Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Perth Software Carpentry - A Tale of Three Trainers


Perth’s journey into Software Carpentry began when Andrew Rohl attended eResearchNZ in 2014, for which he has to thank Nick Jones of NeSI for financial support. There he met the director of the Mozilla Science Lab, Kaitlin Thaney, and learned about the Software Carpentry movement. Fast forward to the end of the year and David Flanders was arranging a “Train the Trainer” Software Carpentry course in Melbourne and he even had funds to cover travel costs for those selected to attend! Andrew convinced Raffaella Demichelis, a fellow computational chemist, to also apply and they were both fortunate enough to be chosen. They enjoyed the training in February 2015, followed by the first Research Bazaar conference and returned to Perth enthused.

Then the reality that they were now expected to teach Western Australia’s first Software Carpentry course hit! With only two instructors in WA and unaware of any other people who had even attended a Software Carpentry workshop, they searched for helpers and found Rachel Lappan and Chris Bording. Rachel had just attended a Software Carpentry workshop in Queensland as part of the UQ Winter School and Chris had started Software Carpentry training. Andrew and Raffaella convinced two other computational chemists to help: Bernhard Reischl and Marco De La Pierre. With the team now sorted, the first Software Carpentry workshop in WA was held on July 20 and 21, 2015 and was a big success.

With 24 attendees the workshop proved itself popular but the team knew they could aim higher. They decided to sign up for ResBaz 2016 and to accommodate 80 registrants, running both R and Python streams concurrently. They desperately needed more instructors and helpers! Out of the blue, Lukas Weber, an Australian from WA who is studying in Switzerland, got in touch and agreed to come over as an instructor. Chris Bording had also finished his training and so was able to teach. But the team still wasn’t big enough!


Matthias Liffers had been working in research data management for a couple of years and thought that something was missing in the training offered to researchers. It was all well and good to provide fancy eResearch facilities, but the learning curve to move from spreadsheets to processing huge datasets on supercomputers was just too steep. Matthias learned about the Software Carpentry movement by word-of-mouth and thought it was an excellent way for researchers to start learning these computing skills.

He attended eResearch Australasia in late 2015 and discovered from Belinda Weaver and David Flanders that not only had Software Carpentry already been run in Western Australia, but that this Andrew Rohl chap was already planning a ResBaz in Perth! Amusingly, Matthias had already worked with Andrew but the topic of researcher training had never come up.

Matthias then got in touch with him, offered his assistance in running ResBaz, and quickly found himself whisked to Melbourne to attend the Software Carpentry instructor training with Aleksandra Pawlik. As an experienced librarian, Matthias already had a good decade of training experience, but the discussions on pedagogy really changed the way he thought about the training he had already delivered.

Another concept Matthias learned about at eResearch Australasia was HackyHour - an informal get-together that served the dual purpose of networking and providing post-training support to SWC/ResBaz attendees. It was in getting HackyHour off the ground that Matthias met Andrew’s new team of research computation specialists.


Andrea Bedini’s journey started when he was a postdoc at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne, where he would spend his days giving lectures and coding Monte-Carlo simulations. Andrea strongly supports the idea that science should be open and reproducible and found himself spending perhaps more time than he should thinking on how to put those concepts into practice.

Around mid 2014, one of his students, Noon Silk, decided to organise an Open Science Workshop where students/researchers could learn everything about GitHub, iPython notebooks and SageMathCloud. Andrea didn’t hesitate to give a hand! The workshop was just awesome. While organising the workshop, Andrea and Noon got introduced to a group of people at Melbourne Uni who were working on a similar initiative, Software Carpentry.

In this way Andrea met David Flanders, Damien Irving, and Fiona Tweedie. They had been running HackyHours at a local bar for a while and they were all very busy organising the first Research Bazaar conference planned for February 2015. Just before the conference, the group had organised for Bill Mills (then Community Manager for Mozilla Science Lab) to come over from Toronto to run a Software Carpentry instructor training course. Andrea attended both the instructor course and the conference, also helping Alberto Pepe and Nathan Jenkins with the classes on Authorea (a collaborative paper-writing tool, which is also awesome - check it out). Raffaella and Andrew also attended the training and ResBaz 2015 in Melbourne - that was a missed connection!

Andrea was feeling he wasn’t enjoying his postdoc position any more and his wife suggested he look for a career change in her hometown, Perth. Little did he know that, at the same time, at Curtin University in Perth, Andrew Rohl was hiring a team of computational specialists with the hope they would support his efforts in increasing the presence of Software Carpentry in WA. The rest, as they say, is history…


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