How to make the most of an SSI Fellowship through online activities

Posted by j.laird on 5 January 2021 - 11:30am

Laptop on Zoom call
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

By Rachael Ainsworth, Research Software Community Manager for the Software Sustainability Institute.

The Institute’s Fellowship Programme provides funding for researchers who want to improve how research software is used and developed in their domains and/or area of work. Each Fellow is allocated £3,000 to spend on activities to improve computational practice within research, which they usually spend on travel to conferences and workshops or costs related to organising an in-person event. That is, until COVID-19 moved everything online. So how have the current cohort of Fellows adapted their plans to make the most of their SSI Fellowship in a COVID-19 world?

Fellows are still attending conferences and workshops - just virtually! Fellows have attended conferences such as EuroPython 2020, BioC 2020: Where Software and Biology Connect, and Reproducibility, Replicability and Trust in Science to name a few. In some cases, the move to virtual events has allowed Fellows to attend conferences that would not have been accessible to them otherwise - such as the International Statistical Ecology Conference which was originally meant to take place in Sydney, Australia.

SSI Fellows have also organised and participated in online workshops and training courses. Open Life Science (OLS) Founders Malvika Sharan and Yo Yehudi completed the Frame Shift Consulting Train-the-trainers workshop for Ally Skills. They have since facilitated a number of Ally Skills workshops of their own, including at CarpentryCon @ Home 2020, as part of the OLS programme and as stand-alone workshops which other Fellows were able to attend. They also used Fellowship funds to provide a mentoring and coaching workshop by 360 Training UK for the 36 volunteer mentors who are guiding OLS cohort participants through their open science journey. You can hear more about Malvika’s Fellowship experiences from her update in the November SSI Fellows Community Call or view her presentation slides here.

An SSI Fellowship can also support online community building and infrastructure costs. Funds have been used to cover the costs of Zoom and Meetup subscriptions, improving the inclusivity and accessibility of online events with live captioning/transcription, use of the conference management system EasyChair, and for rebranding virtual communities and events. Funds can also go towards items to enhance your online activities such as cloud storage and computer services, hardware accessories such as high quality headsets, microphones and webcams (unfortunately not laptops or desktops), and prizes for online competitions or hackathons. 

The call for applications to the Fellowship Programme 2021 is now open, and the deadline is 23:59 GMT on Friday 5 February 2021. We highly encourage applicants to the 2021 programme to consider that travel and in-person events may not always be feasible, and we particularly welcome plans with online-based activities. We will be running a Launch Webinar on Thursday 14 January 2021 to provide further information about the programme, showcase some of our Fellows and answer any questions you may have.

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