Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT establishes new hub for open source software collaboration, support

Emma George

UT launched the Open Source Program Office, a central office for open source software training and connection to support open source practices in the University community, according to an Oct. 25 press release. 

“We want to build a community,” associate professor James Howison said. “Often when people are working with software, they are on their own, struggling to make it work. We want to have a space that we can talk to people nearby. … We’re hoping that OSPO can help facilitate that sort of community.”

With financial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, experts from the Texas Advanced Computing Center, central IT services, University of Texas Libraries and the School of Information are collaborating to run this project, according to the press release.

“We have a lot of really good partners,” said Angela Newell, the Open Source Program Office director. “The idea is that each of these presences works at different levels. By connecting people together, we become better because we’ll have more resources at our disposal. We will be more than the sum of our parts.”

The office holds joint trainings, personalized consultations, a help desk, lecture series and events to support students and faculty who want to engage with open source software, according to the press release.

Newell said the office held four conferences and two formal trainings.

“Part of our job is to get the word out about open source software,” said Michael Shensky, head of research data services. “From the library’s perspective, we’re always doing everything we can to promote open research, open science and reproducible research.” 

Open source program offices have become more common in universities around the country, Shensky said. 

“It’s this really interesting community that is developing across the country where they share many of the same services and goals,” Shensky said. “What we’re also really interested in doing is working with these other (offices), staying connected with them and learning about their experiences. ” 

The Sloan funding dropped on Aug. 1, and the office had its official kick off on Aug. 10. However, the office is developing roles, events and the office as a whole, Newell said. 

While the funding was the catalyst for creating the OSPO, different groups on campus were already conceptualizing, Shensky said. Following the call for proposals from the Sloan Foundation, University development connected the different actors like the iSchool and UT Libraries.

“Everyone is really excited to have this opportunity to work together to get some funding to support an office that we’ve all in the back of our minds wanted to see set up,” Shensky said. “The funding opportunity allowed us to think in more concrete terms about how we could realize the visions that we had and work together to make those a reality through this new office.”

Shensky said the office plans to hold more trainings and introduce a new research reproducibility coordinator role to support consultations. Newell said the office will also sponsor students in the open software community in the summer. 

“Open source doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Newell said. “It requires people who want to support developing it at all different levels. Our goal is to build that community so we have people on campus creating a vibrant, open source software community.”

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About the Contributor
Emma George, Comics Editor
Emma is currently a Spring 2023 Comics Editor. She is a junior civil engineering major whoe loves to draw, read, and visiting art museums. She has previously been a Comics sStaffer and Comics Senior Illustrator.