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University of Vermont Complex Systems Center to Advance Open Source Research with Support from Google

UVM Google team
Members of the UVM-Google team, left to right: Juniper Lovato, director of education and outreach for Complex Systems; Nick Cheney, research assistant professor, Computer Science; Jim Bagrow, associate professor, Mathematics and Statistics; Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, assistant professor, Computer Science; Julia Ferraioli, Open Source at Google; Peter Dodds, director of the Complex Systems Center and professor, Mathematics and Statistics; and Amanda Casari, Open Source at Google. (Photo: Brian Jenkins)

The Google Open Source Programs Office, a division of Google that manages Google’s use and release of open source software and promotes open source programming, has provided the University of Vermont (UVM) Complex Systems Center a $1 million unrestricted gift to support open source research.

Open source is about more than the software—it’s a framework that defines how software is created, released, shared, and distributed, as well as the community that is formed around it.

The goal of the UVM project is to deepen understanding of how people, teams and organizations thrive in technology-rich settings, especially in open-source projects and communities. The Google award will establish a collaboration between the Google Open Source team and UVM to begin building a community-oriented body of research focused on understanding how open source platforms are used and what makes technology-rich environments thrive.  

“UVM is deeply committed to building its thought-leadership in the area of open source science. This gift will enable our internationally-recognized Complex Systems Center faculty and students to create new knowledge on how open source communities can be most successful and transformative,” said Suresh Garimella, University of Vermont president. “The collaboration will also serve as a research hub, bringing together a variety of researchers in open source science, both at UVM and Google, to form a powerful network of collaborators.”

"UVM has a long track record of conducting interesting and dynamic research in the space of complex systems problems of all kinds,” said Chris DiBona, director of Open Source at Google. “We're excited to begin this collaboration with the team at UVM, through which we hope to develop a roadmap for better understanding of open source communities, behavior and creativity.”

The University of Vermont Complex Systems team has identified the initial research projects that will be conducted with the award. They include:

  • How people, teams, and organizations thrive in technology-rich settings.
  • Trade-offs between organizational structure and the spread of ideas and information.
  • Investigating how scientists and software developers use computational and collaborative tools and platforms.
  • Understanding what conditions allow individuals and communities to succeed in open source software and open science.

“Researching how people and teams interact in organizations is a powerful way to understand and advance the open source movement,” said Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, assistant professor of Computer Science, and one of the principal investigators on the project. “We're very excited to integrate the multidisciplinary team in the Complex Systems Center in an effort to understand how information flows in social networks and how creativity emerges.”

James Bagrow, associate professor of Mathematics and Statistics, and the project’s other principal investigator, underscored its collaborative nature.  “This is an amazing opportunity to work with fascinating new data and thought leaders. We look forward to a strong—and ongoing—collaboration.”

In addition to the core team, two postdoctoral positions are currently open in associated research areas.  Other UVM faculty involved with the research include Josh Bongard, professor of Computer Science; Peter Dodds, professor of Mathematics and Statistics; Nick Cheney, research assistant professor of Computer Science; and Chris Danforth, professor of Mathematics and Statistics. The UVM program director is Juniper Lovato, director of outreach for the Complex Systems Center.

The Google collaboration reflects UVM’s commitment to its land-grant mission to enhance the intellectual, human, economic and social capital of its community, the state, and the nation. To explore corporate partnerships with UVM, contact Alexa Woodward, executive director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Alexa.Woodward@uvm.edu