Highlights from Collaborations Workshop 2020

Posted by g.law on 21 April 2020 - 8:51am

online group photoBy Rachael Ainsworth, Software Sustainability Institute

Collaborations Workshop 2020 (CW20) was dedicated to discussing Open Research, Data Privacy and Software Sustainability, and took place virtually from 31 March - 2 April 2020. Originally scheduled to take place at Queen’s University Belfast, it was reorganised within three weeks to take place online due to the situation surrounding COVID-19. CW20 was sponsored by Microsoft, F1000 Research, Figshare, eLife and Overleaf, who very kindly stuck with us when we moved the event online. We plan to publish a longer post about how we moved the event online and lessons learned, but here we will share some highlights from the three day virtual event.


CW20 kicked off with some initial guidance on how the day would run and an icebreaker where small groups shared with each other what they were watching, reading or listening to. Then Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) Director Neil Chue Hong introduced the Institute and reminded everyone that things aren’t normal due to COVID-19. He therefore asked participants to be kind to themselves and others, to take breaks as needed, and to follow the virtual Pac-Man rule: leave pauses and invite others to join the conversation. 

Andrew Stewart, Senior Lecturer in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester, gave the opening keynote on Open Research. He described famous cases demonstrating the replication crisis, the problem of P-hacking, HARKing (Hypothesizing After the Results are Known), and institutional efforts to promote open research practices.

We then heard a series of lightning talks, where sponsors and participants shared various projects and initiatives including the FAIRsFAIR project, the eLife Innovation Sprint 2020 (general applications open between 27 April and 24 May, 2020), and Sarah Gibson’s Cross Stitch Carpentry lesson! She also hosted a Twitter contest for CW20 participants to share a picture of their mindfulness routine with the hashtag #CollabW20mindfulness to win a cross stitch kit.

Becca Wilson, UKRI Innovation Fellow with HDR UK at Newcastle University, delivered the keynote on Data Privacy. She presented an overview of GDPR and described the various techniques for data privacy in health research, including anonymised data, pseudonymisation, data safe havens and secure data facilities. She concluded by discussing privacy-by-design analysis and DataSHIELD - an open source software and infrastructure for distributed, remote analysis automated disclosure control.

Participants then divided into discussion groups to explore and speed-blog on topics such as: the sustainability of legacy software, encouraging people to follow best practice as part of their workflow instead of after the fact, and the use and creation of synthetic data. Keep an eye on the SSI blog, as we will be sharing what participants wrote over the coming weeks.

Day 2 began with a talk from Malvika Sharan, The Alan Turing Institute, on The Turing Way: A community built on a culture of collaboration. Malvika stressed the importance of open research communities being inclusive by design - not an afterthought - and how The Turing Way project achieves this.

Participants were randomly assigned groups for the Collaborative Ideas session, where they went into breakout rooms and worked to come up with solutions to problems they experience in research. We then put all the ideas generated to a vote, and Emma Rand, Matthew West, Laurence Brown, Mario Antonioletti and Alison Clarke won for their Storyboarding Sustainability idea - to produce a storyboard for a 10 minute video which can be sent to PIs to raise awareness and outline steps to achieve sustainability and reproducibility in their research projects.

There were a total of 16 mini-workshop and demo sessions at CW20 on scholarly communication and community in addition to the event themes of open research, data privacy and software sustainability.

CW20 concluded with the Hack Day, where teams formed to work on projects generated during the Collaborative Ideas session and other ideas pitched during the course of the event. The winners of the Hack Day were Yo Yehudi, Blair Archibald, David Perez-Suarez, Alison Clarke and Marion Weinzierl for their project RSE2-D2 - a twitter bot providing advice about creating/maintaining research software!

97% of participants who provided feedback said that the workshop was useful and enjoyable. One participant wrote: “I was much more personally engaged and active in CW20 than any of the other online events I attended. It makes me feel like I contributed rather than just passively consuming information.”

What are your highlights from Collaborations Workshop 2020? We would love to hear about your experience of the event, so feel free to get in touch with Rachael Ainsworth, SSI Community Manager at r.ainsworth@software.ac.uk if you would like to write a blog post about CW20 for the SSI blog. Recordings of the keynotes, lightning talks and mini-workshops will be made available on the SSI Youtube channel in the coming weeks, and all CW20 outputs (including blog posts and other resources) will be tagged on the SSI website with Collaborations Workshop 2020.

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