1. In what way do you plan to contribute to fundraising in support of Stan?
As I mentioned in my nomination, I currently work at a Foundation and everyday I am exposed to different business plans and I advice organizations about how to improve the quality of their pitches for different potential funders. More concretely, there are three items I am interested to work on:
a) “Business-like” document that can easily introduce the Stan project to funders and tailor those pitches depending on the strategic interest of these funders. For instance, many ventures and philanthropic institutions set strategic goals for the medium to long-term and understanding how we can seek funding for Stan will require identifying overlaps between funders and the Stan community. That said, something I explicitly want to avoid is seeking funding that comes attached with conditions that are unfair for the Stan team and/or the Stan community in general (i.e. prioritize a feature just because funding was provided).
b) Identifying legal structures that facilitate funding. Often, for complex legal reasons, funding can be provided in the form of gifts, donations, grants or whatnot. Each of these items has its own legal complexity level and something that often prevents funding from happening is the excessive amount of steps between when an offer for funds is made and when the money arrives. This is something I am fairly familiar with and I’d like to identify what are the most efficient avenues for funding depending on the funders legal overview/requirements.
2. Which under-represented application area(s) do you see potential for increased adoption of Stan/Bayesian methods? how do you plan to address it?
I completely understand your concern about the predominance of the current candidates mostly in bio/pharma. Speaking for myself, I am so glad to see Stan being used in these fields (bio in particular) because many existing tools (or research methods) in these sectors are not particularly aiming for excellence given safety is at stake. That said, this might create a misconception that Stan is mostly a software for particular fields and as a consequence we may have less contributions from other fields, which is in general a loss for the project as a whole.
I wholeheartedly agree with Imad on marketing and entertainment as low-hanging fruits for several reasons:
- As a person already working in marketing put it to me the other day “I suspect the developers may be mis-calibrated in the distribution of skills among users”. The fact is that Stan is already widely used in the marketing community and I know this because I worked in marketing too.
- There are already several professors teaching marketing who incorporate Stan in their curriculum because the ease of interpretation for A/B testing for students.
- The other area where Stan is also used is in entertainment, more specifically in media and content distribution. I used to work at BuzzFeed and during my time there I met several folks in different media and entertainment businesses already using (or wanting to use) Stan in their products. To my knowledge, there are at least three to four of the largest media companies in the US with staff already using Stan for some of their internal analysis.
However, I don’t want to limit to these two areas but given my exposure to marketing and media, I see these two industries already have the buy-in which is the harder part and it’s just a matter of being more inclusive of their needs, which I think Imad accurately summarize regarding the challenges about interfaces.
A few points I’d like to add that can potentially help:
- Survey a few folks in these industries and understand what are the challenges they have faced in terms of infrastructure to have Stan in production code and assess whether that is something that can already be solvable or if existing work is addressing those challenges.
- Talk to a couple of instructors already using Stan who can be a reference person for people considering using Stan in those fields and who perhaps are willing to summarize the needs of their communities.
- Often, these communities might not be entirely comfortable attending Stan conferences initially because little time is devoted to use cases in their fields. Instead they would prefer to have other options (i.e. Stan sessions in conferences where most of their industry already attends) that might have the seal of approval/support of the Stan team/community.