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Highlights of the Fellowship Programme 2023 Launch Webinar

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Highlights of the Fellowship Programme 2023 Launch Webinar

Rachael Ainsworth

Rachael Ainsworth

SSI fellow

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Highlights of the Fellowship Programme 2023 Launch Webinar

Posted by j.laird on 5 September 2022 - 10:23am Hot air balloons in the skyPhoto by ian dooley on Unsplash

By SSI Community Manager Rachael Ainsworth.

The SSI Fellowship Programme 2023 Launch Webinar took place on 25 August, providing information about the Institute, the Fellowship Programme, the application process, and the International Fellowship pilot. It also included Fellowship experiences from SSI Fellows Lucy Whalley, Emily Bell and Kim Martin. You can watch the webinar recording on YouTube and view the presentation slides on Zenodo.

Applications to the Fellowship Programme are open until 3 October 2022.

Below is a summary of some of the key takeaways from the webinar.


Applicants must be based in the UK or have a formal and active affiliation with a UK-based institution or office (or are based outside the UK and applying to our International Fellowship pilot). This affiliation is required at the time of application - for example, if you are a UK-based PhD student and your programme ends during the Fellowship period, you are still eligible to apply even if your plans for after your PhD have not been finalised. Your affiliation does not exclusively have to be with academia - you can be affiliated with any UK-based organisation or institution (such as the Civil Service) as long as you have time to carry out your Fellowship plans and attend required events. Please note that the Fellowship does not support paying for larger hardware items such as laptops or computers, or for staff time for developing software - the Fellowship is primarily focused on supporting you at, for and leading events.

As part of our continuing International Fellowship pilot, there will be up to three places for successful international applicants (who are based outside the UK or without a formal affiliation with a UK-based institution or office). Because the Institute is UK-funded, applicants who are not based in the UK or who do not have a formal affiliation with a UK-based institution or office will need to demonstrate that their plans for the Fellowship have a focus on improving UK capability, and promote UK-based approaches abroad. Please find all the information you need to apply and more details about eligibility and international applications here.

Required Activities

Successful Fellows are expected to attend the Inaugural Meeting, where they will meet Institute staff and network with the other Fellows in their cohort (you can read about last year’s Inaugural Meeting here). The date and time of this meeting will be determined by poll to ensure that as many Fellows can attend as possible, but it will likely take place as a hybrid event during February 2023. Successful Fellows are also expected to attend the Collaborations Workshop 2023, our premier annual unconference event which brings together the entire research software community. It is a great opportunity to collaborate with other Fellows and explore good computational practice and the future of research software. Please note that all shortlisted 2023 applicants will be invited to register for Collaborations Workshop 2023 for free, and successful 2023 Fellows will be expected to participate in 2023.

Fellows are also expected to write a blog post for each supported activity. This increases the impact of each event through dissemination of any outcomes, lessons learned, and take home messages. Blog posts encourage the development of outreach and communication, and increase the Fellow’s profile through publication on the Institute website which receives over 20k visitors per month. Fellows are also very welcome to share blog posts based on their expertise and advice. You can read some recent blog posts from our Fellows here.

Fellowship Experiences

We heard from SSI Fellows Lucy Whalley, Emily Bell and Kim Martin about their Fellowship experiences and what attracted them to apply for the programme. 

Lucy (2019 Fellow) applied for a Fellowship as a way to sharpen her programming skills and knowledge as she had not had any formal training in software development, it was a community that she wanted to be a part of, and to have a pot of funding to support events that were not quite within her PhD project remit. Her proposed plans were around the idea of preventing people from developing “single-use software” as well as increased participation in the Research Software Engineering (RSE) community. However, her plans for the Fellowship changed during her inaugural period due to personal (parental leave, new job and relocation) and global (COVID-19 pandemic) reasons. She was unable to deliver the training that she initially proposed, but she was able to increase her participation in the RSE community and grow the Northumbria University RSE community through events. She also advocated for re-usable code at domain-specific events and the IOP Computational Physics group on behalf of the RSE community. Benefits from her Fellowship include an amazing new network of people for informal mentorship and guidance, funding applications and event planning; improved teaching practice through her interactions with Software Carpentry and Code Refinery; career opportunities such as becoming a topic editor for the Journal of Open Source Software and a Fellowship at Northumbria University; and increased visibility through invitations to speak on panels at RSE events and to co-author funding applications. She also identifies less tangible benefits such as identity and the confidence to contribute, “permission” to use her time for RSE-related tasks that might not be fully supported in academic environments, and seeing more alternative ways of working demonstrated by the Institute that are more inclusive and welcoming that she could incorporate into her activities. Her advice for applicants is to not let a lack of confidence stop you from applying (“shy bairns get nowt” or “shy children get nothing” as she put it!) and that successful applications seem to hinge on one clear, “elevator pitch” idea for the Fellowship. 

