Highlights of the Fellowship Programme 2022 Launch Webinar

Posted by j.laird on 12 October 2021 - 10:00am
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Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

The SSI Fellowship Programme 2022 Launch Webinar took place on 23 September, providing information about the Institute, the Fellowship Programme, the application process, the International Fellowship pilot, and considerations with regard to COVID-19. It also included experiences from SSI Fellows Becca Wilson, Sarah Gibson and Emma Rand. You can watch the webinar recording on YouTube and the presentation slides are available on Zenodo.

Applications to the Fellowship Programme are open until 31 October 2021.

Below is a summary of some of the key takeaways from the webinar.

Eligibility 

Applicants must be based in the UK or have a formal and active affiliation with a UK-based institution or office (or are based outside the UK and applying to our International Fellowship pilot). This affiliation is required at the time of application - for example, if you are a UK-based PhD student and your programme ends during the Fellowship period, you are still eligible to apply even if your plans for after your PhD have not been finalised. Your affiliation does not exclusively have to be with academia - you can be affiliated with any UK-based organisation or institution (such as the Civil Service) as long as you have time to carry out your Fellowship plans and attend required events. 

As part of our International Fellowship pilot, there will be up to three places for successful international applicants (applicants based outside the UK or without a formal affiliation with a UK-based institution or office). Because the Institute is UK-funded, applicants who are not based in the UK or who do not have a formal affiliation with a UK-based institution or office will need to demonstrate that their plans for the Fellowship have a focus on improving UK capability, and promote UK-based approaches abroad. Please see the FAQ for more details about eligibility and international applicants, and you can read more information on how to apply as an international applicant in this blog post.

Required Activities

Successful Fellows are expected to attend the Inaugural Meeting, where they will meet Institute staff and network with the other Fellows in their cohort (you can read about last year’s Inaugural Meeting here). The date and time of this meeting will be determined by poll to ensure that as many Fellows can attend as possible, but it will likely take place online during February 2022. Successful Fellows are also expected to attend the Collaborations Workshop, our premier annual unconference event which brings together the entire research software community. It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with other Fellows and explore best practices and the future of research software. Please note that all shortlisted 2022 applicants will be invited to register for Collaborations Workshop 2022, and 2022 Fellows will be expected to participate in 2022 - more information to be announced soon.

Fellows are also expected to write a blog post for each supported activity. This increases the impact of each event through dissemination of any outcomes, lessons learned, and take home messages. Blog posts encourage the development of outreach and communication, and increase the Fellow’s profile through publication on the Institute website which receives over 20k visitors per month. Fellows are also very welcome to share blog posts based on their expertise and advice. You can read some recent blog posts from our Fellows here.

Considerations in light of COVID-19

Participating at in-person events is in no way mandatory due to COVID-19 as part of the Fellowship Programme 2022, and we encourage applicants to consider that travel and in-person events may not always be feasible. We particularly welcome proposals with online-based activities, such as organising or attending online workshops, attending virtual conferences, and the use of software and smaller hardware items (such as cameras and microphones) to enhance online events and activities. You can read how our current Fellows adapted their plans to make the most of their SSI Fellowship in a COVID-19 world. Please note that the Fellowship does not support paying for larger hardware items such as laptops or computers, or for staff time for developing software - the Fellowship is primarily focused on supporting you at, for and leading events.

Fellowship Experiences

We heard from SSI Fellows Becca Wilson, Sarah Gibson and Emma Rand about their Fellowship experiences and what attracted them to apply for the programme. 

Becca (2016 Fellow) discussed her “non-traditional route” into the Fellowship Programme, her first, unsuccessful application and subsequent successful application to the programme, and the impact of the Fellowship on her career. She noted that the biggest impact was helping her to grow an open source community around the DataSHIELD project from a couple of researchers to over 50 contributors to the software, legal and ethical sides of data sharing in health research, and users all over the world. She highlighted benefits of the Fellowship include opportunities for advocacy and joining an inclusive community that is supportive, can provide advice, and that she is constantly learning from.

Sarah’s (2020 Fellow) plans involved activities to diversify the community of people who are contributing to Binder, such as attending conferences to connect with the Julia and R communities. She discussed the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a career change on her Fellowship plans. She highlighted that the Institute is very familiar with precarity, particularly of an academic career path, and open to discussing changes to proposals during the course of the Fellowship. Her advice to those thinking about applying for the Fellowship is to “scope tightly and to scope well. It's a £3000 grant and a six-minute application video. If you're struggling to explain your goals in those six minutes, then I'd take another go at scoping. I'd scope for distributed and remote - we're still in an ongoing pandemic, and events are most likely to be remote and distributed, at least for a while.”

Emma’s (2020 Fellow) plans focused on developing the capacity of PhD students in areas of data analysis and reproducibility so that they in turn “infect” their labs with these skills. She discussed how she adapted her Fellowship plans to take place virtually, such as delivering a six module programme on reproducible analyses online (twice) and attending many research/software-related online conferences. She highlighted the opportunities she gained through the Fellowship such as new collaborations and funding awards. On what she’s gained from the Fellowship, she says, “It's really an impressively supportive and inclusive culture and network. You'll meet lots of people who have a huge array of skills, who are willing to inspire and teach you some of those skills. I found out about lots of really fun and cool projects through my interactions on the fellowship network.”


Please visit the Fellowship Programme webpage for further information and contact Rachael Ainsworth, Institute Community Manager at fellows-management@software.ac.uk with any questions.

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