Growing the NZ Carpentries Community

New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) has long been a supporter, advocate, and partner of Software Carpentry and now The Carpentries. The nurturing and collaborative values of this global community align well with NeSI’s own values and enable us to increase the capability of New Zealand researchers - our organisational purpose.

Herein lies NeSI’s challenge - as a relatively small team, how do we have a genuine positive impact on digital literacy in New Zealand? So far, our approach has been to invest in developing our local instructor community, to ensure more local institutions have the skills to deliver their own Carpentry training.

In April this year, we took another step forward in that strategy when NeSI facilitated its fourth Instructor Training event in New Zealand, hosted by Jonny Flutey and his team at Victoria University in Wellington. It attracted a diverse group from across the country, representing a range of domains and organizations. This year’s participants included: NeSI, NIWA, Plant & Food Research, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, University of Auckland, University of Otago, Massey University, QuakeCoRE, and the Ministry for the Environment.

As Engagement Manager at NeSI, I have been involved in the leadership of Carpentries in New Zealand for a couple of years, but this was my first time diving in as a participant. As someone with little to no background in digital methods, this was a little intimidating. However, the inclusive values of The Carpentries really shone through as I learnt the skills needed to help others develop their own digital confidence.

Our training was led by three of New Zealand’s (and indeed the world’s) experienced and well-recognised instructors: Aleksandra Pawlik, Jonah Duckles and Murray Cadzow. The contribution of each was well received by those attending. As a newly-minted instructor, I am excited to be part of this growing community and look forward to making my own contributions from now. Thanks again to all of those who made this event a success and I look forward to seeing you all at workshops in the future.

If you are interested in hosting a Software Carpentry or Data Carpentry workshop at your institution, contact

A Carpentry Workshop: How it Works

A typical workshop runs over two consecutive days and has 40 learners, two instructors, and a few helpers who assist with answering questions during practical sessions.

In a Software Carpentry workshop, instructors teach the core skills needed to be productive in a small research team. The main topics covered include:

  • automating tasks using the Unix shell;
  • structured programming in Python, R, or MATLAB; and
  • version control using Git or Mercurial.

In a Data Carpentry workshop, instructors teach core skills required for working with data effectively and reproducibly. To date, Data Carpentry curriculums have been developed in:

  • Ecology
  • Genomics
  • Social Sciences

In all workshops, participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops so that they leave the workshop with a working set of tools installed and operational. Each workshop's instructors will circulate a list of required software (and installation instructions) on the workshop website well in advance of the start.

Short tutorials alternate with hands-on practical exercises, and participants are encouraged both to help one another, and to apply what they are learning to their own research problems during, between, and after sessions.

No pre-requisites are necessary to attend a workshop. The only truly necessary skill is a desire to become more efficient and effective when using a computer in scientific research.

For more information, visit The Carpentries website.