Wide Research Network
SBGrid has provided innovative computational resources and scientific software support to research institutions, laboratories, and groups within the global structural biology community for almost two decades. When you disseminate your software through the SBGrid Consortium, 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 us to compile, configure, and install their software on Consortium member computers, pushing out continuous updates and bug-fixes, and providing members with easy access to legacy and beta versions of their software. We pre-compile these programs for, and support, multiple versions of popular Linux and MacOS X operating systems (see hardware recommendations).
Updates and major releases are deployed with our monthly releases, but we can also push out interim updates for urgent bug fixes. We use the SBGrid monthly newsletter to notify members of new applications, updated features, and software releases.
First-level User Support
We provide 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. We are careful to pass on to developers any legitimate bug reports that users submit, along with useful and complete technical information to help you diagnose and squash bugs. .Our work allows you to spend more time answering questions that directly involve the science behind your application, rather than responding to technical support requests.
Software Beta Testing
If you provide us with a beta version of your software, we can install it for Consortium members so all or a subset of labs you designate can participate in beta testing. SBGrid staff will then provide an enhanced level of feedback regarding your beta code and facilitate communication from our user community to you. Because we provide 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
We have devised a pass-thru software licensing model that allows members to consent to all individual licenses contained in the SBGrid software suite 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 suite. The SBGrid “pass-thru” licensing model can accommodate most software licenses, including proprietary and closed-source licenses when open source licenses are not practical or appropriate (See Morin et al. 2010 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002598). We encourage developers who contribute software to the SBGrid Consortium 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.
Webinars and Seminars
We provide many opportunities for developers to communicate directly with users, hosting 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. Recorded webinars are posted on our website and on the SBGrid YouTube channel. We also participate in structural biology conferences and host hands-on computing schools where developers can instruct researchers on use of their programs.
The SBGrid software suite presently hosts over 400 software titles that are automatically installed for our members, promoting the serendipitous discovery of new software tools. Rather than learning about a new application by word-of-mouth, poster presentations, or research paper citations, Consortium 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, our software environment lessens the barriers of time, knowledge, and effort that commonly prevent even computationally skilled users from trying out a new program. In essence, the Consortium acts as a scientific 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.
We developed a software citation tool - AppCiter - to encourage more consistent and accurate software citation. AppCiter allows users to select the software applications that supported their scientific research and receive a list of the relevant publications to cite in their manuscript. With the push of a button users can export those citations in multiple formats suitable for direct cut-and-paste into a manuscript bibliography or for import into popular citation management programs (e.g. Endnote, Papers, etc.). This tool makes finding and properly citing programs easier for the average user and helps to ensure accurate, version-specific, and up-to-date citation information. For more details please see Socias, S.M. et al, Structure, Volume 23 No. 5 (2015), 807-808.
On the Horizon:
Software Usage Tracking and Reporting: SBGrid received NSF funding to design and implement a system to directly track software usage by our member users. We built encapsulation scripts for each SBGrid-hosted program that reports back to us each time a program is launched. Information collected includes an anonymized user ID, exit status, the OS architecture and version, memory usage, and crash reports. The system is undergoing limited testing with select software developers and members, and will be fully deployed within the next year. At that time we hope to provide all contributing software developers with regular, comprehensive reports detailing software usage, essential data for submitting grant applications, planning future software development, and tracking the needs and scope of your user base.