BSSw Fellowship FAQ

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Q & A Webinar

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Application Questions

What is the fellowship application deadline for this year?

Applications are now closed for the 2024 BSSw Fellowship Program. Check back in summer 2024 for info about the 2025 application process.

Is a particular format required for the proposal?

Yes, please see the BSSw Fellowship Application webpage for details, including a link to the application form.

What is the difference between the two "Experience" questions on the application form?

The first (Describe your work relevant to scientific software) is asking about your background in scientific software products, and what "hands-on" experience you've had that would make you a credible expert in some aspect of scientific software.

The second (Describe your background and experience relevant to being a BSSw Fellow) is asking about evidence that you could be an effective advocate for better scientific software, reaching out to others to convey what you know as an expert.

Is it permissible for current BSSw Fellows to apply for the program in a future year?

No, applications of current BSSw Fellows will not be considered for awards in future years. While BSSw Fellows receive funding for activities during a particular period of performance, the designation of being a BSSw Fellow is ongoing. We encourage BSSw Fellows to continue to serve the scientific software community as alums by helping select future classes of Fellows and providing leadership in their communities.

What is the difference between a Fellow and an Honorable Mention?

Honorable Mentions do not receive funding to complete their proposed project, but are encouraged to engage with the BSSw community to learn more about specific needs in the community. Engagement can include visits to DOE National Laboratories, NSF sites, mentorship, and community building opportunities. Honorable Mentions are eligible to re-apply for the fellowship in subsequent years.

What are application review criteria?

Applications are reviewed by a panel of diverse members of the CSE community using the following guiding criteria:

  • The proposed work is relevant to scientific software and can benefit the DOE and/or NSF, and the broader HPC and CSE communities
  • The proposed work is well-scoped and likely to be accomplished within the year-long period of performance.
  • The proposed work has broad impact that spans beyond a single community/event and results in one or more artifacts that are available beyond the fellowship period of performance.
  • The proposer has a passion for scientific software and the relevant background to accomplish the proposed work.
  • The proposer will be a long-term advocate for better scientific software beyond the fellowship period of performance.

Can I submit a letter of recommendation with my application?

We do not accept letters of recommendation with the application. Please use your own words to describe your relevant background and advocacy for better scientific software.

Can I submit multiple applications with different proposals?

No, only one application submission per person.

Can students (undergraduate/graduate) apply for the BSSw Fellowship?

Students (undergraduate/graduate) are encouraged to apply for a BSSw Fellowship. However, students will need to coordinate with their institution and an advising faculty member to ensure they can receive funds through a subcontract at the institution for the period of performance of the fellowship. The Fellowship award will be in the form of a subcontract to the recipient's institution. For students, typically a faculty member would need to be the PI and the student would receive the funding as an employee. Please consult advising faculty at your institution.

Funding Questions

What is the amount of funding for 2024 BSSw Fellows?

Each 2024 BSSw Fellow will receive up to $25,000 for an activity that promotes better scientific software.

How are the funds awarded? When do I submit budget information?

The Fellowship award will be in the form of a subcontract to the recipient's institution. The value of the subcontract will not exceed $25,000 in direct costs, plus usual and customary overheads the institution would charge on such a contract. It is not necessary to provide a budget with your application; a detailed budget will be part of the contracting process. You should familiarize yourself with your organization's budget process.

Are there any restrictions or guidance on how the fellowship funds can be used?

Most institutions have well-established rules for what constitute "allowable" expenses on research grants or contracts. Generally, these must be followed. (There are a few cases where ORNL and Dept. of Energy rules trump local rules.)

  • The Fellowship is limited to individual applicants, not a team. The inclusion of other personnel or contracts to others are generally discouraged. Modest amounts budgeted for support services, such as technical editing or graphical design, may make sense in some cases.
  • Budget justification should include items that are essential to the completion of the proposed project. This may include awardee labor, labor of students or other individuals, supplies, travel, etc.
  • Travel must be well justified in relation to the proposed work.
  • Special rules apply to international travel, including multiple approval processes that require significant lead time. Approval of international travel by our sponsors is not guaranteed.
  • The purchase of computer equipment or other durable equipment is not allowed.
  • If you're organizing a workshop or similar event, participant costs (e.g., travel, lodging, per diem) and venue costs (e.g., meeting room rental, AV services) would be allowable. Food costs would be allowable with limitations.

Can funds be used for travel?

Funding can be used to support effort in developing and delivering content, including travel. We suggest providing brief information in the proposed work section of the application. We will follow up with chosen BSSw Fellows about more specific budget details, including advance approval for travel, as required by the policies of our sponsors.

My institution's project office inquired about indirect/overhead costs for BSSw Fellowship recipients. Are indirect/overhead costs allowed and should these be mentioned in the budget?

In addition to direct support for proposed work up to $25,000, the BSSw Fellowship covers usual and customary institutional indirect/overhead costs. Do not include your institution's indirect/overhead costs in the brief budget information that is submitted in the proposed work section of the application.

Proposal Topics

Are the BSSw Fellowship projects mostly social or technical in nature?

Because the Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), and computational science and engineering (CSE) communities are deeply technical, a relevant topic related to scientific software is expected. That said, technical information must be presented with social awareness. Successful projects understand how to communicate technical information such that it is useful to the larger community and can be used for something more. The goal is to increase engagement and understanding of the chosen topic.

Can I host a bunch of tutorials at our host institution on useful software practices, like version control? Is this the right idea?

