Funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop Stencila Sheets

Nokome Bentley

28 April 2017

Stencila has received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop Stencila Sheets as an open and reproducible alternative to existing spreadsheet software in research.

We're excited to announce a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop Stencila Sheets. This funding will enable us to take our spreadsheet software for reproducible research from a prototype to a fully usable desktop and web application.

Spreadsheets are still one of the most widely used environments for data analysis in science. But existing spreadsheet software, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, have interfaces which can be opaque and error prone and file formats which are not well suited to a reproducible workflow. They also don't leverage the power of open source languages such as R, Python and Julia.

Stencila Sheets aim to take the best aspects of the spreadsheet interface and combine them with the power of open source languages and modern methods for reproducibility. They are built from the ground up for transparency, testability and version control. We are designing familiar spreadsheet interfaces with novel user interactions that make spreadsheets more powerful, less error prone, and more transparent. For more background see our introductory post.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation was founded in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan Jr. The Foundation supports original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. The Foundation believes that a reasoned, systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all.

Stencila has been funded as part of the Foundations's Data & Computational Research sub-program. We would like to thank Josh Greenberg, director of the Digital Information Technology program, for his encouragement, support and advice. But mostly we're grateful to Josh for simply giving us the opportunity. This type of backing is invaluable for fledgling open-source projects and without it, it can be hard to get off the ground.

We are also really pleased to announced that Code for Science and Society (CSS), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization committed to improving access to data for the public good, will be our fiscal sponsor for the grant. The goal of CSS is to help science, journalism and government make better use of technology to accomplish their goals and help create more openness, transparency and collaboration. They host the awesome Dat project which we plan to integrate with Stencila. A big thank you to Max Ogden and Keith Chreston from CSS for their work in making everything happen.

It's very exciting to have the opportunity to take Stencila Sheets from a prototype to a polished product that, hopefully, will change the way that researchers summarise, visualize and share data. Once again, thank you to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for giving us that opportunity - the opportunity to make it happen.