By Nayiri Mullinix
Each year, SGCI’s Incubator team offers two sessions of the popular Science Gateways Bootcamp. This year, we decided to take the week-long workshop on the road to make it more convenient for people from all around the country to attend. Designed to provide participants with a practical and essential toolkit for the evolution and growth of their science gateway projects, our first session of 2018 took place May 14-18 in Austin, TX, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Our second will be in Chicago, IL, August 13-17, 2018.
There’s no denying it, the Bootcamp is intense and jam-packed with learning, as we ask participants to take a careful look at their projects from multiple angles and to work all week on intentionally defining goals, desired outcomes, and target audiences, as well as exploring different funding models, budgets, marketing and outreach strategies, and more—encompassing all that’s required to effectively lead an online digital presence.
By the end of the week, Bootcamp participants have developed a sustainability strategy and the key action steps they will need to take in order to achieve the said strategy. Yes, participants might be tired from all the work and reflecting that went into the week, but there’s always a resounding enthusiasm with which they reflect on the experience.
The May cohort, our 3rd, was no different.
A common sentiment, one that we hear repeatedly, is how useful it is for teams to be able to step away from normal work duties for a full week to think about the issues that need to be addressed in order to move forward with development, operations, and overall sustainability of gateway projects. One group that attended the May Bootcamp in Austin, for example, commented that, by the end of the week, their team shared a common vision whereas, when they arrived, their views were very different from one another.
The anonymous feedback we received included reflections that indicated a high level of satisfaction, and included words that stand out such as “empowered,” “eye-opener,” “clear,” and “confident.” Further positive reflections included “everything clicked,” “sparked new collaborations,” “opportunities to share common issues and network with other groups,” and that the Bootcamp “felt like being in an accelerated MBA program.”
Several participants contributed summaries of their experience at the Bootcamp that were inspiring and encouraging. Here’s just one of those:
“The combination of the caliber of participants, the incisiveness and professional presentation of the material, the choreography of the sessions and the overall efficient management of the Bootcamp created a magical bubble for five days.”
One of the teams that attended the Bootcamp in Austin is working to build the NSF NeuroNex Neurotechnology Hub for 3D Electron Microscopy. The team, which is based at the Texas Advanced Computing Center and includes James Carson (Manager, Life Sciences Computing - Research Acceleration), Joe Allen (Research Associate, Life Sciences Computing Group), and Anna-Maria Escherich (Project Manager), had this to say about the week:
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to learn from the highly professional instructors at the Science Gateways Bootcamp. The Bootcamp provided important insights for our team to consider, both as our science portal becomes publicly available, as well as looking towards long-term sustainability. We were surprised to find many of the lessons to be broadly applicable to the activities of successful science, beyond what is generally taught in school, such as - how to identify and communicate the value of an activity. We recommend portal teams send multiple members to participate in this Bootcamp, as it is a great opportunity for facilitated discussions of solutions to future challenges. The instructors were excellent, and the activities were well-designed to maximize the impact of the experience.”
Amy Knop-Narbutis, a Research Analyst at Upbring, the largest child services organization in Texas, attended alongside a teammate to help build a new project called Ascend, in which they’ll aim to share and analyze data about foster placement. When reflecting on the week, Amy said:
“Enjoying a full week of reflection on our project strategy under the guidance of experts in sustainable funding, data security, marketing, and more helped us achieve eureka moments we may never have realized if we proceeded with business as usual – including uncovering new potential funding sources, elevating the scientific potential of our gateway, and creating an invaluable peer network we continue to reach out to for fresh perspectives.”
We also heard from Roy Chartier, who is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Cancer Computer. He said:
“I was very pleased with the SGCI Bootcamp held at TACC. Being a gateway, but also a non-profit, I found both the exercises and the networking with scientists, some even potential customers of our gateway, very rewarding. Having actual researchers go through our website, and doing exercises to explain our business model to our target market, was just a convenient way for us to hone both our message and where we can exist in the market. Special thanks to all of the instructors, who were friendly and very knowledgeable...I also enjoyed the after-hours networking events. I would definitely recommend this Bootcamp to anyone with a gateway that needs some focus to get to the next level.”
Roy attended the Bootcamp alongside retired Chair of Cancer Computer’s Board, Derrick Poon Young. Derrick added:
"The Science Gateways Bootcamp was riveting in its presentation, decidedly pragmatic and dynamically interactive in its approach. It was a five-day choreography of disciplined exploration and self-revelation nurtured by the intense, thematically-relevant sessions that offered insightful information, tools, techniques and guiding principles on how to establish a viable science gateway. The Bootcamp offered intrinsic opportunities for Socratic dialogue to compliment very practical science gateway development examples and team-based, hands-on activities that promoted collegial collaboration. The opportunities to learn from other participants and actively network generated rich potential for valuable partnerships. The Bootcamp was extremely well organized by the Science Gateways Community Institute and it is one of the more enriching and supportive investments made by the National Science Foundation."
If you think your gateway project could benefit from attending Science Gateways Bootcamp, we invite you to apply now to attend the August session in Chicago. If you’re unable to make it to Chicago in August, sign up for our newsletter to stay updated with upcoming Bootcamp opportunities. To learn more about the Bootcamp, check out the brief video below.