We encourage emphasis on activities with a view toward broad impact, with some element (including a publicly available artifact) that could serve more than a single set of people attending a single event. Successful project proposals are more than one-time undertakings. We aim for reusable, sustainable deliverables that can live beyond the fellowship. These artifacts can come in the form of videos (including HPC Best Practices webinars, written content, interactive websites, and more. Past fellows have leveraged the blog as well.

Can I host some of the content on the BSSw website? For instance if we create a video recording of a tutorial, etc.

We welcome content contributions to the site, in a variety of formats.

Are there any existing surveys or descriptions about the greatest needs in scientific software development?

Needs span throughout diverse areas of scientific software, including topics listed in the Computational Science and Engineering Software Sustainability and Productivity Workshop Report. Specific current needs include practices and methodologies that:

  • Assist transition to modern high concurrency node architectures to exploit features such as vector, GPU, threading and tasking.
  • Are used by the broader software community and can be adapted and adopted for use in scientific software.
  • Help teams collaborate more effectively.

I am working on a scientific software project and have done a lot of coding to build reusable, open-source code. Can this program provide support for my continued work on this (code/application/tool)?

While any idea may be submitted, we cannot guarantee that this kind of idea would be competitive. The BSSw Fellowship Program focuses on fostering and promoting practices, processes, and tools to improve developer productivity and software sustainability of scientific codes. The application includes the proposal of a funded activity that promotes better scientific software. While candidates often are developing software as part of their broader scope of work, the BSSw Fellowship Program is not intended to support ongoing software development.

I recently began a new research project. Should I write a Fellowship proposal based on what I hope to achieve in a year's time frame? Or would it be better to base it on research that is more or less completed?

The BSSw Fellowship program is not about supporting new research, but rather about fostering and promoting practices, processes, and tools to improve developer productivity and software sustainability of scientific codes. This work may be connected to research that is in progress, but not in a way that puts the Fellowship activities at risk if problems arise in the research.

The topic I want to pursue has been the subject of a recent BSSw Fellowship project by someone else. Should I apply?

The BSSw Fellowship program seeks to grow a broad community to help tackle many challenges in scientific software productivity and sustainability. We recognize that many scientific software challenges will require sustained effort to impact. But the goal of the BSSw Fellowship program is to mobilize the community on a variety of fronts related to software productivity and sustainability.

In that spirit, we expect that applications that enhance topical diversity will be more competitive.

For topics covered by recent BSSw Fellowships, we encourage applications to consider different approaches to the challenges. Applicants are encouraged to clearly identify how their proposed project is different from past projects. For example, new projects can differentiate in content, target audience and impact plan, etc.

Is co-authorship allowed for applications to the BSSw Fellowship Program or do you expect proposals to have solitary authors?

While we recognize that lots of important work takes place as collaborative partnerships, the BSSw Fellowship Program is limited to individual applicants.

Does the proposal have to be involved with the Exascale Computing Project (ECP) or any kind of DOE funded project?

No, existing connections are not required to any funded projects. We encourage applications from the broad scientific software community, regardless of funding sources. BSSw Fellows will receive guidance to help fine tune their project plans in order to impact sponsor priorities, including possible presentation opportunities or collaborations. Applicants are encouraged to specify known venues and dates where the work may be presented (e.g., conferences, local communities, websites, etc.) in the description of impact in the proposal.

Fellowship Requirements Questions

What are the expectations for a BSSw Fellow?

Beyond completing the proposed scope of work, BSSw Fellows are life-long members of the BSSw community, serving as leaders and advocates for better scientific software. Work performed during the period of performance should include the proper BSSw acknowledgement. Fellows will be asked to contribute volunteer time for activities such as BSSw Fellowship applicant reviews and helping to promote the fellowship within their network.

Do you expect fellows to attend events or meetings?

We will encourage fellows to attend a well-known conference with high community visibility. This venue for the 2024 Fellowship class is TBD.

Are there restrictions on who can apply for a BSSw Fellowship?

Applicants must be affiliated with a U.S.-based institution that is able to receive federal funding. Typically such institutions include U.S. government labs, U.S. universities, and U.S.-based corporations.

We encourage applicants at all career stages, ranging from students through early-career, mid-career, and senior professionals. We encourage applications from those in underrepresented groups, including people who are Black or African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, women, persons with disabilities, and first generation scholars. In addition to technically focused projects, we invite proposals for activities that broaden participation or promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

General Questions

What is the long-term vision for the BSSw Organization and BSSw Fellowship Program?

The long-term vision for the BSSw Organization is to serve as an international community-driven and community-managed resource for scientific software improvement, with content and processes provided by volunteers. Future plans center on working toward broad community leadership, growth, and diversification of the BSSw Organization and BSSw Fellowship Program---that is, expanding collaboration with complementary groups, stakeholders, sponsors, and individual contributors.

I am passionate about scientific software and would like to get involved in the BSSw community but currently am not eligible to pursue a BSSw Fellowship. How can I proceed?

The goal of the BSSw organization is to foster a broad, international community of researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders from national laboratories, academic institutions, and industry who are dedicated to curating, creating, and disseminating information that leads to improved software for the advancement of computational science and related technical computing areas. We want and need contributions from the international community for the BSSw site. If you have experience or expertise that can help other scientific software teams, we encourage you to contribute an article or pointer to good work. See details on how to contribute to BSSw. Also, we welcome conversations about potential for expanding international collaborations and sponsorship.

The BSSw Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.