Alum Stuart Geiger and Team Receive Sloan and Ford Foundation Grant

16 Feb, 2019

Alum Stuart Geiger and Team Receive Sloan and Ford Foundation Grant

Researchers at the UC Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS), the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Connecticut have been awarded a grant of $138,055 from the Sloan Foundation and the Ford Foundation as part of a broad initiative to investigate the sustainability of digital infrastructures. The grant funds research into the maintenance of open-source software (OSS) projects, particularly focusing on the visible and invisible work that project maintainers do to support their projects and communities, as well as issues of burnout and maintainer sustainability.

The research project will be led by BIDS staff ethnographer, principal investigator, and BCNM alum Stuart Geiger and will be conducted in collaboration with Lilly Irani and Dorothy Howard at UC San Diego, Alexandra Paxton at the University of Connecticut, and Nelle Varoquaux and Chris Holdgraf at UC Berkeley. Many open-source software projects have become foundational components for many stakeholders and are now widely used behind-the-scenes to support activities across academia, the tech industry, government, journalism, and activism. OSS projects are often initially created by volunteers and provide immense benefits for society, but their maintainers can struggle with how to sustain and support their projects, particularly when widely used in increasingly critical contexts.

The one-year research project — The Visible and Invisible Work of Maintaining Open-Source Digital Infrastructure — will study these issues in various software projects, including software libraries, collaboration platforms, and discussion platforms that have come to be used as critical digital infrastructure.

The researchers will conduct interviews with project maintainers and contributors from a wide variety of projects, as well as analyze projects’ code repositories and communication platforms. The goal of the research is to better understand what project maintainers do, the challenges they face, and how their work can be better supported and sustained. This research on the invisible work of maintenance will help maintainers, contributors, users, and funders better understand the complexities within such projects, helping set expectations, develop training programs, and formulate evaluations.

Congratulations, Stuart! Read more here!