This past September 22-25, NumFOCUS key stakeholders came together for 4 days of intensive work around questions of sustainability for our open source scientific computing projects: the annual NumFOCUS Summit.

Representatives from nearly all of our sponsored projects were in attendance, in addition to members of the Board (both outgoing and incoming), Advisory Council, Staff, representatives from our Corporate Sponsors, and other interested companies and organizations.

Attendees participated in lively conversations about a variety of core topics for OSS sustainability:

Community Roadmaps

Conversations about roadmaps addressed key questions such as: What is a roadmap, exactly? Why might your project need a roadmap other than the technical roadmap? (Spoiler: to help non-technical folks understand the direction of your project, such as potential funders!) Is it advisable or inadvisable to include target dates on your roadmap? Who writes the roadmap for a project?  Where should your roadmap(s) be hosted?

Many projects expressed enthusiasm for working on their roadmaps. nteract did a great deal of work over the course of the Summit on theirs — you can view it here.

Governance

Our projects take a variety of approaches to open source governance. During the Summit, we discussed issues such as: How do you bootstrap governance or governance documentation from nothing? What’s the difference between “big” versus “small” governance? What are the pros and cons of different governance structures? How can you tell if there’s been a failure of governance? What plans should be in place to ensure continuity of governance in the event of catastrophe?

Many projects recognized that they lack formal governance documentation and made commitments to get started by recording how governance decisions are currently made. Some participants began drafting a sample governance template that, once completed, will be shared as a resource for projects who wish to start documenting their governance practices.

Fundraising and Grant Writing

Asked what our projects need most, the answer is often “funding.” At the Summit, project representatives were invited to dig deeper and explore exactly what funding might be used to accomplish. In addition to more “obvious” answers like paid development time for key features and code improvements, participants were encouraged to brainstorm creative uses of funding that would solve a pain point or create a benefit to the project. There was also lively conversation around the question of how getting money changes the nature of the expectations on a project.

Example needs that project representatives identified (other than paid developer time) include money for:

  • Grant writer/technical writer
  • Documentation — getting people to write great examples to show off the project