A Shared Fund of the Ford and Sloan Foundations

The software, standards, and protocols that form our digital infrastructure are critical to a free and open internet, and much of it has been built by volunteers. But free, public code—which we refer to as open source software—needs regular upkeep and maintenance, just as physical infrastructure does, and because it doesn’t belong to any one person or party, it is no one person’s job to maintain it. Without maintenance, we see the digital equivalent of a crumbling road or a collapsing bridge. Building toward a more diverse and well-funded ecosystem for critical digital infrastructure, the Ford and Sloan Foundations have come together to fund thirteen research projects that fill gaps in understanding of how digital infrastructure is built, maintained, and sustained. 

Funded Projects

Read more about the research projects here, and stay tuned to this space for updates!

What makes an open source project “critical digital infrastructure?”

Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Society

Researchers: Lucy Bernholz, Jessica Feldman, Argyri Panezi

To what extent are F/OSS projects supported by waged labor, and how does this affect project cohesion and sustainability?

What can the history of Javascript teach us about techniques to mitigate harassment (a barrier to diversity and a threat to the sustainability of digital infrastructure projects) in open source communities?

Researcher: Caroline Sinders 

How can funders and community leaders better meet the needs of digital infrastructure projects, and how are those needs distinct from projects at the application layer - particularly with respect to values, governing bodies, and supporting structures?

What is the relationship between money and sustainability for community-driven, open-source software instruments that enable transformative research in stellar astrophysics?

How do FOSS Foundations (trade associations or non-profits that provide services such as asset management to open source infrastructure projects) contribute to the operations, sustainability, and success of critical digital infrastructure projects?

Researcher: Martin Michlmayr

How might structural factors in the social networks of open source communities pose barriers to underrepresented newcomers, especially women, becoming full community members?

How do non-financial and career incentives impact the motivation and productivity of contributors to open source and proprietary digital infrastructure projects?

In community-based open-source software projects, what is the visible and invisible work of maintaining trusted, functioning software infrastructure -- especially as projects grow and transition from volunteer-based to various sustainability models?

How can we measure, model, and reduce underproduction in open source software infrastructure projects? 

How do mismatched conceptualizations between maintainers and users of a FOSS digital infrastructure project interact to affect the community health and thus sustainability of such projects?

How can legal devices and institutions be adapted and applied (both locally and transnationally) to overcome the under-maintenance of critical digital infrastructure?

What factors encourage and sustain international communities of contributors to open source projects?

Contact info:

[email protected]

Note: We are not soliciting grant proposals at this time