Growing researchers computational skills to meet future needs

NeSI is pleased to announce the publication of a review and analysis of NeSI's Training Strategy from 2015-2017. This review reflects on the activities and impacts of NeSI's strategy and provides:

  • a snapshot of NeSI training activities over the years 2015-2017
  • an estimate of the penetration of training activities in the research sector
  • an estimate of the potential of NeSI training activities to provide direct or indirect support for researcher up-skilling
  • a framework to guide how future NeSI training activities could/should be deployed - taking into account NeSI's capacity - to maximise impact

Since 2012, NeSI has been building New Zealand researchers' computational abilities, with a focus on developing advanced computational skills. Within the early days of its Training Strategy, NeSI identified Software Carpentry as a leadership community in building researcher skills training underpinned by sound pedagogy.

NeSI embraced this approach and in 2013 it hosted the first New Zealand Software Carpentry event, immediately witnessing the positive impact of the Carpentries' peer-led workshop format. NeSI's first Software Carpentry instructors were trained in early 2015 during an instructor training event in Melbourne. What followed was a rapid succession of New Zealand workshops delivered with colleagues from across the New Zealand research sector.

Following this period of expertise-building and experimentation, NeSI mapped out a Training Strategy to carry its training programme over the next few years. By launching its strategy in 2015, NeSI has made a tangible contribution to growing a network of passionate practitioners across the research sector, all working together to lift foundational computational and data science skills. NeSI reached all goals set out for its first three years of the Training Strategy, which are reported on in this review. 

Dr. Fabiana Kubke, a senior lecturer with the University of Auckland, is the lead author of the review and analysis of NeSI’s Training Strategy.

"I have gone through an amazing journey with NeSI looking at how much New Zealand has achieved in promoting the adoption of digital literacy for researchers. NeSI's leadership role has helped build awareness of the needs, but most importantly, offer research communities practical solutions for digital training that are ready to be adopted and led by local communities. While the needs are still large, there is clear evidence that the research community is keen to take on leadership roles to see it happen. I hope this review helps us all articulate the needs and solutions in a language that can lead to stronger sector commitment and investment," she says.

One of the findings from the review is that NeSI has contributed to the formation of a national community of practice in researcher computational skills training. To support this community, NeSI hosts the eResearch NZ and Science Coding Conferences annually. Also, NeSI is the nation-wide coordinator for Software and Data Carpentry training, which has helped support group of certified Software Carpentry instructors to form a strong NZ-based community of their own.

One of these instructors is Associate Professor Mik Black. Mik has been involved in facilitating numerous training programmes at the University of Otago.

“It is wonderful that NeSI has taken a national co-ordination role in driving digital literacy skills right from basic through to advanced. Digital skills uplift is a vital opportunity for the NZ research community. After almost 5 years of concerted efforts from NeSI in this area we're seeing hundreds of graduates and early career researchers with the confidence in data science and programming from non-computational backgrounds to really impact their research," he says.

This Training Strategy review will inform NeSI’s next steps in this space, using the insights gained from these first formative years to identify the role NeSI can play in future training activities in NZ.

"NeSI's tactic of building a national community of practice in training, alongside the NeSI training strategy, is especially relevant for the near future. This national leadership role may turn out to be one of the biggest contributions NeSI makes to changing the research landscape in NZ long-term, and may feed into success in most of NeSI’s other domains of work," says University of Auckland Professor Cristin Print.

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