Highlights from Collaborations Workshop 2021

Posted by j.laird on 24 May 2021 - 4:07pm

By Rachael Ainsworth, SSI Community Manager.

Collaborations Workshop 2021 (CW21) brought together researchers, developers, innovators, managers, funders, publishers, policy makers, leaders and educators to explore FAIR Research Software, Diversity and Inclusion, and Software Sustainability. 

CW21 took place virtually for the second time from 30 March - 1 April due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CW21 was generously sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, Figshare, F1000 Research and eLife, whose support allowed us to improve the infrastructure, accessibility and social aspects of the unconference compared to the previous year. Here we will share some highlights from the three-day virtual event.

Social programme

Last year, we had to transition CW20 from an in-person event to a virtual event within a few weeks due to COVID-19 and unfortunately the social programme was sacrificed to prioritise re-organisation of the main sessions. One of our goals for CW21 was therefore to focus on increasing and improving opportunities for networking and socialising during the event. We organised a social programme of evening events using various platforms and morning coffee chats in the main Zoom room, as well as a dedicated networking session built into the main programme adapted from this Recipe for rOpenSci's Unconf Ice Breaker

On the evening before the official event started, RemotelyGreen kindly sponsored a social hour (facilitated by SSI Fellow Ben Krikler) where participants were matched in groups based on selected topics of interest, and provided an icebreaker prompt question to help guide the interaction. At the end of Day One, SSI Fellow Robin Wilson facilitated a quiz in GatherTown where participants tested their general knowledge in various categories, including software and academia-related rounds. Finally, to close out the event, SSI Fellow Colin Sauze facilitated a virtual meetup in Mozilla Hubs, where participants took a virtual train ride to a venue where we celebrated all that we achieved during the workshop and Hack Day.

Improving accessibility

Another aspect of the event that we focused on improving was the accessibility. We offered financial assistance to members of underrepresented groups, students/early career stages, and others who would not have been able to attend or fully participate in the event otherwise. We also live-streamed the keynote presentations and panel and collected questions using Sli.do to engage people who could not attend the full event (for example due to time zones). Live transcription and captioning were provided using Otter.ai, and we followed this guide on Captioned video calls AND YouTube streaming by Open Life Science to get all the platforms to work together.

Keynote presentations:

Panel on Diversity and Inclusion:

Day One

On Day One Michelle Barker, Director of the Research Software Alliance, gave a keynote on FAIR Research Software to inform the discussions that would take place during the event around this topic. She described the ongoing work of the FAIR For Research Software Working Group (FAIR4RS WG) to apply the FAIR Guiding Principles - Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability - to research software in a practical and useful way, the roadmap for the future of the initiative, and how participants could get involved.

Chonnettia Jones, Vice President, Research at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, then delivered the keynote on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). She shared why we should be working toward an inclusive research culture, why EDI initiatives fail, and what we can learn from them to do better. She highlighted that we all need to be vigilant “about the ways that we treat others that are different to us.”

Over the first two days of the event, we heard lightning talks from 20 participants, with topics ranging from Taxonomies for contributor roles in scientific computing, to Peer code review of computational methods in academic journals. You can find all the lightning talk slides in the CW21 Figshare portal, as well as many other CW21 outputs and materials. 

Participants then divided into discussion groups to explore and speed-blog on topics such as: the advantages of applying FAIR for research software, costing research software development and maintenance, and what does activism and advocacy mean for research software? Keep an eye on the SSI blog, as we will be sharing what participants wrote over the coming weeks.

A total of 10 mini-workshops and demo sessions took place at CW21 relating to the key themes. SSI Fellows Emily Bell and Anna-Maria Sichani wrote about their session "(Do not) make it new: On Reusing Research Software and Tools in Digital Humanities Scholarship", and Teri Forey wrote about the session “The RSE Landscape – what is your RSE type, and how do you want to develop it?”.

Day Two

Day Two began with a panel discussion around disability and accessibility in research software by Becca Wilson (University of Liverpool and SSI Fellow), Phoenix C S Andrews (University of Sheffield and Freelance), Ella Gale (University of Bristol), Robert Stevens (University of Manchester), and Robin Wilson (Freelance and SSI Fellow). The panellists discussed what changes would be revolutionary in addressing ableism in the sector, how COVID-19 has changed disability inclusion, and what participants could do to build a more disability inclusive research culture.

Participants were then randomly assigned groups for the Collaborative Ideas session, where they went into breakout rooms and worked to come up with solutions to problems they experience in research. We then put all the ideas generated to a vote, and Eli Chadwick, Iain Barrass, Alice Minotto and Yo Yehudi won for their idea “Acknowledging maintenance and software retirement: Software End of Project Plans” - a project to assure software sustainability when that software comes from a short fixed-term project.

Hack Day

CW21 concluded with the Hack Day, where nine teams formed to work on projects generated during the Collaborative Ideas session and other ideas pitched during the course of the event. The winners of the Hack Day were Jannetta Steyn, Alison Clarke, Emily Lewis, Sam Haynes, Flic Anderson and Abhishek Dasgupta for their project “CarpenPi” - a project to run Carpentries training on Raspberry Pis.

CW outputs

Recordings of the keynotes, lightning talks, mini-workshops and Hack Day project demos will be made available on the SSI Youtube channel in the coming weeks, and all CW21 outputs (including blog posts and other resources) will be tagged on the SSI website with Collaborations Workshop 2021.

What are your highlights from Collaborations Workshop 2021? We would love to hear about your experience of the event, so feel free to get in touch with Rachael Ainsworth, SSI Community Manager at r.ainsworth@software.ac.uk if you would like to write a blog post about CW21 for the SSI blog. You can already find a selection of blog posts written by others below:


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