Reflections from my 3 years on the OBF Board – Malvika Sharan
Thank You. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
I have reached the end of my term after working with the OBF board members since 2019 and have stepped down from the board. It is bittersweet! I will miss seeing my colleagues from OBF in monthly calls, but also, this comes with an opportunity to make space for new voices to come into the leadership role of the Open Bioinformatics Foundation.
Over the last years, one of my main focuses has been the OBF Event Fellowship, previously managed by Nomi Harris and Farah Zaib Khan (previously called travel fellowship). Having benefited from this programme, I personally value the opportunity for small funding that researchers with low or non-existent travel budgets can use for attending international conferences. Scientific events are extremely valuable for researchers to build new connections, share their research and often find their next career opportunities. You can see my post-event blog from 2019 here: https://www.open-bio.org/2019/08/27/tips-for-informal-discussions/.
Since joining, I managed and coordinated the programme (see the task list) and built rubrics to review applications ensuring fair evaluation and avoiding biases that unexplicit scoring can lead to (see review process). Primarily motivated by the travel restrictions experienced due to the pandemic, in collaboration with the OBF board members, I revised the travel fellowship documents to adapt to the need for supporting online participation. So far, I have managed six rounds of Event Fellowships (over three years) and supported one OBF-BOSC Event Support Fund, which together was awarded to 28 individuals (see all announcements). Of course, none of this could be possible without the timely review and thoughtful advice given by Bastian Greshake, Chris Fields, Hilmar Lapp, Nomi Harris, Peter Cock, Yo Yehudi and our wonderful treasurer Heather Wienco.
Earlier this year, I onboarded two newly elected members, Caleb Kibet and Hilyatuz Zahroh, as co-chairs of the Event Fellowship. They will continue in this position and will take forward the programme. I am really excited for the OBF community to see further improvement in the Event Fellowship programme supporting our commitments to open science and strengthening the participation of diverse researchers in bioinformatics events (see discussion).
Since the event fellowship is an individual award, we received many applications from event hosts asking for financial support for their attendees. This was unfortunately not in scope for this scheme. However, it led to many internal discussions with the OBF Board members to build pathways for the grassroots communities and identify support for their ongoing activities. I contributed to drafting the OBF Community Support Fund proposal, which is being led by Peter Cock.
I also drafted a Code of Conduct adopted from The Carpentries for the OBF community in collaboration with the board members, especially Bastian Greshake and Yo Yehudi, who along with me are listed as the members for report handling. Started in 2020, the Code of Conduct was approved in January 2022. This was a long process for a good reason, as we could reflect on the scope, extent and enforcement procedure carefully. The complete Code of Conduct document is available on the OBF GitHub repository and applies to the OBF community including the board.
OBF’s annual conference, Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC) was my entry into the open science community in bioinformatics in 2012 (mentioned in the third paragraph). This community has a special place in my heart and I was grateful to be involved in the BOSC 2021 planning committee, which was chaired by Nomi Harris. At that conference, we featured the first bilingual keynote lecture, discussed the rubrics and honoraria for invited speakers to align our workflow with the intention to build an inclusive community and facilitated an OBF-BOSC Event Support Fund for BOSC attending from underrepresented communities. See the full report: Harris, N. L., Cock, P. J. A., Fields, C. J., Hokamp, K., Maia, J., Munoz-Torres, M., Sharan, M., Williams, J. (2021). BOSC 2021, the 22nd Annual Bioinformatics Open Source Conference. F1000Research, 10(1054), 1054. DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.74074.1.
My path has diverged – I no longer work in bioinformatics. Over the last years, I moved countries, changed jobs, co-launched Open Life Science, transitioned to co-leading The Turing Way, became involved in various open science communities and established a team of Community Managers at The Alan Turing Institute. My limited time and energy are now being directed towards building people-centric resources and community infrastructure, which I am sure will continue to cross paths with OBF, even beyond my time on the OBF board.
With immense gratitude towards all members of the OBF board, previous member Yo Yehudi who nominated me for election, and various collaborative projects I was involved in, I am bidding my farewell to the OBF board. Please look out for the call for the next election and nominate yourself, or someone who would like to give back to the open source communities in bioinformatics through an opportunity to support the ongoing projects or propose new ideas for the OBF.
You are very welcome to find details about my work and connect with me: https://malvikasharan.github.io/.
With best wishes,