Building Strong, Inclusive Research Communities

New grants support training and resources for a global community of scientific computing practitioners

Representation from different cultures and lived experiences leads to better research outcomes for the scientific community. Despite increasing evidence that representative participation improves the overall quality of science, the field remains dominated mainly by relatively narrow demographics of participants, and significant barriers still exist for researchers based outside of North America and Europe. In the same vein, efforts to recruit, retain, and build the leadership of scientific contributors don’t often include or engage researchers from underrepresented communities.

Since open science and related computational approaches are inherently global in scope and benefit from broad representation geographically and demographically, CZI’s Open Science program aims to enhance the ability of underrepresented populations to engage in and lead computational biology research by supporting funding initiatives that build foundational tools, platforms, and capacity in biomedical research.

That’s why we’re partnering with and supporting groups in Latin America and Africa with the long-term goal of supporting a more diverse, inclusive biomedical open science community. This funding will help expand support for training and computational capacity in Latin America and Africa from consortia led by researchers from these regions.

CABANAnet members and secondees in Cartagena, Colombia in 2022 for a meeting supported by the UK Aid Budget’s Global Challenge Research Fund. Photo courtesy of Rebeca Campos Sánchez.

Addressing critical gaps in the field

Researchers in under-funded regions who are looking to engage with open science often can’t access — or be trained in — the tools and software they need to drive their research forward. This is especially important for ensuring global participation in open biomedical research; often, non-English speaking countries and/or those in low- and middle-income countries are left behind in training initiatives because these regions are historically underfunded.

CZI is supporting the development of cloud-native research and training resources for research communities in Latin America and Africa. This work will be undertaken by a consortium of six organizations that are well-established in the community: MetaDocencia, Open Life Science, CSCCE, Carpentries, IOI, and 2i2c. The consortium will create community-focused interactive computing “hubs” that will be hosted in the cloud, paired with training and capacity building for local research groups. The hubs will enable collaboration, scalable computational analyses, and openly shared research workflows for the communities they serve. In particular, MetaDocencia works to make scientific open source a global endeavor in Latin America.

“Increasing the accessibility and usefulness of cloud infrastructure to global communities requires a combination of expertise in many areas such as community, pedagogy, and infrastructure. MetaDocencia is excited to work with the consortium to bring together skills in order to increase access to interactive computing services for open science communities throughout Latin America and Africa.” — Laura Ación, Executive Co-Director, MetaDocencia

Growing global communities of practice

We’re also funding CABANAnet, Capacity Building in Bioinformatics for and from Latin America, and H3ABioNet, the Pan African Bioinformatics Network, which are building scalable computational training and capacity building for two bioinformatics research networks in Latin America and Africa. These groups are working towards our shared goal of sustaining robust, scalable regional networks of computationally proficient researchers prepared to meet the increasing challenge of bioinformatic competency required for modern biomedical research.

Each group is focused on the development of resources tailored to the needs of their specific region and ultimately contributing to their shared outcome of building computational research capacity and increasing accessibility of expert skills.

This type of capacity building, especially in areas that have often been underfunded and underrepresented, such as Latin America and Africa, is necessary to equalize representation among the biomedical research community and advance efforts already underway in the field.

CABANAnet members collaboratively evaluate their program’s activities and plan for future work. Photo courtesy of Rebeca Campos Sánchez.

CABANAnet is a consortium of nine Latin American organizations from six countries (México, Costa Rica, Colombia, Perú, Brazil, and Argentina) and the European Bioinformatics Institute, which delivers genomics research and bioinformatics training in the region. H3ABioNet will build regional networks throughout Africa of trainers and trainees competent in scientific computing and its application to life science and public health problems. H3ABioNet will partner with NGS Academy, part of Africa CDC’s Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative, which aims to develop and deliver a comprehensive training framework for the implementation of next generation sequencing (NGS) for pathogen surveillance.

“We’re excited to expand our work in building bioinformatics capacity for health applications on the African continent. We will bring together local expertise to develop trainers within the context of regional communities with shared languages and disease priorities. These communities will facilitate our training in fundamental programming skills and the latest developments in pathogen surveillance and human genomics, and provide ongoing support.”
-Kirsty Lee Garson, Training Coordinator, NGS Academy for the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative

These grants join a series of previously funded projects enabling education and capacity building in open science and computational biomedicine. Such training, including efforts to increase representation and equity in open biomedical research, represents one of the strategic initiatives of the CZI Open Science program.

Open science breaks down barriers in science and provides opportunities for a more diverse and inclusive research community. Education and capacity building can help increase such opportunities — which is critical for ensuring that science is representative of all communities around the world.

Learn more about our work in Open Science at CZI.

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