Do-a-Thon: Funding OpenMod Activities?

zurich-2018
do-a-thon

#1

Since I live in Zurich, this workshop will be easy to attend for me, whereas others will need to find someone to pay their expenses. How about the idea, to apply for funding, that could pay for the conference and travel expenses of future events? The COST program of the European Union could offer exactly that, as it is intended to cover the conference / travel / accomodation expenses of otherwise independent(ly funded) networking activities.

From my first reading of the associated documents (COST Grant-Agreement; Cost-Vademecum; Rules for participation and implementation), the conditions of this funding source may involve:

  • administrative burden: e.g. reporting requirements (Grant-agreement article 7), registration of all beneficiaries on E-Cost (Cost-Vademecum p.24)
  • Risks : e.g. potential audit by EC / ECA /OLAF (Grant-agreement article 9)

Apart from that I found no critical obligations or deliverables. The “work program”, i.e. discussion topics / forums can be decided and adapted by the management committee (Grant-Agreement, Art. 4.2; Vademecum, p.11) and could thus for example mimick the current structure of our discussion forum (licensing, modelling, data…) as well as changes thereof?

However, I am rather a newby with regards to funding (sources & conditions), and may thus have missed important points. In preparation for this do-a-thon, I would thus ask you to

  • Respond to this quick poll to see how many people (dis)like the idea of obtaining some form of travel funding: https://de.surveymonkey.com/r/M5WD72Q
  • Post your concerns regarding the conditions of the COST program, or other suggestions (e.g. alternative funding sources?) in this forum.

In case the poll suggests an in-principle interest, people attending this do-a-thon could discuss the feedback from this forum and flesh out a concrete proposal for how to address potential concerns. The proposal could then be presented back to the forum for scrutiny and a voting decision.


Call for hosting the next workshop after ZĂĽrich 2018
#2

Hi @Christian.winzer, I like the idea - thanks for bringing it up :slight_smile: Just from a quick read, a concern is that we would need to have institutes from at least 7 different member states involved. From those, at least 50% must be from COST Inclusiveness Target Countries. The first target might be reached with the current openmod contingent. But, given that many institutes in the community are in Germany, it isn’t a given. The second target is definitely beyond our reach at the moment, I don’t know of anyone from an institute that would fulfill that requirement…


#3

Dear Bryn - thank you for pointing this out, I agree! I should also add, that in order to be successful, a textbook COST application would be multi-disciplinary and gender balanced.
As a bottom-line: depending on the current composition of OpenMod, to apply for COST funding we may need to invite some further members from these minorities to the group.
Personally, I do not see this as a disadvantage, as a larger geographic and multi-disciplinary scope would provide more learning opportunities (and also data?). And adding further members from these groups could also increase our chances of forming successful consortia for applications to other EU Programs (Horizon2020 etc), where similar criteria apply. However, these are points that we need to discuss, and decide as a group…


#4

@Mqaic what do you think about? Will you be at the meeting? would be good to discuss that with you :slight_smile:


#5

Our legal context

Just to point out that the Open Energy Modelling Initiative (“openmod”) is currently not incorporated under law, nor is it engaged in “economic activity” as defined by European Union jurisprudence. In which case, the openmod collectively faces few, if any, legal obligations or liabilities.

Rather, the openmod can be seen as a collection of internet services — primarily a mailing list, wiki, and forum — all publicly visible and each managed by their respective owners and usually a few less privileged helpers. Alongside this, periodic workshops are held, each usually organized and hosted by an academic institution. This structure (if you like) is not dissimilar from that used by many non-transacting open source software projects.

Should people wish, the openmod could become more formal, perhaps an “eingetragener Verein” (e.V.) under German law (something like a United Kingdom charity?). But there has been little to no interest in heading down that track to date.

Therefore, and in the absence of the openmod being a legal entity, I presume any financial support for participating in openmod activities (such as a workshop) would need to be sought by and provided to individuals under their own name.

I am personally open to a discussion on the openmod adopting a legal structure. But what we should not do is inadvertently act such that we become an “enterprise” under EU law (see appendix). That would create the worst of both worlds: new liabilities but without legal shelter. For instance, if we sought income from donations or from banner advertising we might well cross that line.

The preceding discussion (as I understand it) would involve the openmod applying for some kind of travel assistance on behalf of workshop participants from some kind of scientific funding body. I don’t think that can happen without the openmod forming an e.V. (or similar) first. Aside from my concerns, I don’t suppose a funder would deal with an unincorporated entity like the openmod at present? Or have I missed something.

Finally, my thanks to @Christian.winzer for raising this topic and thinking about access to our workshops. What do other people think, both on this question and how the openmod should develop more generally? HTH, Robbie

Appendix

The definition of an “enterprise” in contained in European Commission (2003) article 1 as follows:

An enterprise is considered to be any entity engaged in an economic activity, irrespective of its legal form. This includes, in particular, self-employed persons and family businesses engaged in craft or other activities, and partnerships or associations regularly engaged in an economic activity.

