How to make a great screencast application for the Fellowship Programme 2019

Posted by s.aragon on 17 December 2018 - 7:11am
Image by ben dalton.

By Raniere Silva, Software Sustainability Institute.

We collect a good amount of data in the Fellowship Programme application form, but we only provide the screencast and writing sample to reviewers – the information about candidates is used to assign reviewers to mark sheets, as reported in "Assigning Fellowship programme 2018 applications to reviewers". Reviewers will be looking for a ambitious and doable plan that can help shape the landscape of research software and for good communication skills. So, how can make the best impression? Here are some tips.

Tip #1 - Outline your plan

A suggested format for your screencast is:

  1. Who you are professionally (1min 30 sec).

  2. What you do (1min 30 sec).

  3. Your plans for Fellowship (3 mins).

You may decide to spend more time on any section but your video application must be 6 minutes or less in total.

When talking about who you are professionally, consider that you are talking with someone coming from a different field of your research. We have librarians, mathematicians, biologists, criminologists and many other domains represented by our reviewers, so some terms that would be familiar to a first-year PhD student on your field can be completely new to your reviewer. When talking about what you do, try to turn it into a narrative that connects to your plans for the Fellowship.

Regarding plans, the Software Sustainability Institute is very interested in supporting work that builds on previous efforts in a strategic area and helps nurture and grow communities of practice. Examples of this are "Data Science for Doctors" or "Code is Science". However, we also support novel work and new areas (see "Science Together").

It’s not only about having the right plan. Reviewers will pay attention to any experience you have on delivering plans. For example, if you plan to organise a series of talks as part of your Fellowship plan, you will probably have experience organising seminars or workshops or an idea on how you plan to acquire the skills needed for this (e.g., to organise a The Carpentries workshop, you may register on the next Instructor Training event.)

If your plan is a first of its kind, reviewers will be interested in seeing that you have a clear vision for output and outcomes; e.g., a series of blog posts discussing how to make collaboration more efficient.

Tip #2 - Audio

It can be really hard for reviewers to understand you if the audio on your recording isn't loud and clear. You don't need to use a studio microphones for your screencast. Just following some good practices will help you save time and have a great recording to submit.

First, find a quiet room and put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. You don't want someone interrupting you in the middle of your recording. Remember to not schedule your video recording at the same time of the fire alarm test in the building. Make a couple of sound tests before doing the full recording. When doing the sound test, try different microphones as they can produce very different records. We advise candidates to use the microphone from an USB headset as their audio capture is usually good and some have noise cancelling. If you already have your screencast and think that the audio has too much background noise or your voice isn't loud enough, you can use Audacity or another audio software to reduce the background noise and make your voice louder and clearer.

Tip #3 - Slides

You can have as many slides as you like on your presentation. The key is to avoid moving to the next slide without giving to reviewers the time to read the content. Stopping the video or rewinding it a few seconds on each slide is something that reviewers won’t have time to do.

If you have videos related to your research or your plans for the Fellowship, you can use them on your presentation. But as they saying goes: "a picture is worth a thousand words".

Final Words

We wish that our tips help you. For tips on using Open Broadcaster Software Studio to do your screencast, visit our Application Video Guide. Some Fellows have kindly shared their application on YouTube. Watch the YouTube playlist and get inspired!

Apply to Fellowship Programme 2019