBF but that promote Open Source and Open Science practices. Furthermore, by encouraging new projects to become affiliated members of OBF, we will enhance the representation of diverse bioinformatics projects through the OBF platform. As a volunteer organisation that holds funds earned by volunteer labour (in particular via conference fees and Google Summer of Code), it helps to reassure OBF volunteers that funds earned through their efforts are being put to good use empowering communities that have aligned goals.

Argument Against

This proposal is a deliberate expansion on where the OBF spends its income, the vast majority of which is earned through the volunteer labour of OBF community members, including those helping to organize BOSC and serving as mentors and administrators in the OBF’s Google Summer of Code participation. The OBF’s assets and income are finite, and thus funds given to projects, events, or initiatives outside of the OBF umbrella are no longer available to spend on OBF members or membership projects. In other words, for the funds committed to this program, the assumption is that frequently more meritorious recipients and/or causes can be found outside of the OBF umbrella, in the scope of this program, than within OBF’s umbrella, in the full scope of OBF’s mission. There’s little evidence supporting this assumption, and until there is, income earned through OBF volunteer labour should be disbursed within the OBF community (which, as it includes BOSC and its attendees, is already broadly defined).

Process

What happens next? This post outlines our vision; next, we will ask the OBF membership if they approve of the idea in principle. We invite feedback via this GitHub issue or emails to the board by Friday 4th June 2021. If the membership approves, the exact policy wording will be drafted as another OBF policy document on GitHub for the board to approve.


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