US-RSE Funding & Initiatives: Details of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant

Published: Apr 27, 2023 by Ian Cosden

As previously announced, US-RSE has received a substantial new grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation! This update aims to provide you with more detailed information about the grant, the various activities and initiatives it will enable, and opportunities for US-RSE members to actively participate in them.

The grant, which amounts to $799,776 over two years, starting on May 1, 2023, will be received through our new fiscal sponsor, Community Initiatives (CI). In summary, the grant will provide support in three important areas: the recruitment of dedicated staff, the development of activities and initiatives, and the enhancement of organizational tools and community well-being.

Dedicated Staff

A large part of US-RSE’s success has been due to the dedication and hard work of volunteers. While we don’t want to see the community-driven nature change, we recognize that relying on pure volunteer effort is limiting. It’s possible we’ve already reached a limit of what we can achieve on volunteer effort alone. Having dedicated staff positions will support and grow internal US-RSE community activities and ensure the success of the organization beyond the life of this grant. To this end, we will hire two new staff positions: a Community Manager and a part-time Executive Director.

The first, a full-time Community Manager (CM), will focus efforts on supporting and growing internal US-RSE community activities. This includes communication, logistics and planning, outreach, and community management. The second, a part-time Executive Director (ED), will focus on the long-term financial sustainability of the organization and work to ensure the success of the organization beyond the life of this grant. This includes leading the work, in collaboration with the Steering Committee, to develop and execute a fundraising/sponsorship strategy, membership model, and/or pursuing external grants. Initially the ED will be a 30-50% effort position. Over time, however, we envision the role evolving into a full-time position and assuming additional responsibilities including many of the organization’s high-level operational tasks.

Staff Search & Hiring Procedures

Draft job descriptions were developed as part of the proposal process, and we’ve begun working with Community Initiatives to understand policy and procedures for hiring. All US-RSE staff are technically employed through Community Initiatives, with the Steering Committee Chair as the manager for the positions. We will form separate search committees for each position and can offer the opportunity for a handful of interested US-RSE community members to join. As positions are posted, we ask everyone to advertise widely!

Activities and Initiatives

Three main activities and initiatives will be funded through the grant: The US-RSE Annual Conference, a Community Grants Program, and an Awards Program.

US-RSE Conference

With plans for the first-ever US-RSE Conference underway, the grant will allow us to bootstrap the conference series to ensure a successful first two annual conferences (US-RSE’23 and US-RSE’24). Specifically, US-RSE is now able to reserve a venue and sign contracts to reserve space for the conference. It will enable booking and logistics to be paid for in advance of receiving registration fees. Funds will also be used to supplement 3 lunches, 5 coffee breaks, and a conference reception/dinner. This will allow conference registration fees to stay as low as possible.

Community Grants Program

The Community Grants Program recognizes that growth of US-RSE will be most successful if it is member-driven and if a wide range of members have the resources to support the programs, activities, and outreach efforts that are most important to them. The program will provide funding from $100-$10,000 per proposal (with most expected to be up to $2,500) to support members in activities such as, but not limited to:

  • Activities for local RSE or affinity-group events: costs for space rental, refreshments, supplies, or child care.
  • Hosting technical training events: costs for cloud computing or software services (for training on specialized tools), space rental, speaker fees.
  • Hosting non-technical training activities such as mentor training and DEI-focused events.
  • Attending tech industry or domain-specific academic conferences to share RSE work, discuss research software engineering, or host RSE networking events: costs for conference registration and travel support.
  • Software to create videos, podcasts, or other media to share information about research software engineering or support RSE career development.
  • Having US-RSE sponsor non-US-RSE events, such as other conferences, where sponsorship would be an effective advertisement and outreach mechanism.
  • Pursuing individual professional development that could benefit the community, such as obtaining trainer certifications.
  • Technical infrastructure costs related to working group activities.

