By Shoaib Sufi, Community Lead, Software Sustainability Institute
There is nothing quite like a competition to bring out the best or worse in people, but when you combine competition with transparency and collaboration you get a high energy event that people feel they have learnt from. They also better understand why decisions around selection are made and if they don’t make it they can decide whether they want to try again; ultimately it allows the cream to rise to the top.
Such was the Fellows 2016 face 2 face selection event that took place in Manchester at the School of Computer Science, University of Manchester on Wednesday 4 November 2015. This brought together 29 candidates which had been whittled down from the 113 that had applied for the Fellowship 2016; they were competing for just 15 places. There were 29 presentations, 12 discussion groups, 12 reports backs, 9 reviewers (comprising 5 Institute staff and 4 existing Institute Fellows) and a resulting 240+ reviews. A busy and packed day which only lasted from 10am to 4.30pm for candidates with a grueling and soul searching provisional candidate ranking and rating exercise for the reviewers from 5pm to 6pm.
Each Candidates spoke about themselves, their work and importantly their plans were they to be made an Institute Fellow 2016. Each presentation was rapid at only 4 minutes long; a flood of information, inspiration and aspiration. In the afternoon candidates moved onto two sets of discussion groups where they had an opportunity to choose a topic from our recent workshops (CW15 and Software Credit) to discuss. They had a chance to be the the discussion chair, guiding the conversation or the scribe, accurately synthesising what had been discussed or a presenter, where they reported back the conclusions of their teams discussions to all the other groups. Reviewers were looking for presentation style, content, interactions skills and whether the candidate’s plans presented represented a win for the potential Fellow, the Institute and their research domain.
It was a well tweeted event with candidates themselves chose the battling hashtag - #SSIBattleRoyale! - although we can assure you that the competition more friendly than fierce!
You can check the storify for the best of the tweets - Axioms, Awesome and Energy @ SSI Fellows 2016 selection day.
With representations from the humanities, bioinformatics, earth systems, computer science, mathematics, social science and the health sciences the candidates represented a diverse set of domains; it was interesting to hear them collective realisation that indeed all domains are having the same problems with sharing, reproducibility and skills. We had a good gender balance with about 30% of the candidates being female and we had a distribution of career-stages from early, mid through to senior, including a distinguished Professor as one of the keen attendees!
Candidates will know on the 27 November 2015 whether they made it; however a lot of them expressed that they felt liked they gained from the experience, those whom it may not suit gained clarity, those who are not awarded are encouraged to do what they can in the coming year around research software in their domains and apply again (we have guaranteed funding for running Fellows 2017 and Fellows 2018), those who are chosen understand the value, opportunity and exclusivity of what they have been offered. Whatever happens the Institute and research software stand to gain active, inspiring and capable ambassadors for the cause of improved skills, reproducibility and sharing.
We salute the 29 who attended, your sure made reviewing and choosing very tough. Well done all regardless of the outcome.
A public announcement of who has been awarded an Institute Fellowship 2016 will be made on 4 of December 2015. Please www.software.ac.uk and/or @SoftwareSaved.