Emily (2020 Fellow) applied for a Fellowship because she wanted to be more involved in a digital humanities community for some time as her PhD and background wasn't exactly digital, but she was training herself and trying to upskill herself and wanted to expand her connections within the digital humanities space. She helped host the Institute’s Collaborations Workshop in 2019 at Loughborough University, and that made her feel like she'd finally found her people and a community that I wanted to be a part of. She applied for a Fellowship to enhance her own training, to develop a community of practice within her area of Victorian studies and literary studies, and make cross disciplinary connections as these are vital to digital humanities projects. An issue that she’s passionate about is trying to tackle the lack of knowledge sharing in her field, where everyone is solving the same problem over and over again without knowing others are facing the same thing. She co-facilitated a discussion around the issue of software reusability in digital humanities research at Collaborations Workshop 2021, and still aims to hold a multi-day training event on some fundamental digital skills, English literature and Victorian studies. She is currently working with Fellow 2020 Fellow Anna-Maria Sichani and SSI Community Lead Shoaib Sufi on a report on software needs in the humanities aimed at the major funder of the humanities to provide advice on how the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) supports researchers and funds projects with a software element. She feels like she’s having an opportunity to make a difference, not just within her field of Victorian studies and literary studies, but also in the broader sense of how software is treated and how training takes place at the funder level. Some of the benefits she has experienced from being a Fellow include opportunities such as peer reviewing and reviewing for the major funder in her field for digital projects and having a growing profile in this area. Her advice to applicants is to make sure that you're specific about what you want to achieve within the Fellowship period, but remember that it's not just a one year thing - it's an opportunity that goes beyond that and make sure that it's fitting in with the long term goals that you have, and how effective collaboration can help you achieve your goals.

Kim (2022 International Fellow) became increasingly convinced that her university would benefit from having RSE support for researchers across all faculties after joining the RSE Society and attending the September RSE conference. One of the problems she faced was the lack of awareness about RSE in South Africa - it's hard to advocate for the establishment of an RSE group if researchers and funders are unaware of the existence or value of RSEs. The International SSI Fellowship has played a role in helping her demonstrate how RSEs can support research and the title is adding to her credibility generally. After meeting with the SSI team, along with additional input from her mentors, Kim adapted her original plans for the Fellowship to use her funds to provide targeted consultations to selected Stellenbosch university researchers from RSEs based in the UK. She also believes that her Fellowship project and the Fellowship itself have helped her supercharge her efforts to establish an RSE group at Stellenbosch University. She shares the following lessons she’s learned from her Fellowship so far with potential applicants:

  • Make the effort to talk to supportive people and don't let yourself be held back by self doubt.
  • Do your best to come up with a workable plan but don't resist the need to change and adapt to circumstances.
  • The time and energy involved depend on your project and your own level of passion. 
  • You get out what you put in, and when you work on a project with the aim of supporting a community, you may find yourself positively surprised by how much support you get in return.
  • Leverage is a powerful thing, and it can be unexpected how much of a difference any given achievement or connection can make in helping you advance your mission.
  • Have a clear plan of how the project you propose fits in the broader context of your goals and the greater good. 
  • Go for it. Being a Fellow is what you make it and it can be a powerful catalyst for you in your career.

Please visit the Fellowship Programme webpage for further information and contact Rachael Ainsworth, Institute Community Manager at Fellows-management@software.ac.uk with any questions.

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