Proposals will undergo continuous review, following an initial announcement period, until the annual funds are depleted. A review committee, outlined below, will assess the proposals. An open call is available for individuals interested and willing to serve on the review committee and the Steering Committee will select members for this review committee. The evaluation criteria for proposals will include:

  • Number of people impacted by the proposed activity;
  • Extent to which the proposal supports a more diverse, equitable, or inclusive community;
  • Potential for positive impact for the community;
  • Plan for evaluating the success of the effort and appropriateness of the budget;
  • Availability (or lack thereof) of other sources of funding;
  • and the applicants’ qualifications including previous activity in US-RSE. Each grant recipient will be required to submit a short report on the impact of the funds suitable for publication on the US-RSE website.

The grants program’s specifics and procedures have yet to be determined. To ensure adherence to 501(c)(3) regulations, we must collaborate with all necessary CI policies. In the coming weeks we will form the Review Committee, potentially as a new Working Group. The committee will be comprised of a minimum of one Steering Committee representative, the Community Manager (upon recruitment), a DEI representative, and a US-RSE member not belonging to the Steering Committee. To express interest in serving on the committee, sign up using this form.

If you’d like to provide feedback to the eventual committee, suggestions and comments can be sent using this form.


The grant will enable the instantiation of a formal US-RSE award program, bring recognition to the broader RSE career path, and further legitimize RSE work as valuable in its own right. Awards are planned for recognizing outstanding achievements in different categories and by US-RSE members at different career stages and knowledge levels. Proposed initial categories include “Impact”, “Rising Star” and “Education and Training”.

  1. Impact Award. The Impact award will recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the RSE community. This could be through their work on a specific project, in a broader field of research, or as part of a group, either as part of US-RSE or elsewhere. Other examples could include impact on the wider community, such as increasing RSE visibility and diversity.
  2. Rising Star. The Rising Star award will recognize individuals who are early in their career or have recently started working in Research Software Engineering but have already made an exceptional contribution to their team, project, or institution.
  3. Education and Training. The Education and Training award will recognize an individual who has demonstrated excellence in RSE training and education, including delivering high-quality training courses or developing educational materials.

Similar to the Community Grants Program, a dedicated committee will oversee the awards program. This encompasses determining the award categories, deciding on award details (such as monetary or physical prizes), soliciting nominations, choosing the award recipients, and collaborating with the Community Manager to announce winners to the broader community. The committee, selected by the Steering Committee, will consist of at least five people, including at least one member of the Steering Committee and at least one US-RSE member not on the Steering Committee. To express interest in serving on the awards committee, please use this form. If you’d like to provide feedback to the eventual committee, suggestions and comments can be sent using this form.

Organizational Tools & Community Health

Developing and maintaining a vibrant and functional community network requires infrastructure. To alleviate the struggles of the current process, we’ll invest in infrastructure for managing contact information for those in the network, facilitating networking opportunities between members, allowing people to choose their level of involvement in network activities, and communicating with members. This infrastructure will use commercial membership management software services such as WildApricot. This software will allow US-RSE to track membership and attendance in activities, and the resulting information will allow us to measure the effectiveness of broadening participation efforts and understand the diversity of the community. Additional tools necessary to run US-RSE include Google Drive and ElectionBuddy.

To obtain insight from a DEI standpoint on our Code of Conduct and other organizational procedures, we will seek assistance from an external consulting firm, such as Frameshift Consulting. To ensure appropriate management of community concerns and incidents, we intend to educate numerous US-RSE members in formal Code of Conduct response training from a company such as OtterTech.

Finally, we will have the opportunity to have some US-RSE merchandise. The grant will allow us to purchase and disseminate promotional items branded with US-RSE, which can be utilized for marketing, raising awareness, and promoting engagement among US-RSE members. These items can be utilized for fun giveaways or other outreach activities.


Suggestions for any new initiative can be submitted using the feedback form. Any other questions or comments can be sent to the current Steering Committee by emailing or using the @sc tag in Slack.