University of Edinburgh
- Research Software best practices
- Open Research
- Overcoming barriers around learning and using research software skills
- Skill-sharing, outreach and Carpentries-style teaching
I’m currently a PhD student, but before starting my PhD I had already accrued 8+ years of experience within the research environment as a Research Assistant, and made a couple of academic field shifts - from my undergraduate field of Ecology, to a masters in Botany and Taxonomy, and now into the world of software and informatics.
My first research job was with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in their Science department. Surrounded by notebooks, cabinets, spreadsheets and servers full of different types of plant data data and getting involved in exciting research programmes focussing on linking sustainability and protecting biodiversity, I developed an interest in the overlap between science and tech - how can programming and software help contribute to scientific research and open new doors to solving current problems?
I shifted into a Research Assistant role in Bioinformatics at the Wallace Lab at University of Edinburgh, and spent two years working with a collaborative development team including trained software engineers as well as domain expert researchers to develop an open source bioinformatics pipeline for processing and analysing sequencing data. This lab also placed importance on the computational skills needed within research, and introduced me to my first experiences with high performance computing.
This role also involved skill sharing and outreach - I received instructor training to allow me to deliver Carpentries workshops (collaboratively developed foundational programming and data skills for researchers), as well as getting involved with the 4273pi project aimed at getting bioinformatics skills training into Scottish secondary schools and the biology curriculum.
I think all of these opportunities and skills have influenced my research interests and my current PhD project, which I began in January 2022. Software has become almost ubiquitous within research, but academic researchers writing it might not be aware of best practices or know which techniques they should take the time to learn or implement. Developing a strong empirical evidence base for recommending several software engineering techniques might help time-poor researchers make decisions that result in better research software outputs, and hence better and more reproducible research.
I plan to use my fellowship to create a Scottish RSEcosystem by identifying RSE-related groups, connecting them into a network and engaging with them to help create a self-sustaining network that cooperates to support its members and can act as a solid and sustainable foundation for the growing Scottish Research Software Engineering community.
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Check out contributions by and mentions of Felicity Anderson on www.software.ac.uk