Sara El-Gebali

Research Data Management-Team Leader & Founder of OpenCider

October 2020

Sara makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from October 28 to November 04. Thank you, Sara!

Please tell us about yourself

My name is Sara El-Gebali. I’m a scientist, feminist, LGBTQ+ activist, and champion for inclusion and equity in Open Data. My background is in wet-lab cancer research, and after my PhD I left academia to become a scientific database curator, and eventually a Research Data Manager. I also founded OpenCIDER (Open Computational Inclusion and Digital Equity Resource).

What are you working on right now?

I’m sort of a jack of all trades, my interests are vareid and most likely you’ll find me working on multiple projects. In my position as a Research Data Manager-team leader at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin, I’m currently working on community engagement to raise awareness on Open Science to encourage researchers to embrace open science practices and FAIR principles. As the founder of OpenCIDER, I’m working on highlighting communities and individuals actively increasing diversity in Open Data by inviting speakers and community leaders from every corner in the world to talk about challenges and opportunities in Open Data partcipation. I’m also looking into devising strategies & guidelines to increase participation in Open Data and to address the challenges in capacity building, computational skills training and open data knowledge exchange on a global level.

What is most interesting about that?

Both roles offer me a glimpse into other people’s perspectives, it gives me a chance to understand what the challenges and solutions might be to address questions such as; Why should I share my work? How do I share my work? I’m worried about sharing my work because … I find it fascinating hearing other folks’ reasoning on different subjects and it offers me a great opportunity to learn and to challenge my own prejudices and misconceptions. I also find community building very rewarding and motivating.

How did you first discover FOSS?

First time might have been when I was trying to make sense of high-through-put data from my experiments in the lab and I came across R and the R-community, I realized the advantages of FOSS and what it can offer and the role of community in creating and maintaing FOSS solutions. The second time I most acutely was aware of the importance of FOSS, was during my interactions with researchers from areas with limited/restricted resources and how much it meant having available solutions that facilitate their work promoting scienctific research and innovation, where they don’t need to rely on expensive licenses, or unauthentic solutions “pirated versions of expensive software” or on collaborations and counterparts in other parts of the world. In other words, FOSS meant they can drive their own research, explore the full potential of their own data and empower communities to further develop solutions adapted to their resources.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

In some cases, it might be an issue of simply not being aware, not being familiar of solutions used in one part or the other in the world and there needs to be more open communication channels for knowledge exchange.

What does a perfect day off look like?

I come from Sweden, and I always miss the long flat hikes with varying environments and landscapes. A perfect day off, is simply spent outdoors in nature with a good book and warm clothes near the Delsjö lake in Gothenburg, my home.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

As FOSS enthusiasts and promoters of open source and open data, we should be thinking of ways on how to adapt our practices to encourage global participation and enhance digital equity.