By Raniere Silva, Community Officer, Software Sustainability Institute.
On 8th November we held the selection day for the shortlisted candidates to the Fellowship programme 2018. We ran the selection day online for the first time, and it went well for the 23 candidates who attended the event. The day was filled with interesting discussions and we hope to share some of these soon in the form of speed blogs.
In previous years each candidate has presented an introduction to their professional persona, what they do and what they would do as a Fellow. This year we shared each candidate's application video in advance with the other attendees of the selection day. In the first session of the day we invited candidates to bring a conversation subject to the group. In this one hour "ice breaking" discussion, candidates talked about training and inclusivity.
As in previous years, discussion sessions during the selection day gave us an insight into the group and interaction skills of candidates. Each candidate participated in two groups, ideally on different subjects with different reviewers observing. Each discussion group chose a chair to keep discussions on track, a scribe to write things down and a discussion topic. Once the discussion groups were in full flow the reviewers melted into the background to observe how the candidates interacted, to identify who had the sort of social personality that is seen as vital for a Fellow.
One priority in planning the event was to reduce the risk of problems with video conferencing during the discussion session. We decided to use Zoom, primarily because of the breakout rooms feature which allowed us to split the candidates into their groups at the beginning of the discussion session and regroup everyone at the end. Zoom’s reasonably long list of supported operating systems was also a factor, as we knew that we would have candidates using different releases of Mac OS, Windows and Linux. Zoom worked very well, with only one or two candidates per session requesting assistance to join their breakout room after a lost connection.
Among the discussions, we noticed interest in bridging the gap between people from different backgrounds and career paths. Candidates agreed that research software engineers can play a important role in bridging this gap by offering training in coding skills and teaching colleagues about code licences and code tests. Software citation was also debated, as well as the need for guidelines on citing software in papers.
The principal drawback of running the selection day online was that attendees couldn't network during the breaks. Although we left the video conference link available during the break, we understood that people would like to spend some time away from their screens.
It was a short day, running from 10:30 to 16:00, but it felt like it lasted two days.
When is it official?
Candidates will know by 24th November whether they have made it as Fellows 2018. With many worthy candidates it has been a tough task for the reviewers to choose.
For the official announcement of the new Fellows check our Twitter account @SoftwareSaved, and/or our news page on 8th December. Given the candidates we saw at the selection day, those chosen will be an interesting and able bunch with innovative and potentially very useful plans for the research software communities, and ideal ambassadors for software.