My lay reading is that economic activity requires both “agreement” and “remuneration”, but that some future commercial expectation is sufficient for the latter criteria. The term “regular” in the definition above relates to the formation of an implicit partnership by engaging in a pattern of activity. For more information, see Wehlander (2016).

An enterprise carries additional responsibilities and liabilities. For example, an enterprise is explicitly bound by the GDPR.

References

European Commission (20 May 2003). “Commission recommendation of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises — Notified under document number C (2003) 1422 (text with EEA relevance)”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 124: 36–41.

Wehlander, Caroline (2016). Chapter 2 “Economic activity”: criteria and relevance in the fields of EU internal market law, competition law and procurement law. In Services of general economic interest as a constitutional concept of EU Law. The Hague, Netherlands: TMC Asser Press. pp 35–65. ISBN 978-94-6265-116-6. doi:10.1007/978-94-6265-117-3_2.


#6

Hey all, interesting topic.
Robbie is probably right. Without forming a legal entity such as eingetragener Verein, successfully applying for funding seems unlikely.
However, forming such a single entity might contradict the general concept of the openmod as a multi-national anarchical bottom-up community effort.

Besides, it would be interesting to know how big the problem of missing funding for workshop attendance really is? Does evidence exist?


#7

As I understand it, it is not the openmod who applies for money but partners would do to get funding for meetings and travels and speakers and publications (or similar cooperation actions)…
That can finance some of the WS-costs and could support some partners/(institutes) to participate and it could attract more attention to open energy modelling.
In my eyes it is a good way that needs we see in the openmod are pursuit by partners who do it for the community. Then we don’t have the hussle to become a legal unity.


#8

I agree :slight_smile: . As far as I understand the COST program, we would only need a subgroup of the Openmod forum (ideally at least one for each country) to apply for the funding. If the application is successful, this would enable us to pay the travel and conference cost for all the workshop participants (i.e. even those that did not apply for the grant or help out as part of the grant management committe).

More precisely,

  • The COST grant is awarded to a “grant holder institution”, such as the department of a university. (See Cost-Vademecum Section 2.2). The grant holder is responsible for managing the grant, processing the expenses claims etc.

  • The work-plan and budget, i.e. the list of conferences, summer schools etc. on which the funding is spent would be taken together with the “Management Committee”. (See Cost-Vademecum Section 2.3).

  • The management committee is comprised of “National representatives of each COST Full or Cooperating Member nominated”. I.e. most likely the subgroup of people / institutions that support the application for a COST grant.

In summary, since the grant would not go to “openmod” as such, but rather to an academic institution, that happens to be associated with Openmod and decides to fund the openmod conferences and other activities, I do not think that this would require a formalisation / change of structure of OpenMod itself?


#9

By the way, I should add, that it would be best, if grant holders are from one of the EU-inclusivness target countries (See Cost-Vademecum Section 2.2.1).

One of the key leadership positions in the Action management (Action Chair, Vice-Chair, WG Leader, Grant Holder, STSM Coordinator…) is reserved to a representative of a COST Inclusiveness Target Country (ITC).

My university would thus not act as a “grant holder institution”. If we decide to apply for COST funding, we would therefore still need to identify a suitable grant holder from one of the following countries:

Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITC) are: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, fYR Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey

In return for their administrative work, grant holders could receive up to 15% of the COST action funding.
(See Cost-Vademecum Section 2.2.4)

Hopefully, that could be attractive to some of you?


#10

Lets collect our ideas and questions here:


#11

http://www.cost.eu/download/COSTBrochure_Growing_ideas_through_networks

Best Martin


#12

I have cleared up our notes a bit and had a quick chat with Bryn:
He suggested, we should post conclusions as a “wiki page”/chat, where the top of the page contains an editable clean version of current ideas, while the section below contains our discussions…

Can anyone (show me how to) do this ?
Many thanks in advance greetings :slight_smile:


#13

I just tried (and did it many times before) but it didn’t work…
I wonder if only moderators can do it (@tom_brown??)

Got it… you can only do it with your own post!
make a post; then click the Three points right side below your post; then the screw driver; then the wiki :slight_smile:
Best
Berit


#14

Ok, great - many thanks ! I need to prepare for a workshop tomorrow, but will do so early next week :-)!

My suggestion would be to add this as new topic under the “Outreach” category…


#15

Just bumped into this, on funding and open science: https://vorpus.org/blog/the-unreasonable-effectiveness-of-investment-in-open-source-infrastructure/


#16

Here is the blog above cited in full:

The OPSD database project ran into a related issue: science funding was more readily available for building the site than for maintaining it subsequently.