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Highlights of the Research Software Camp: Beyond the spreadsheet

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Highlights of the Research Software Camp: Beyond the spreadsheet

Selina Aragon

Selina Aragon

Associate Director of Operations

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Highlights of the Research Software Camp: Beyond the spreadsheet

Posted by j.laird on 16 November 2021 - 10:00am white lights on black backgroundPhoto by Sigmund on Unsplash

By Selina Aragon, SSI Communications Lead.

We officially closed the SSI Research Software Camp: Beyond the Spreadsheet last Friday 12 Nov. The two weeks of the Camp (1-12 November 2021) saw an array of live sessions, blog posts, guides, as well as a code review clinic, and our newly launched Learning to Code mentorship programme. See the full programme with links to all of the resources. For our social media content, use #RSCamps

Find below the highlights from the last two weeks and plans for future Camps. 

Tools and languages

As part of the Camp, we ran workshops, hosted recorded presentations and blog posts around the use of spreadsheets in research. Expert panellists representing a range or tools and languages joined the panel discussion “Do we have the right tools for research?”– a conversation around the use of spreadsheets in research, spreadsheets as powerful tools to handle data, and what’s available for researchers who wish to move beyond spreadsheets. 

Some of the panellists ran workshops on OpenRefine, Google Sheets, Filament, and R, which gave an overview to participants and signposted them to further resources. We’ll publish recordings for all our live sessions in due time on our YouTube channel. In the meantime, access the Camp’s recorded presentations.

Learning to code

Over the two months prior to the Camp, we ran a learning to code mentorship programme, whereby four researchers from different career stages and backgrounds received one-to-one mentoring by expert Research Software Engineers who helped them through taking their first steps into coding in a language of their choice. All in all, the programme was very well received by both mentors and mentees. Feedback on the programme included: 

Having a mentor to check up on my progress and having a date in my calendar as a point when I needed to complete a task has really helped me to progress. (Emma Karoune)

If you have the opportunity to sign up for something similar, with the SSI or elsewhere, I have found this an effective way to get you going with some software programming skills and applying them into your data and would absolutely recommend it. (Rebecca Hamilton)

The programme has given me an opportunity to discuss with a fellow research software enthusiast many interesting methodological questions. (Yenn Lee)

This programme was a valuable learning experience, and has encouraged me to continue to learn more about the field of Research Software Engineering, especially within the area of Psychology. (Amirah Khan)

All volunteers wrote a blog post about their projects (published on the SSI blog), and the SSI Communications team interviewed them for a podcast episode hosted by Code for Thought. 

Our website also hosts other resources that hopefully make the journey to code less daunting for beginners (in particular, check out the Resources for using spreadsheets in research and moving to other tools, and the Training resources for researchers who want to code blog posts). 

Additionally, during week 2, volunteer code reviewers hosted a code review clinic where they provided helpful guidance on particular bits of code, and in a few case followed up with resources and further advice. We hope that the clinic was useful to the people who brought their code. 

Future plans

We plan to run another Research Software Camp in the first half of 2022. We’re likely to run another Learning to Code mentorship programme, so if you’re a researcher and thinking of taking your first steps into coding, or improving skills in a particular language with the help of a mentor, sign up for updates


This Research Software Camp couldn’t have been possible without the effort and help from our organising committee, panellists, workshop facilitators, presenters, blog and guide authors, code reviewers, and the Learning to Code mentorship volunteers (both mentors and mentees). We have listed everyone in the Camp’s acknowledgements page. Thank you to our participants too for engaging in our sessions.

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