An artistic representation of data storage
An artistic representation of data storage (Courtesy of Pexels/Google Deep Mind)

UC Davis Joins Other UCs in New Network to Promote Open Source Software

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, will join five other University of California universities in a multi-campus effort to build a network of offices that promote, educate and sustain the UC open source software community. The collaboration is supported by a $1.85 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Vladimir Filkov

Professor of computer science and a faculty director of the UC Davis DataLab Vladimir Filkov will co-lead UC Davis' part of the initiative with Peter Brantley, director of Online Strategy for the UC Davis Library. They are joined by James Davis, the principal investigator on the grant, and Stephanie Lieggi at UC Santa Cruz; Fernando Pérez and Stéfan van der Walt at UC Berkeley; Todd Grappone and Tim Dennis at UC Los Angeles; David Minor and Erik Mitchell at UC San Diego; and Amber Budden and Jonathan Balkind at UC Santa Barbara.

The overarching goal of this cross-campus open-source program office, or OSPO, is to create a community and resources for open source software builders and maintain the resources and software so the projects can thrive. This goal is divided into three research and development categories: discovery, education and sustainability, the last of which will be the primary focus of the UC Davis team.

Sustainability is Not the Goal, It's the Road

The UC Davis OSPO will serve as the network's hub for sustainability. It will collaborate with the other OSPOs on the discovery and education thrusts, including developing curricula and resources, and hosting training materials that can be integrated into courses and constructing an open-source repository browser to search for open-source software projects across the UC system.

With this focus on sustainability in mind, Filkov and Brantley will develop best practices for building open source software communities and increasing the acceptance and use of open source software. They will also explore creating a model of a containerization service, or a way to ship large amounts of material, to allow for easier open source software maintenance and reuse.

This work builds upon Filkov's research in open source community sustainability. For the past few years, Filkov has studied how the teams behind open source projects in software foundations like Apache and Linux — which are typically self-organized, volunteer-based and have no centralized governance — function and how some of them thrive while others do not.

"Most open source software projects fail soon after inception," said Filkov. "Good guidance is necessary for these things to survive."

With its recent efforts to rise to the forefront of digital scholarship — including endeavors to expand the lending of digitized books, launching DataLab and housing 30,000 digitized and born-digital items — the UC Davis Library is a keystone of the OSPO. With its expertise in preserving knowledge and history in physical and digital archives, the library is an optimal place to store digital artifacts to ensure their longevity.

A Lasting Effort

One of the project goals is to figure out how to keep it running after the two-year term of the initial grant is finished, and the PIs are looking to funding sources like the UC Office of the President and the National Science Foundation. With their resources and guides, Filkov says, these OSPOs will become more crucial to the teams building the software that underpins our digital revolution.

"The open source movement is just growing. I think we have a critical mass to support open source efforts at UC. Through these OSPOs, we will aim to take research software projects and elevate them to open source, build a community for them and keep them going. The ultimate goal is to provide value for the countless hours spent creating software and community within the UC system and help it to exist further."  

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