Phyloinformatics Summer of Code supports OBF Travel Fellowship Program

The Open Bioinformatics Foundation is pleased to announce a gift of USD 18,125 from the Phyloinformatics Summer of Code toward the OBF travel fellowship program. The program, announced earlier this year on March 1, aims to increase diverse participation at events promoting open source bioinformatics software development and open science in the biological research community. The program includes but is not limited to the annual Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC), OBF’s flagship event.

The funds for this gift are a legacy of the seven years during which the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) served as a mentoring organization in the Google Summer of Code™. Over the years, NESCent’s program, the Phyloinformatics Summer of Code, supported dozens of students for three-month paid internships developing open source software for evolutionary and biodiversity informatics.  Each year, Google made a small award to Duke University, NESCent’s administrative home, to support the program, and when NESCent ceased operations in 2015, the funds for this gift remained.

Todd Vision, former Associate Director of Informatics at NESCent, says “With this gift, OBF will carry on the legacy of the Phyloinformatics Summer of Code in building a diverse and collaborative open source bioinformatics community.”

OBF has only been able to underwrite the Travel Fellowship program for an initial 3 years, for at most a handful of awards each year. As Hilmar Lapp, President of OBF’s Board, and former Assistant Director of Informatics at NESCent, explains, “This program is a signature part of our commitment to inclusivity and growing our community, and we are keen to make it a sustained effort. This gift is a key step in that direction, and I hope that we can convince other donors to follow.”

The gift is specifically earmarked for awards to increase diversity at bioinformatics community events. “By targeting travel costs, we hope to remove one barrier to participation. Meeting face to face can be a critical step to becoming part of an existing community.”, says Karen Cranston, OBF Board Member, who ran the Phyloinformatics Summer of Code program for several years while at NESCent.

There have been long-standing ties between the Phyloinformatics Summer of Code and OBF. They have shared project ideas and mentors, and some graduates from the summer program have subsequently taken on prominent roles in OBF’s projects and community. A student from the 2011 summer program, Sarah Hird, even served as the Outreach Coordinator for BOSC 2015, the theme of which was Increasing Diversity.

About OBF: The Open Bioinformatics Foundation (OBF) is a nonprofit volunteer run organization founded in 2001 with a mission to promote the practice and philosophy of open-source software development and open science within the biological research community. OBF is incorporated as an affiliate project of Software in the Public Interest, Inc., a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorship organization.

About NESCent: The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) was a science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution, jointly operated by Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University from 2004-2015, with support largely from the National Science Foundation. In 2015, it transitioned to the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM).

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