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Gateways 2020 Conference - A Virtual Experience with Real Interactions

By Claire Stirm & Katherine Lawrence

The annual Gateways conference is the perfect venue for gateway creators and enthusiasts to come together, learn from each other, and exchange ideas. This year, more than 221 participants gathered virtually, from October 12–23. Even with COVID-19 changing the location from Bethesda, Maryland to the comfort of everyone’s own home, the attendees left with real conference takeaways. Attendees were surprised at the beginning of the conference with their own conference welcome kit! Ewa Deelman, the Principal Investigator for the CI CoE pilot tweeted her appreciation on October 10th after receiving her kit.

The Gateways 2020 program schedule included eight tutorials and workshops and 24 concurrent sessions. Plenary sessions featured two keynotes in an interview format, one panel featuring multiple perspectives on gateway interoperability, and an invited presentation featuring two experts on usability and accessibility. Coming back for a second year, 15 Learning Labs were held to cover impromptu topic discussions and continue online conversations around shared interests. During the Monday Poster Showcase, attendees were able to visit the 23 posters and conference sponsors, meeting in individual Zoom rooms. 

“My experience at Gateways 2020 exceeded my expectations. I thought I would not understand the presentations or that they would not be relevant to my work. Happily I found that the presentations were at just the right level for me and I took away many ideas and concepts that I can use in my work. The workshops were an added bonus and allowed me hands-on practice in concepts that were new to me.”
-- Leigh Noble, SIMIODE

Read more about Leigh’s experience.

During the second week of the conference, attendees were treated to a featured plenary before diving into the concurrent sessions or Learning Labs. The second week began with a welcome from Katherine Lawrence, the SGCI Associate Director of Community Engagement & Exchange, and Mike Zentner, the SGCI Director. The welcome included interactive break-outs where attendees could discuss expectations for the conference. The welcome session came to a close with the announcement of the Cloudify Gateways 2020 recipients, by Boyd Wilson of CloudyCluster, and 2020 Young Professionals of the Year awards, by the SGCI Workforce Development Director, Linda Hayden. 

During the week, attendees participated in two interview-styled keynotes with Dr. Roger Aines and Amy Aines, the co-authors of Championing Science: Communicating Your Ideas to Decision Makers, and the V.P. of Strategic Programs at GitHub, Dr. Thomas Dohmke, on the topic of GitHub’s Archive Program. Both sessions encouraged attendees to learn about the best practices and new innovations coming from the Aines duo and GitHub while digging deep into the community’s curiosities as attendees asked their own questions. Two additional interactive plenaries were held on Wednesday and Thursday as the community heard about the SGCI Tech Summit’s first project on a resource inventory accompanied by a panel on gateway interoperability, and “Attracting and Retaining Gateway Users by Applying Usability and Accessibility Solutions,” by Dr. Paul Parsons and Hiram Kuykendall. All of the keynotes and plenaries are available on YouTube

The Workforce Development area of the SGCI highlighted the benefits of mentoring through the conference program. They matched all 29 student attendees with mentors. The mentor component of the conference aims to foster future gateway creators by providing guidance, career advice, and opportunities for reflection. 

The Workforce Development team also organizes the Young Professionals Network, a community for those just starting out as well as for experienced researchers and educators who are using science gateways. Each year, the YP Network awards outstanding gateway contributors with the Young Professional of the Year Award. Recipients are recognized at the Gateways conference. This year, there were four recipients:

  • Nicole Brewer, Software Engineer, Purdue University

  • Juan Martínez Ramírez, Java Web Developer, Texas Advanced Computing Center

  • La’Andrea Gates, Master’s student, Mississippi State University

  • Yuexi Chen, Ph.D. student in Computer Science, University of Maryland, College Park (UMD)

The Science Gateways Community Institute appreciates the support provided by 11 sustaining and new conference sponsors.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how well the conference was able to transition from a traditional physical presence event to a virtual event.  The attendee goodie-boxes that were sent out right before the event were a BIG hit with my colleagues – so much so that we are going to steal that idea for showing appreciation for our own staff at OSC!” 
-- Alan Chalker, Open OnDemand


Gateways 2020 by the Numbers

221 attendees

175 authors

29 students

11 sponsors

24 paper and demo presentations

23 posters

8 tutorials/workshops

3 interactive plenary presentations

2 interactive keynote presentations

Registration support grants provided funds for 14 students and an additional 13 attendees


Silver Sponsors


Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute

Open On Demand

Texas Advanced Computing Center



Bronze Sponsors


Galaxy Project


Trusted CI


In-Kind Sponsors

San Diego Supercomputer Center, who supported student participation at Gateways 2020

Science Node, who provided media coverage


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