Wide Research Network
SBGrid has provided scientific software support to the research institutions, laboratories, and groups within the global structural biology community for more than a decade. We count among our members many preeminent scientific investigators - Nobel Prize recipients, National Academy, European Academy, and HHMI members - as well as new researchers conducting innovative and exciting science. When you disseminate your software through SBGrid, your software reaches a broad and deep network of researchers intent on using the best and latest computing tools and techniques.
Automatically Compile, Install, and Update your Software
Developers rely on SBGrid to compile, configure, and install their software on SBGrid member computers, pushing out continuous updates and bug-fixes, and providing members with easy access to legacy and beta versions of their software. When members run our install script, all SBGrid-supported applications (currently over 290 programs) are installed on their computers with no additional user intervention. For laptops or systems with limited storage, users can access the SBGrid control panel to select specific applications or subsets of software. SBGrid pre-complies these programs for, and supports, multiple popular Linux and OS X operating systems (See SBGrid in Your Lab). Program updates and major releases are disseminated monthly, but we can also push out interim updates if a major bug needs to be fixed. We use the SBGrid monthly newsletter to notify members of new applications, updated features, and software releases.
First-level User Support
SBGrid provides first-level technical support to members for software installation, upgrades, bug reports, and basic troubleshooting, which means we can solve many problems relating to compilation, installation, operating system portability, and environmental set up without contacting you for support. SBGrid support often significantly reduces the number of emails you receive for technical help. We are careful, however, to pass on any legitimate bug reports that users submit, along with useful and complete technical information to help you diagnose and squash bugs. We also conscientiously direct any scientific questions directly to you. SBGrid support allows you to spend more time answering questions that directly involve the science behind your application, rather than responding to unproductive and redundant technical support requests.
Software Beta Testing
If you provide SBGrid with a beta version of your software, we can install it for testing by all SBGrid members or any subset of labs you designate. SBGrid staff will then provide an enhanced level of feedback regarding your beta code and facilitate communication between beta testing users and you, as the developer. Because SBGrid provides members with access to multiple versions of each software application, users can elect to test beta versions alongside stable releases. When beta testing is complete, we can seamlessly transition users to the latest stable version through our usual SBGrid software updates.
Comprehensive Software Licensing
SBGrid has devised a pass-thru software licensing model that allows members to consent to all individual licenses contained in the SBGrid software collection by signing a single End-User Licensing Agreement (EULA). When members agree to the SBGrid EULA they are agreeing to abide by the terms of each license in each piece of software in the SBGrid software collection. SBGrid encourages developers that contribute software to SBGrid to release under an OSI-approved open source software (OSS) license because of the many benefits OSS confers on users and developers in creating an open culture of science. SBGrid also provides advice and support to developers when selecting an appropriate software license. We do recognize that open source licenses are not always practical or appropriate (See Morin et al. 2010 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002598) and the SBGrid "pass-thru" licensing model can accommodate most software licenses, including proprietary and closed-source licenses. Upon request we can provide developers with a copy of member-executed EULAs.
Webinars and seminars
SBGrid also provides many opportunities for developers to communicate directly with users. We host monthly webinars and seminars featuring developers talking about their software: giving tutorials, demonstrating new features, and previewing future developments. If you’re visiting the Boston area, we can schedule a seminar that local members of the structural biology community can attend while our video broadcast can reach those in the larger SBGrid community. We'll then post the recorded video on the SBGrid YouTube channel. SBGrid also participates in structural biology conferences and hosts hands-on computing schools where developers can instruct researchers in use of their programs.
The SBGrid software collection presently hosts over 290 software titles that are automatically installed for our members, promoting the serendipitous discovery of new software tools. Rather than learning about a new applications by word-of-mouth, poster presentations, or research paper citations, SBGrid members can go to our website for a succinct description of each hosted application that is categorized by research field and typical workflow. Because these applications are pre-installed, with no need for downloading, compiling, and configuring, SBGrid lessens the barriers of time, knowledge, and effort that commonly prevent even computationally skilled users from trying out a new program. In essence, SBGrid acts as a scientific a one-stop "app store" for structural biology software, allowing member users to discover, use, and compare your software to competing applications by simply typing the launch command in the SBGrid shell.
Resources and services for developers
To show our appreciation and encourage the continuing development of cutting edge structural biology software, SBGrid offers a Developer Support Program featuring a wide array of benefits for contributing software developers. We provide access to a dedicated development and testing infrastructure to build and test your application on a wide range of operating systems and architectures, up to 100 GB of data storage, and access to high performance commercial compilers as well as basic development tools like version control systems (svn, git, etc) and shell text editors. Additional test environment operating systems are available as virtual machines (OpenSuSE, Ubuntu, Fedora), and some additional hardware can be made available (Sun SPARC, IRIX MIPS, etc) upon request. Visit the Computing Resources for Developers page for more details.
If your application is under active development, your development group is also entitled to complimentary SBGrid membership. We're also happy to provide developers with support letters on behalf of SBGrid members when applying for grants or financial support. Letters include details about our member labs, the number of computers with access to your software, and the operating systems used by our community.
On the Horizon:
Software Usage Tracking and Reporting: SBGrid recently received NSF funding to design and implement a system to directly track software usage by our member users. We do this by building encapsulation scripts for each SBGrid-hosted program that report back to us each time a program is launched. Information collected can include an anonymized user ID, when programs are launched and closed, exit status, the system and OS architecture and version, memory usage, crash reporting, the hours a program used in total and per user, and potentially much other useful data. The challenge will be to design and deploy the sociotechnical systems for collecting and disseminating useful and comprehensive information on software usage while allowing users to fully participate, control, and be aware of the information being collected and shared. The system is undergoing limited testing with select software developers and members, and will be fully deployed within the next two years. At that time we hope to provide all contributing software developers with regular, comprehensive reports detailing software usage, useful when submitting grant applications, planning and developing of your software, and tracking the needs and scope of your user base.
Increased Citation: SBGrid is currently developing a "Bibliography Builder" webapp to help encourage more consistent and accurate software citation in the structural biology community. Anyone - not only SBGrid members - will be able to visit the SBGrid "Bibliography Builder" webpage where users can select a list of software applications that supported their scientific research and receive a list of the relevant citations that should be included in their publication. All SBGrid hosted programs are arranged alphabetically and by category, key word, and typical research workflow. Once a user marks the applications they wish to cite, with the push of a button they a can export those citations in multiple formats suitable for direct cut-and-paste into a manuscript bibliography or for import into popular citations manager programs (e.g. Endnote, Papers, etc.). SBGrid contributing developers will be able to login and update their citation information as needed. This will make finding and properly citing programs easier for the average user and help insure accurate, version-specific and up-to-date citation information. Our long-term goal is to enable the SBGrid software usage tracking system described above to output a list of programs used and appropriate citations upon request of the user without need to visit the "Bibliography Builder" webpage. This is just another example of how SBGrid is helping to encourage the proper citation and attribution of scientific software.