Section 19 Community Formation Stories

What follows is community formation stories about the successes and challenges of building a local community of instructors.

19.1 Lex Nederbragt

19.1.1 The Beginning

It started with our first Software Carpentry workshop in 2012. Two participants (one of them me) were recruited to become instructors. After organising the occasional workshop, we were very lucky to get the support of the University’s Science Library. With them, we have been able to grow the workshop offerings and local instructor/helper community.

19.1.2 Successes

We now have 15 certified instructors and several regular helpers. We organise many half-day or one-day workshops teaching a single lesson. This gives enough time to go through all of the material in a calm pace. especially the R and Python workshops are quickly sold out. We have organised Research Bazaar twice, with a great many people holding workshops and many participants. Our participants come not only from the University, also from surrounding hospitals, libraries and other organisations.

19.1.3 Challenges

We experience a high no-show rate as our workshops are free of charge. We have yet to find a good way of helping learners after the workshop (continued learning, help-sessions, …). I think we can do more to make our instructor and helpers feel part of a local community with common interests.

19.2 Sarah Stevens

19.2.1 The Beginning

In 2014, I held an initial meeting, advertising the group and my ideas for what the group would be. Then I put together a listserv and webpage for people to get information from. I then started planning meetings based on the interests people mentioned at the first meeting.

19.2.2 Successes

Originally we started with a general computational biology for the main group and then a python study group under it. Since then people also wanted a R study group so we started a group for that too. We have formed a pretty large community that is relatively organized now. New people have taken over running it so I’m confident it will continue after I graduate. We have regular attendance of about 15-20 people in Python Study Group and about 10-15 in R Study Group. This has also helped to put together collaborations by helping members meet people from other labs.

19.2.3 Challenges

Well we’ve changed our name over the years since the original name wasn’t great and it confused a lot of people about what our goals are. Our new name seems to work better. Getting people involved was also a challenge but it helped to delegate who runs the weekly study groups which gets people involved the running of the group which helps keep them participating. I also kind of wish I’d found people to help me earlier on. It would be nice to have a larger group of organizers.

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19.3 Belinda Weaver

19.3.1 The Beginning

I have been involved with The Carpentries since 2014. At that stage, there were no instructors in Brisbane, Australia, where I live. To organise my first workshop, I had to bring in instructors from outside. Our first workshop was over-subscribed, and some of the attendees there went on to train as instructors themselves. Now we have a pool of around 25 instructors, and we run several workshops a year.

19.3.2 Successes

Five people from Brisbane were able to train as instructors at the first Australian Research Bazaar (ResBaz) held in Melbourne in 2015. (ResBaz is a three-day, skill- and community building event.) Those five helped me get Software Carpentry established in Brisbane, and three of that original five are still active in the Carpentries. I was able to secure an open instructor training for Brisbane in 2016. Twenty new instructors were trained there and 18 of that cohort completed their certification and went on to either teach or be supportive members of the community. Having trained as an instructor myself in 2015, I taught more than a dozen workshops in 2016, a big jump up from three in 2015.

We have a Brisbane tradition of running Research Bazaar. These events always feature Software Carpentry workshops, so the two types of event cross-promote each other. Conference linkages have also been important. Software Carpentry workshops are always run as a tie-in to the annual UQ Winter School in Mathematical and Computational Biology, and a number of Software Carpentry workshops have been tie-ins to local conferences, for example, in climate science.

19.3.3 Challenges

Because of the demand for teaching spaces, we have never had the luxury of good facilities for our workshops. We have had to make do with rooms at residential colleges, which cost a fee to hire.

I started teaching workshops simply by deciding to have a go. I knew I wouldn’t get funding or support until I had proven the usefulness of what I was doing, so I settled on a date, booked a room, and rustled up some instructors. That is all you really need to get started - a date. That concentrates the mind and … away you go.