Episode 228

Yani Bellini Saibene on better scientific coding communities


April 12th, 2024

44 mins 56 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Yani Bellini Saibene


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

In this episode of Sustain, host Richard welcomes guest Yani Bellini Saibene from Argentina. Yani, with a rich background in open source community management, shares her journey into the tech and open source world, and highlights her roles as the rOpenSci Community Manager, R-Ladies Project Lead, and Vice President for the Board of Directors for The Carpentries. The discussion dives into the challenges of funding, sustainability of volunteer-based models, and the importance of including diverse voices in open source development. The conversation also explores the economic disparities and cultural differences affecting contributors form the global south and how building strong local communities can empower individuals by providing them with tools, knowledge, and a sense of belonging in the wider world. Press download to hear more!

[00:01:47] Yani describes her start as a researcher at INTA while at university, her degree in computer science, and her initial work developing software and teaching scientists to use computing tools. She also details her career progression and her master thesis at INTA.

[00:04:49] We hear about the foundation and global expansion of R-Ladies, as Yani emphasizes community strength and the organizers’ passion. She discusses the flexibility and inclusivity of the chapters, and the support and resources shared among the community.

[00:08:56] Richard questions about the distinct roles and activities between rOpenSci, R-Ladies, and The Carpentries, which appear to have similar goals in teaching R, and Yani explains the different objectives of the three organizations.

[00:12:50] Yani lists the funders, including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sloan Foundation, and others. She describes the funding models for R-Ladies and Carpentries and the challenges of sustaining such community-oriented projects.

[00:14:52] Richard inquires about the role of the board of directors in establishing post-grant funding. Yani explains The Carpentries’ membership model where institutions pay for benefits like workshops and instructor training, she mentions the perks for members, discusses the challenges of maintaining services without sufficient membership or grants, and highlights cultural and financial barriers in Latin America.

[00:20:17] Richard is curious about cultural barriers and asks for further insights into overcoming cultural barriers and the limitations of translations. Yani discusses her personal journey with the English language and its importance in coding beyond syntax and shares some data from a recent study that was done, and the paper is called, “The manifold costs of being a non-native English speaker in science,” from PLOS Biology.

[00:24:42] Yani discusses additional studies, mentioning the Linux Foundation report on English as a barrier in open source contribution and its influence on perceived expertise.

[00:25:55] Richard asks Yani about the point at which translation efforts start to yield benefits for the community and inquires about the visible impacts and dividends from investments in internationalizing materials. Yani cites examples of immediate benefits, and discusses her involvement in translating educational materials, which has supported teaching many Spanish speaking teachers.

[00:32:38] Richard raises concerns about the possibility of global exploitation through talent extraction from non-English speaking regions. Yani addresses the issue of local versus international business compensation and the ethical implications for non-profit organizations.

[00:36:30] We hear Richard’s concerns about how to have conversations about open source contributions and community building in a non-extractive way and he wonders if it’s feasible to collectively support open source maintainers financially. Yani explains the concept of three “currencies” in any job: money, heart, and brain.

[00:39:16] Yani discusses the champions program at rOpenSci, where stipends were important for participants to allocate time to the tasks and do an excellent job.

[00:41:05] Find out where you can follow Yani online.


[00:06:17] “In R-Ladies, you have enough informality and enough expertise to make this a special place to learn.”

[00:18:26] “There is little funding for maintaining what you already have.”

[00:20:40] “I have to confess that I approached the English language because I loved code.”


  • [00:42:26] Richard’s spotlight is a book he’s reading called, Theodore Rex.
  • [00:43:10] Yani’s spotlight is a friend and someone she works with at R-Ladies, Athanasia Mo Mowinckel.



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