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Cohort Four Reflects on the Value of 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 fourth Science Gateways Bootcamp convened at the Big Ten Conference Center in Chicago, IL., August 13-17, 2018. Offered twice per year, the Bootcamp has continued to grow in popularity as science gateway developers and operators discover the value in what’s covered during the intensive, week-long workshop, mainly the importance of having some level of business know-how in order to achieve sustainability for their projects.

Topics covered during the Bootcamp include everything from funding models to audience assessment, budgeting to marketing, and much more. For this Bootcamp, we were also joined by Vas Vasiliadis, Chief Customer Officer of Globus, who presented on that organization’s path to sustainability. Globus is an SGCI partner. 

We’ll let the testimonials we received from some of the participants tell the rest of the story. 

The I-TASSER team from the University of Michigan, which consisted of Chengxin Zhang, Wei Zheng, and Zi Liu, had this to say:

“Science Gateways Bootcamp opened our eyes to how we can better serve our ~100,000 gateway users. In particular, it showed us how in-depth analysis of user behavior can be used to improve user experience and to yield new scientific insights. It also provided a unique opportunity for interacting with other gateway managers, maintainers, and developers.”

Ryan Kammer, Research Geologist at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey at Indiana University, came to the Bootcamp with the SimCCS Gateway team and felt that he walked away from the Bootcamp with ideas on how to grow their young gateway.

“The SGCI Bootcamp was a tremendous help in understanding the needs of our gateway and the best direction moving forward. As a young gateway, the Bootcamp’s guidance on developing a gateway that specifically focuses on the needs of our users and creating a sustainability model that allows our gateway to continue to grow was indispensable. Our experience at the SGCI Bootcamp provided many insights into the world of gateways and the lessons learned over the week will be of tremendous help as we continue to grow our gateway.”

Brendan Hoover, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Austin, Texas, and Graduate Research Assistant at the Los Alamos National Lab, is also on the SimCCS team. He added:

“Overall, the Bootcamp was a great experience for me. It was a good opportunity for our team, who are in different parts of the country, to spend time together and work one on one on the business aspects of the project. From a personal development perspective, the business techniques that I took away from the workshop will be invaluable. While many of us go into science because we love what we study and often don’t enjoy sales, marketing, or other “business” things, the reality is science is a business unto itself and we have to be able to sell our science. I took zero business courses beyond high school, so getting some foundation to that side of science was terrific. Particularly, on honing “your story” and having some simple plans for marketing and sales. I was especially happy to learn some of the simple things that can be done with social media.”

Annie Burgess, the Lab Director at Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), an SGCI partner, found the experience invaluable:

“The SGCI Bootcamp provided an invaluable opportunity for our project. It was a chance to interact with experts in the field of elucidating a technology's value, vision, and plan for sustainability. While critical, these topics often fall to the side of daily keeping-the-lights on. For anyone in the technology space, especially in the realm of soft-money technology development, I’d highly recommend this experience!”

Also in attendance was Mark Perri, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Sonoma State University, who has also received consulting support from SGCI for his Chem Compute science gateway. 

“The Bootcamp experience was extremely valuable to me. I have always focused on the science and technical aspects of my gateway. The Bootcamp taught me that to reach financial sustainability I need to think of the gateway operations as a business, which was very foreign to me. Learning about value propositions, budgeting, and marketing were all new areas, but I see now that they are as important to the success of my gateway as a well-designed back end is.”

Viswanath Nandigam, Associate Director of the Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Development Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, UCSD, attended the Bootcamp to further develop the OpenTopography gateway. 

“I found the Bootcamp very useful and well suited for a project like ours which sees a very high usage and a growing user base. The entire Bootcamp process helped us look at our project from multiple stakeholder perspectives which we hadn’t thought of before."

Refaat Gabr, Assistant Professor of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, who is in the beginning stages of developing an MRI gateway, had this to say:

“When I registered for the Bootcamp, I only had a conceptual idea of how my MRI service should work. At the same time, I knew very little about science gateways or how to take my technology online. During this one week of intensive training and practical activities, I got to sharply focus on the project without everyday distractions. l learned a ton about science gateways, and I now know what it takes to build and sustain one. In particular, learning about funding models and key concepts in studying the market and identifying audience was an eye-opening experience for me. Attending the Bootcamp also made me more aware of other gateways in my field. Now I know how my gateway can be built, how it can be sustained, and how to get help in building it.”

Lastly, we heard from Ebrahim Khalaj, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Wayne State University, who is working on the JETSCAPE gateway. 

“Attending the science gateways Bootcamp was a great experience for me. As a junior scholar pursuing my career in academia, the Bootcamp rang some bells for me.

I believe the main point was to think about some aspects of your project that you never notice, or you think they are not that important. For example, marketing and sales, you barely think about those in academia. Or understanding your audience and stakeholders, you may not take it seriously. What I learned was the fact that these are all important aspects that help the sustainability of your project.

The other fact that I would like to emphasize is how good the instructors were along with their method of teaching. All the instructors knew what they were talking about, and they used real examples to make their points. I really enjoyed sessions that engaged us into doing something that we have never done before for our projects. From the Napkin Drawing to cybersecurity checkpoints.

Lastly, I would like to mention that the instructors care about what they are doing and they make an effort to improve what they are doing constantly. At the end of each day, they took a survey and, at the beginning of the next day, they showed us the results and answered questions."

Want to learn more about Science Gateways Bootcamp? You can do that here, or check out the short video below.

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