Ten months working on an academic, open-source project. And goals for 2022

Close to the end of 2021, I would like to share my professional perspective of the year. And the plans and goals that come with 2022.


Undoubtedly, the most important and radical change was taken in March when I joined the Open Targets team, part of the Europan bioinformatics institute. This opportunity was more than a change of employer, which in itself is a big thing. Personal level, I moved from Costa Rica to the United Kingdom. On a professional level, it was changing to a purely open-source project and in an academic environment in which I had no previous experience other than experimental projects with small teams.

The academic world prioritizes implementing improvements from an experimental point, as far as possible and reasonable. Comming from being part of companies where deliveries of new features and enhancements were a priority, it is an impact after more than seven years of experience.

I have found that this has benefits. One of them is taking ownership of a feature or project. And have time to research, validate and collaborate. Another subject, and I think it arises from the above mentioned, is what I understand as technical debt. It is something that depends on how it is received. Both ways, as an advantage or a disadvantage. Coming from deep within the open-source web world, in the heyday of JQuery, BackboneJS, and CoffeeScript, where we were thrilled with the Bootstrap 2.0 release. I detect this as an opportunity to excel.

Nowadays, a lot of front-end projects in academics are developing with ReactJS. But most of them do not take all the advantages that the modern web development ecosystem offers today. Frameworks such as NextJS or Gatsby. Technologies related to stylings such as Tailwindcss or styled components. And tools to improve code quality, such as linters, code-formatters, and testing in the UI at all levels (unite tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests), do not take part in the scope of the projects. As a web developer in the Open Targets team, I feel comfortable having constant conversations related to these topics, even more so with the openness to adopt this new and robust implementation on the front-end.

Another not minor point is the learning that what you develop impacts research. From my current position. In the use of data for systematic drug target identification and prioritization. In this spectrum of bioinformatics, there is much to collaborate on. Projects such as Uniprot, Chembl, and Ensembl, among others, would benefit from booming topics as data visualization with server-side rendering and incremental static regeneration, design centered on the user, and development tools such as monorepos and micro-front-ends.

These months have given me a lot of perspective on what can be improved. I develop a robust idea of the value of projects that operate with mostly open-source code. Communities and multidisciplinary work are requirements to improve interfaces and user experience.

My goal in 2022 is to integrate some of these modern web concepts into the Open Targets development model. From a more personal perspective, I am interested in improving my stack of development tools. Technologies like Svelte and SvelteKit are attracting a lot of attention for the coming year. Together with Antonio Solano, I plan to upgrade a personal project developed in 2015 called VizGVar. Our technology stack on the front-end will be Svelte + SvelteKit with Tailwindcss, probably hosted on Vercel. It is an important step, as it was around 2015 starting exploring ReactJS.

My other two goals are a lot more out of my comfort zone as a front-end developer. I am particularly interested in Rust. It is a language that, in my opinion, is positioned to be of importance in the coming years, if it is not already. Also, that, as a JavaScript developer, I am excited to know that it is 100% focused on memory efficiency. Rust can lead to enforce complex implementations in the browser. It will push us to create software that improves the development experience abode any ecosystem.

Finally, and even further from my experience, I am interested in learning about information design. As a software developer, it seems vital to me to handle concepts on this subject. Today everything is related to data, and it is a key to capturing or not the needs of the users.

Much to learn and much to explore. Time will give new challenges. With clear objectives, it is easier to shape so many ideas and trends that surround us today.

I will be more active in sharing my progress on this blog, and of course, improving my site to add better ways to interact with me. Thank you for reading!

As always, Pura Vida!

© 2023, Carlos Cruz