By Nayiri Mullinix & 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, 127 participants gathered at the Catamaran Resort and Spa in San Diego, CA, from September 23-25. Everything was in place for a productive and fun conference, including extra buzz and activity thanks to being co-located with the eScience conference and—a super bonus—breathtaking views and an ocean breeze.
The Gateways 2019 program schedule featured two keynotes, seven tutorials, 35 concurrent sessions, and one panel. New this year were Learning Labs, which allowed for impromptu topic discussions initiated by attendees. An evening reception brought together both eScience and Gateways 2019 conference attendees, who mingled with sponsors and 28 poster presenters.
Julien Chastang, Scientific Software Developer at UCAR, Unidata, said that he values the opportunity to come face-to-face with colleagues and collaborators.
“I appreciated the Gateways 2019 conference for the opportunity to finally meet with collaborators face-to-face. Building a science gateway involves partnerships from multiple institutions. Remote collaborations via email and web conferencing are effective, but there is no replacement for working shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues to identify problems and make quick progress.
“Apart from that, I benefited from seeing fine examples of science gateways from multiple scientific disciplines. I was impressed by the avenues researchers are taking to bring science to the web. For example, I enjoyed Mark Perri's talk on The Chem Compute Gateway, illustrating how an institution with modest resources can make a strong impact on undergraduate education.”
Three featured sessions were the keynotes and one invited “interactive” presentation. The first keynote speaker was James Taylor, professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University, who presented “Galaxy: From genomic science gateway to global community.” This talk introduced the series of technological advances facilitated by what is now the Galaxy gateway, and then Taylor described the ups and downs of building today’s enthusiastic community of users and supporters. Galaxy’s story offers a compelling model for how other gateways can develop and encourage their own user bases. The second keynote speaker was scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson, presenting “Narrative Is Everything: The ABT Framework and Narrative Evolution.” Olson left his tenured position as a marine biologist to pursue his passion for understanding and enabling better communication by scientists. Through his training as a filmmaker, experience making documentaries, and analysis of storytelling, Olson has identified a useful and deceptively simple framework that he teaches through his Story Circles program. Brian Palermo, a professional actor and improviser who trains scientists to communicate more effectively, offered a rollicking good time during his featured presentation about engaging presentation skills. Other selected presentations are available on YouTube.
The Workforce Development area of the SGCI matched eight 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.
We heard from Yubo Qin, a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Engineering at Rutgers University. Yubo felt that he walked away from the conference with valuable connections and a deeper understanding of challenges faced by the gateways community that he might help solve.
"The Gateways 2019 conference gave me a great opportunity to build connections in the gateways community. When talking to researchers from different domains, I started to understand the real challenges they are facing and their expectations as they seek support from the community. Also, when I met a person who had read my paper, I felt very excited because I realized that my research could have a real impact on this community. As a Ph.D. student, working days and nights at the lab, this motivates me a lot!"
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 participants with the Young Professional of the Year Award. Recipients are recognized at the Gateways conference. This year, there were three recipients:
Jared McLean, Graduate Student, University of Hawaii Manoa
Edsel Norwood, Graduate Student, Elizabeth City State University
Choonhan Youn, SGCI Extended Developer Support and Scientific Software Collective, San Diego Supercomputer Center
Gateways 2019 would not have been possible without the support received from 10 sponsors.
Lee Liming, Senior Technical Writer at Globus, felt that the experience of being a sponsor resulted in making productive connections.
“The Gateways 2019 conference was a great experience as a sponsor. I met with representatives of research labs I have ongoing business with, and the conference staff went out of their way to provide opportunities for interactions with conference attendees. This was a great way to make connections and have face-to-face interactions with an energetic community of cutting-edge research computing professionals.”
Science Node, who sent representatives to help tell stories about the event and to highlight some of the attendees and their projects.