Open@RIT receives Sloan Foundation grant to support open work across the university

RIT’s open programs office gets nearly $500,000 award

RIT’s open programs office has received a nearly $500,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to measure and strengthen support of the faculty and staff who do work in the open community.

Open@RIT was established to support and grow all kinds of “open work” at RIT, which can lead to more collaboration, creation, and contribution, on and off campus.

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RIT's new open source programs office, Open@RIT, aims to determine and grow the footprint of RIT’s impact on all things “open,” leading to more collaboration, creation, and contribution, on and off campus. Learn more about Open@RIT.

“Open source software is as crucial to research as it is in the private sector, but universities have been slow to engage with software development and maintenance by their faculty, staff, and students,” said Joshua M. Greenberg, program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “RIT is leading the charge with an innovative plan that will support projects across campus and demonstrate how deeper engagement with open source will benefit the next generation of researchers.”

With the grant, Open@RIT will create a team of undergraduate students and hire a full-time staff member to support faculty and staff with research and projects in open source software, open data, open hardware, open educational resources, Creative Commons licensed work, open research, and other open work. The team will help create and strengthen contributor/user communities and open production pipelines to increase the impact of supported open work.

Jacobs and researcher Mel Chua highlighted the need for this type of FOSS development support, as part of research done for the 2018 Sloan and Ford Foundation Critical Digital Infrastructure cohort. RIT’s LibreCorps initiative has provided this type of support for co-op students contributing to humanitarian, community, and educational projects with organizations, including UNICEF. The team will base its efforts for supporting RIT faculty and staff on the methods used for LibreCorps. Those methods will be adapted and expanded for the academic context.

“The aim is to help RIT projects and research succeed even more — and one of the best ways to do that is by using open work and the open community,” said Stephen Jacobs, director of Open@RIT and professor of interactive games and media. “However, people might not have the time and knowledge to figure out how to incorporate open into their work, so we’re here as a resource to help get that done.”

With the funding, the office aims to measure the impact of open work at RIT by conducting a university-wide audit of existing work. The team will also help mentor faculty and staff who are looking to engage in open work for the first time, create new open work, or are moving a previously closed IP to open.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics.

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