By Raniere Silva, Community Officer.
Our fellows have 15 months to work on the activities they propose and, because time flies (it’s already the end of February!) we try, as early as possible, to get the Fellows together to give them the opportunity to learn about the different parts of the Institute (Training, Community, the Research Software Group, Policy, Communications and the Directorate) and present their plans, to get feedback and identify points of collaboration. This in-person meeting also helps them to get a better understanding of how we operate and how to interact with us, leading to better outcomes for their Fellowship and the Institute.
For Fellows Inaugural 2018, we were in the city of Manchester at Kilburn Building, University of Manchester at the beginning of February. We were in the same room, which once hosted the Atlas Computer, one of the world's first supercomputers and considered to be the most powerful computer in 1962. 16 of the 17 new Fellows were in attendance, so it was a nearly full house.
Normally, the Institute Director, Neil Chue Hong would give an introduction to the Institute, its teams and how it operates, but this time, for various reasons, the introduction was in charge of Shoaib Sufi. Shoaib is the Community Lead and in addition to the introduction, he spoke on what was in scope for the Fellowship, how we try to help fellows by connecting them to others in the community, iterating their ideas with them and how Fellows have acted as reviewers for our Open Call, Fellowship Programme and represented the Institute in other capacities. Also, Shoaib covered on behalf of our Deputy Director, Simon Hettrick, how questions about the research software community drive the team, with the initial answer on how important software is to research in the UK as the path to other enquiries by the Policy team. Aleksandra Nenadic introduced the Training team and talked about The Carpentries (previous known as Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry), how successful they are and how Fellows can get involved. Steve Crouch joined us via Skype and presented the work of the Research Software Group and spoke about how the Fellows can become reviewers or promote the Open Call to colleagues.
The Fellows then were given the opportunity (and eight minutes) to speak about their plans for the Fellowship. This allowed them to present more detailed plans (compared to those at the selection day), get feedback from other Fellows and Institute staff and open up opportunities for collaboration. A particular focus in more than one plan was to develop curriculum specific for some disciplines inspired by Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry; ranging from better data handling skills for the police and criminologists to aiding comprehensive literature review in Business research.
There was a perfectly timed fire alarm at the start of lunch which no doubt increased everyone’s appetite! After many conversations and lunch, it was time to return our activities. The Institute project officer, Giacomo Peru, went through the perils of processing Fellows events claims, some of the common problems were covered such as the need to actually send receipts that match the electronic scans! To merge all the scans into a single PDF was suggested PDFsam. The smooth operations of reimbursements are actually central to the smooth running of the Fellowship programme so covering this at this stage should make things easier for all involved.
Following Giacomo's presentation, we had the last few updates of plans before we moved onto the discussion part of the meeting. Groups were organised around "How do we get research software development funded?", "How do we teach people about sustainable software development?", "What are the minimum levels of reproducibility we should be aiming for and should this be driven by Impact considerations alone?" and "Prioritising your time & looking after yourself as a fellow!"
We usually request feedback for our events and the inaugural was no exception—those attending rated it 4.1/5 for usefulness and 4.5/5 for enjoyability (13 responses out of 16 attending) and gave their suggestions for making next year’s event even better by including more examples about things previous fellows have done and a larger list of concrete examples of what can be included of activities' budget.
By attending the meeting, Fellows improved their understanding of the Institute, tweaked their plans and also found partners for collaborating on things they would like to do as Fellows. Some fellows that are based at the same institution didn't knew each other before the inaugural meeting and the colocation will help collaboration. We are confident that you will no doubt hear great achievements from Fellows 2018 in our newsletter. If you feel there are natural synergies with Fellows 2018 and your activities, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we will make an introduction. Alternatively, meet our Fellows 2018 at Collaborations Workshop 2018.