Two Sheffield RSEs in the 2019 SSI Fellowships cohort

Anna Krystalli, Mozhgan Kabiri Chimeh, Becky Arnold
3 June 2019 14:56

2019 is another good year for representation of the University of Sheffield and RSE Sheffield in the Software Sustainability Institute’s (SSI) Fellowship program, with Dr Mozhgan Kabiri Chimeh and Dr Anna Krystalli, both members of the RSE team, joining a cohort of 17 Fellows from around the country and across disciplines. This follows another successful year in 2018, when the University of Sheffield was represented by three Fellows, Dr Tania Allard, a member of the RSE team at the time, Dr Adam Tomkins, a neuroinformatic researcher on the Digital Fruit Fly Brain project and Becky Arnold, a PhD student in Astrophysics. Becky went on to spend 4 months with the RSE team, working with Anna on the Turing Way project, an open source how-to guide for reproducible data science.

The Software Sustainability Institute’s mission is to cultivate better, more sustainable, research software to enable world-class research. Since its founding in 2010 and the launch of the Fellowship program in 2013, has built a network of over 60 Fellows from across research disciplines, championed research software and software career paths to stakeholders, worked with over 50 projects to improve their code, written guides on all aspects of software sustainability read by over 50,000 people, and organised training events for thousands of learners.

The Institute’s Fellowship programme funds researchers who want to improve computational practice in their areas of work. The main goals of the Programme are to help support improvements in computation practice and promote the results of these activities around research and software from all disciplines. But it also encourages the establishment of networks and community around the practice of software sustainability, promoting collaborations through the annual Collaborations Workshops and other cohort specific opportunities to discuss, plan and work collaboratively.

Each Fellow is allocated £3,000 to spend over fifteen months. The funding is flexible to support activities that are beneficial to both the Fellows’ and the Institute’s aims, for instance, to fund travel to key computational conferences or organising software sustainability sessions at domain conferences, to host or develop workshops and training events, or any other activities around computational practice or policy.

So let’s hear from the fellows themselves. Becky provides an overview of her experiences while Mozhgan and Anna discuss their plans for their Fellowships:

Becky’s experiences in 2018

Becky used her fellowship funds to advance the understanding of researchers at the University of Sheffield regarding good programming practice and related subjects. She did this by arranging for speakers to come to the university and give talks/workshops on topics such as:

  • How to structure code efficiently
  • Software engineering in industry
  • Big data and machine learning
  • Bash scripting
  • Writing and contributing to open-source software
  • General good programming practice

When advertising these workshops she tried to cast her net as broadly as possible. This was because programming skills are extremely general and transferable, meaning these talks were of use to researchers from very disparate research areas.

Anna’s plans

For her fellowship Anna plans to return to ReproHacking and take it to the next level! Building on previous Reprohack events run as part of OpenCon satellite in Berlin and London, where participants spend the day reproducing papers from published code and data, Anna plans to run a series of ReproHacks across the country. Working with local mentor Tom Stafford, she hopes to coordinate activities with the UK Reproducibility Network. The first of the series is scheduled for the Manchester CarpentryConnect hackday on 27th June 2019.

As well as the events, there’s also opportunity for development work to be done. One of the goals is to make ReproHacks reproducible, ie develop customisable templates and tools so that hosts can run ReproHacks easily! Taking inspiration from Carpentries workshop website deployments for event sites, and rOpenSci management of package reviews to manage paper submissions and track reproductions, the plan is to develop a simple framework hosted on online repositories and making use of issue trackers. Another development avenue, suggested by Hao Ye and sketched out in this repository is the ability to publish reproductions in the ReScience journal. As reproducibility improves it allows for deeper treatment of the materials, engagement with the underlying science and opens the door to assessing replicability. Being able to get recognition for such efforts in journals like ReScience could provide valuable incentive for researchers to engage with materials and the process of reproducibility.

Mozhgan’s plans

Mozhgan’s mission as an RSE is to promote sustainable software practices as software plays a key role in research environments. At the same time, community building and diversifying both RSE and HPC communities are very important to her.

She is actively involved in delivering tutorials and training at leading conferences/workshops in the field of HPC and complex system simulation. Her plan for this fellowship revolves around training and diversifying both RSE and HPC communities. Building upon existing engagements and collaborations, she is planning to run collaborative Carpentries-style workshops, GPU training in the form of mini-hackathons, and a series of Bird of Feather sessions and a panel around research software . The first of a series of Sheffield GPU hackathons (sponsored by NVIDIA) is to be held on 19th-23rd August 2019.

She is particularly keen to work closely with the Women in HPC (WHPC) organization to highlight the importance of software skills across the STEM disciplines. This play a key role in broadening the participation of under-represented groups in both communities.

This year, Mozhgan is the WHPC@ISC19’s workshop Chair, taking the lead on organising the workshop and directing the workshop’s programme and desired outcomes. This workshop provides leaders and managers in the HPC community with methods to improve diversity and also will provide early-career women with an opportunity to develop their professional skills and profile.

Training is a crucial step to encourage a diverse workforce in both of these communities. Mozhgan will highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion in software engineering at her talk at the Software Engineering and Reuse in Computational Science and Engineering (ISC 2019 BOF) session she is co-organising in ISC19 conference.

So join us on wishing our new fellows well on their journey. We look forward to following the activities of the whole cohort adding to the legacy of the SSI network!

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