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Report from October 2017 Science Gateways Bootcamp [now Gateway Focus Week]

Note: We renamed Science Gateways Bootcamp to Gateway Focus Week in June 2019 to reflect the increasingly collaborative nature of the workshop.

By Nayiri Mullinix

The second Science Gateways Bootcamp of 2017 took place October 2-6, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN. Eight teams were selected to attend this intensive, week-long workshop to gain the skills needed for developing, operating, and sustaining gateways. As was the case with attendees of the inaugural Bootcamp in April 2017, participants balanced intensive learning and hands-on work with fun evening gatherings and opportunities for networking with their cohort and instructors.

Nancy Maron, a Bootcamp organizer and instructor, and founder and principal of BlueSky to BluePrint, a strategic research and consulting organization, sums up the busy week perfectly:

“The Bootcamp is a rip-roaring, intensive ride through tested methods that help project leaders define and execute successful projects. As a curriculum designer and trainer, the best part of the Bootcamp for me is seeing how far the teams come during the course of the week. In that time, we help project leaders to pinpoint, challenge, and test key assumptions that are at the heart of creating a strong sustainability model.”

We heard from several participants who left the Bootcamp feeling ready to tackle their projects, which are at various phases in the development lifecycle, with renewed vigor.

Nancy Hoebelheinrich, Coordinator and Editor of ESIP Data Management Training Clearinghouse, had this to say about the Bootcamp:

“The best part of the Bootcamp was the implicit commitment and luxury of spending a week of time with my team member to focus on the possibilities for strategic development for the project. We learned from each other, but we also learned from the others participating in the Bootcamp, as well as from the experienced and knowledgeable leaders. Even though many of the projects were at different stages of development, it was very useful to be able to extrapolate from issues, problems & solutions that these other projects had similar to our own, whether happening now or anticipated. The tools that the leaders developed to help us with our analyses of the issues and the sequence in which they were offered were logical but iterative so that they can be reused as our projects evolve and mature. Anyone interested in understanding where a worthy project fits within the continuum of development from idea to full, sustainable production would benefit from this Bootcamp.”

Here teammate and Executive Director of ESIP, Erin Robinson, added:

“Before coming to the SGCI Bootcamp, I only had a limited perspective on our gateway from the host institution stakeholder point of view. Taking the time to be fully present during the Bootcamp to work with my teammate on our project opened my eyes to the real impact our gateway could have, the broader impact we can make in our community, and the opportunities and actions that are low hanging fruit to tackle in the next three months.”


Daniel Jaschke, Ph.D. candidate at the Carr Theoretical Physics Research Group, Department of Physics at Colorado School of Mines who is in the very beginning stages of the Open Source Matrix Product States project, said this about the week-long Bootcamp:

"The Bootcamp organized by the SGCI is the ideal place to revisit and rethink the different facets of your project, which often get lost in daily business. The interaction between the groups from different fields of science, which is actively enforced, can help to discover solutions practiced outside your peer group. The topics covered address science gateways at any implementation stage."

Carol Song, Director, Scientific Solutions, Research Computing, Purdue University attended to work on the MyGeoHub science gateway.

“We were 'learning by doing' with a real project of our own, which is the best way to learn something new—now I have a much greater awareness on how to communicate our project to a broader audience and practical tools to achieve that.”

Carol added:

“Lectures can tell me things that I already know but practicing these principles with professional supervision is a whole new experience that is very productive and rewarding. The Bootcamp structure breaks down the whole process into meaningful and digestible steps—I was learning and understanding more at each step.”

We also heard from Jeanette Sperhac, Scientific Programmer for the Center for Computational Research at the University of Buffalo, who attended to work on the Virtual Infrastructure for Data Intensive Analysis (VIDIA) and Vhub gateways, that attending the Bootcamp was “tremendously useful” and that “Bootcamp instructors were top-notch, completely involved and committed, and full of constructive advice and feedback.” Here’s more from Jeanette:

“The Bootcamp background material and exercises were tremendously useful for focusing my thinking about my gateway project (and several other software projects I'm involved in as well). In particular, the tools and methods introduced helped me to sort and prioritize the goals and objectives I have for my project. Using these tools, I have been able to defensibly rank my goals, and objectively evaluate the decisions I'm making on this project. This is tremendously freeing, since it enables me to justify and clearly explain these decisions (to myself, my management, and my users).

Following the many exercises we tackled, it was remarkably easy to decide on and list out three-month goals. I was astounded to see how naturally and quickly these conclusions fell out of the work we had done during the week. All that work made these conclusions emerge, simply! This says a lot for doing the proper groundwork. I'm convinced.

Thus, I've been able to free myself from some of my constraining notions about the next steps for my gateway, which I am in the process of reinvigorating with a new user base. Clearly, I have more work to do to plan my course with the project, but I have good tools now and the ability to use them (and contacts to consult if I need assistance!)”

Juliana Casavan, Entrepreneurial Programs Manager at the Purdue Foundry and also a Bootcamp organizer and instructor, explains why she looks forward to the busy week:

“I look forward to my week at the Bootcamp and working with science gateway developers and project managers because it is an area that I rarely get to work with and learn about. During the week, my primary goal is to get those developers and project managers to think about their gateway as a business opportunity. It is exciting to watch everyone evaluate their work in an entirely new way!”  

You can learn more about the Science Gateways Bootcamp here (or check out the short video below) if you think that you or someone you know might benefit from attending. The Bootcamp is offered twice yearly at no cost to participants (travel, hotel, and a handful of dinners are not included). The next Bootcamp will be offered in Spring of 2018. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on upcoming Bootcamp dates as well as other opportunities to engage with SGCI!

 Music credit: