Research software highlights from 2021

Posted by j.laird on 17 December 2021 - 9:30am
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By Jacalyn Laird, SSI Communications Officer.

While the ongoing pandemic has meant another difficult year, it’s good for our wellbeing to share and celebrate our accomplishments. As we come to the end of the year we’re taking a look back at some of the success stories in research software from 2021.

The Software Sustainability Institute’s activities

Research Software Camps

This year we ran our first ever Research Software Camps which run over two weeks and explore a topic related to research software. Our first Camp started in February and focussed on Research Accessibility, covering how to make research tools, techniques, datasets and software accessible and how to get new or more collaborators. Highlights included a keynote talk and live Q&A around ‘The Social Model of Inaccessibility’, workshops to help researchers prepare their code for sharing and improving its reproducibility, and useful guides and blog posts on our website.

The second Camp in November ‘Beyond the Spreadsheet’ explored the uses of spreadsheets in research and the next steps into the further use of software. It included workshops and presentations introducing different tools, a learning to code mentor programme, and a lively discussion panel answering the question ‘do we have the right tools for research?’ Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates about future Camps.

New Cohort of Fellows

In April we welcomed a new cohort to our Fellowship programme. The 19 Fellows represent a range of research fields and come from 16 research and technology institutions across the UK. The programme provides funding for individuals who want to improve how research software is used in their area of work.

We also recruited for our next intake which for the first time will include international Fellows as we pilot widening the programme. Our 2022 Fellows will be announced in January!

Collaborations Workshop 2021

Our Collaborations Workshop 2021 took place online for the second time in Spring this year, covering the themes of FAIR Research Software, Diversity and Inclusion and Software Sustainability. We had our highest ever number of participants this year, and youcan read about how it was organised as an ‘in practice’ section in our Event Organisation Guide

Our next Collaborations Workshop will take place online from 4 - 7 April 2022 with the themes of the workshop Code Review, Ethics, Hybrid Working, and Software Sustainability.

Workshop on Sustainable Software Sustainability 2021 

In October we ran the Workshop on Sustainable Software Sustainability 2021 (WoSSS21) in collaboration with Dans and the Netherlands e-Science Centre. WoSSS aims to represent the state of the art in software sustainability and WoSSS21 covered a wide variety of software sustainability themes in the space of Open Science, digital heritage and sustaining software efforts. The event had a wide range of excellent speakers giving local and international perspectives from the US, UK, Europe, Brazil, Australia and Nigeria. Videos for all sessions are available on the WoSSS YouTube channel

New Intermediate Research Software Skills Course

A team from the SSI had been developing a course on Intermediate Research Software Skills since April 2020 and it was made available on the Carpentries Incubator (an open repository for sharing community-developed lessons) in November this year. The course is aimed at learners who develop code in academic research settings but now require more intermediate software engineering skills as their projects are facing new challenges as their software becomes more complex and needs more functionality etc. After piloting the course in workshops earlier in the year it is now ready for use and feedback is welcomed.

The wider research software landscape

Software Citation on GitHub

Researchers can now easily cite the software they use with GitHub’s new built-in citation support which was introduced in August, giving proper credit and recognition to those who develop research software.

Hidden REF Awards

September saw the Hidden REF Awards ceremony take place, which celebrated people involved in the creation of all research outputs. The ways in which research impact is judged overlooks many of the people who are vital to the success of research. The Hidden REF competition started with the categories of output used by the REF and, over the course of 2020, the committee added suggestions from the research community for new categories that have previously been overlooked. 

The committee will continue to lobby for a broadening of research recognition, and will work on publicising their approach to the assessment of novel research outputs and hidden research roles. The next Hidden REF will take place in 2023. You can contact the committee if you would like to be involved in the campaign.

International RSE Day

On 14th October we welcomed the first International RSE Day, introduced by The International Council of RSE Associations to celebrate Research Software Engineers around the world and raise awareness for the increasingly relevant discipline of Research Software Engineering. 

International Policy

Earlier this year, the OECD Council adopted a Council Recommendation on Access to Research Data from Public Funding, revised to include software. In November the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science was unanimously adopted by member states. The Research Software Alliance (ReSA) called on governments to improve their national research software policies by adopting the OECD and UNESCO recommendations, as well as ReSA’s own recommendations laid out in their blog post 'Research software is essential for research data, so how should governments respond?'.


These are just some of the many good-news stories from research software in 2021. Celebrating success is important for our happiness and motivation, so take the time to reflect on your own and your team’s achievements from the last year.


Want to discuss this post with us? Send us an email or contact us on Twitter @SoftwareSaved.  

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