A mathematical perspective on being a Fellow

Posted by s.aragon on 25 January 2019 - 9:00am
Maths on board
Image by stuartpilbrow.

By Vincent Knight, Cardiff University, School of Mathematics (Institute Fellow 2015), Nikoleta Glynatsi, Cardiff University, School of Mathematics (Institute Fellow 2016), Geraint Palmer, Cardiff University, School of Mathematics (Institute Fellow 2017).

Being a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow creates a sense of belonging to a community and legitimacy to a practice.

This blog post is co written by three mathematicians at Cardiff University, each at various stages of their academic career:

  • Vince was a lecturer in mathematics at the time of applying for his Fellowship;

  • Nikoleta was starting her PhD in Game Theory;

  • Geraint was completing his PhD in probabilistic modelling.

We all had various immediate similarities in our practice: part of a small group of individuals within a school that aim to use best practice in terms of reproducible research. Once Vince became a Fellow it was somewhat natural for him to encourage Nikoleta and Geraint to apply as they all work together.

An advantage of applying for the Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship is taking the time to write down what matters to the applicant in terms of software use in their discipline. This exercise is akin to writing a teaching statement: often by simply writing one the practice itself improves.

The Institute provides each of their Fellows £3,000 to spend over 15 months. This money can be used to attend conferences and/or workshops or even organise your own events. The Institute will support any of the above as long as they are beneficial to both the Fellows’ and the Institute's aims.

As Fellows we have each used the grant to attend several conferences. These have allowed us to travel and inform the scientific community of our work, spread the work done by the Institute and also help other communities as well as learn from others.

Specific outcomes for each one of us

Vince was able to attend a number of workshops. He was subsequently invited to talk on property-based testing at research software engineer meetups but also invited to give a talk on reproducible research at Google in Mountain View as well as attend scifoo18. This was undoubtedly made possible by simply being able to refer to himself as a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute. Since obtaining his Fellowship Vince has been promoted to Senior lecturer: his Institute Fellowship played a role in his application.

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Nikoleta used her Fellowship to invest time in teaching best practice: she ran workshops in Namibia, presented on numerous occasions at conferences such as EuroScipy, PyCon UK, recently became an editor for the Open Source Toolkit PLOS Channel alongside Yo Yehudi, another Fellow of the Institute, and also attended JupyterCon 2018.

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Geraint has so far used his Fellowship to focus on the creation and use of best software practice through Welsh; using funds to promote the work at a Welsh language scientific conference. With the support of the Institute community, this has further raised his standing in the Welsh academic circle highlighting his area of expertise. Geraint presented a poster on best practices in simulation modelling at the UK OR Society annual conference in September.

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As well as these individual successes related to our Fellowships, we hosted the Software Sustainability Institute Collaborations Workshop 2018 in Cardiff. Being an active part of the community that brought together researchers from a wide range of fields was a definite highlight of our Fellowship.

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The Fellowship itself adds to legitimacy in our areas of research: other researchers are aware of the recognition given to us by the Institute. 

Another highlight of the Institute Fellowship is the sense of community: the “once a Fellow always a Fellow” mantra means that almost immediately you are part of a lasting group of people, who we feel have become more than Twitter handles but are now friends we can call upon to ask for advice and/or opinions. The Institute has a Slack channel which is a friendly place where you can ask for advice: for example Vince had a lengthy conversation about a licence question there for a specific piece of software (there is also a mailing list and a thriving Twitter community). Tapping into the combined knowledge of the Software Sustainability Institute community has been invaluable. At conferences related to our areas of research interest, there is usually a friendly face who can either answer a question or simply share a cup of coffee.

If you are thinking about applying for a Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship, we would wholeheartedly encourage you to do it. Becoming a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow helps improve scientific research.


Questions about the Programme should be directed to fellows-management@software.ac.uk.