New grant supports UC Santa Cruz-led multi-UC campus effort to build network of open source program offices

A $1.85 million grant from the Sloan Foundation continues the work of the UCSC Open Source Program Office

Logo for the UC OSPO network
A grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will further the work of the Open Source Program Office (OSPO) at UC Santa Cruz work with UC partners at Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Diego to promote open source research, teaching, and public service. The $1.85 million grant will serve to institutionalize the OSPO approach in the UC system by creating coordinated activities that support local campus OSPOs and building a network that can leverage multi-campus efforts. 

This award comes after another grant from the Sloan Foundation established the Open Source Program Office at UC Santa Cruz in 2022, when the grant went to the UCSC Center for Research in Open Source Software and its now-retired director Professor Carlos Maltzahn. 

“Two years ago, the Sloan Foundation supported the establishment of the Open Source Program Office at UC Santa Cruz,” said Josh Greenberg, a Program Director at the Sloan Foundation. “We believe that open source practices can produce more sustainable and trustworthy software and are vital to a healthy and inclusive research and learning environment. So we’re delighted by the local success to date at Santa Cruz, and are proud to be supporting this ambitious initiative which will make the University of California the first to build out open source capacity at a system level.”

UCSC Professor of Computer Science James Davis is the principal investigator on this grant as the new director of UCSC OSPO. UCSC OSPO Executive Director Stephanie Lieggi will be co-principal investigator, along with Fernando Pérez and Stéfan van der Walt at UC Berkeley; Peter Brantley and Vladimir Filkov at UC Davis; Todd Grappone and Tim Dennis at UC Los Angeles; David Minor and Erik Mitchell at UC San Diego; and Amber Budden and Jonathan Balkind at UC Santa Barbara.  

The UC OSPO Network effort represents a unique collaboration between UC campuses that allows each campus to develop infrastructure that promotes individual areas of excellence while leveraging the expertise of the entire network. This project will go beyond extending the work of the existing UCSC OSPO, instead allowing for novel and potentially groundbreaking approaches to leveraging open source and open science in an academic setting. 

"Open source efforts are one method of enabling university impact," Davis said. "University campuses have a long tradition of offices supporting external relations, both in terms of technology transfer out of the university, and in terms of bringing resources into the university.  Open source program offices are another tool seeking to ensure that university work results in societal benefit."

The establishment of the OSPO at UC Santa Cruz reflects the recognition on this campus and in the wider UC system of the value of open source in increasing the impact of academic research and furthering the education and public services missions. Open source has been traditionally thought of as it relates to making software publicly available, but it can also include a more expansive view that includes library sciences, hardware development, and more.

UCSC was the first public university in a large state-wide system to establish an OSPO, giving the UCSC OSPO team valuable experience in what it takes to institutionalize an OSPO at a top-rated research university.

While there are now several OSPOs at universities throughout the country, UC’s model is unique in that it uses a networked approach to leverage the diverse range of knowledge that exists throughout the system. This means that the UC network will be able to share existing resources and take unified approaches to common challenges.  

“This new grant from the Sloan Foundation allows other UC campuses to benefit from the experience we gained in building the UCSC OSPO and speeds up the adoption of the OSPO approach throughout the UC system,” Lieggi said. “Creating this network will allow UC campuses to undertake activities in a coordinated way that allows for sharing of resources between the campuses and leveraging the capabilities and expertise found across the UC system.”

With the new grant, the UC OSPO network will pursue three main goals: to strengthen collaboration and knowledge sharing among the campuses, highlight to UC leadership the value of the network and OSPOs at various campuses, and identify resource and governance structure to allow the network to grow and thrive beyond the grant period. The UC OSPO network is also intended to serve as a model for other large systems to follow.

“The University of California leads the world in groundbreaking research and has been the source of innovations in a wide spectrum of disciplines, as well as a leader in developing open source technologies and ecosystems,” said Scott Brandt, UC Office of the President’s Associate Vice Provost for Research & Innovation. “The UC OSPO network will build upon UC Santa Cruz’s innovative framework to build a systemwide infrastructure that will comprehensively support the UC research enterprise across a wide range of disciplines and, as the first network of OSPOs within a large university system, serve as a model for others to follow."

Their first task to achieve these goals is establishing OSPO Leadership Group (OLG), made up of representatives from each of the participating campuses, who will spearhead coordinated implementation of programs and mentorship on their campuses. They will prioritize finding funding that will help sustain a robust network. 

Sustainability of open source projects, particularly those originating from the UC system, will also be a major focus of the network’s efforts, which will include developing best practices for building communities, increasing adoption, and improving project security. The group will also produce a UC Open Source Repository Browser, a discovery tool for open source datasets and tools. This tool will help the network and its collaborators to refine outreach to existing open source projects and promote open source sustainability and best practices.

The network plans to host hackathons, competitions, and other opportunities for UC students to inform and inspire students on the benefits of open source skill development. Another tool, the Open Source Curriculum and Resource Repository, will host UC-developed training materials that can be integrated into class curriculums and for other uses by faculty, students and staff. 

UC Santa Cruz will host a kickoff event for the participating campus partners this academic year. The grant will also support yearly UC-wide conferences on open source, which will bring together faculty, staff, and students to share their knowledge and experiences with open source. 

To hear more about the open source activities at UCSC and get involved in upcoming activities, see the website at and follow us at