One of the lessons Software Carpentry has learned over the years is that there's no substitute for a face-to-face learning experience. The unscripted interactions that occur between instructors, helpers and participants at our workshops are as important, if not more important, than the formal teaching syllabus itself. Of course, we aren't the only educator in the digital research space to which this lesson applies. The social aspect of in-person learning experiences is equally important to the various organisations, eResearch departments and libraries around the world tasked with "up-skilling" the next generation of digital researchers.
Research Platform Services at the University of Melbourne is one such educator who was quick to recognise the value of the social, Software Carpentry approach. After the success of our first Software Carpentry workshop in November 2013 (disclaimer: I work for Research Platform Services part time while completing my PhD), we spent 2014 extending the model to workshops on topics like 3D design and printing (with AutoDesk and 3D Slicer), natural language processing (with NLTK), research maps (with CartoDB and TileMill) and document editing (with LaTeX).
While these workshops were very successful, upon reflection we felt that we still weren't harnessing the full potential of researcher socialisation. What was needed was a less rigid environment, where knowledge transfer between participants could happen in an unplanned, organic manner. It was out of this reflection that the idea for the Research Bazaar was born: a festival promoting the digital literacy emerging at the centre of modern research, at which the social program would be given at least as much emphasis as the academic program.
Our first attempt at the Research Bazaar was held in February 2015 and it turned out to be a massive success (see the full wrap up here). There were over 450 applicants for the 190 places and we managed to run all our regular workshops (Software Carpentry, 3D printing, maps, document editing, etc) in and around an extensive social program. Perhaps most importantly, we invited participants from all over Australia and New Zealand in the hope that the idea would catch on. It did, and we're now busy gearing up for a worldwide Research Bazaar event in February 2016.
At the time of writing there will definitely be events held in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Dunedin at some time during ResBaz week (Feb 1-7), with the possibility of additional sites in Adelaide, Vancouver, Oklahoma and even Ecuador! These events will vary in size from a 300 participant extravaganza in Melbourne, to smaller events where a couple of Software Carpentry workshops will be held simultaneously along with some additional social activities. You can check out resbaz.com and @ResBaz on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.
We are hopeful that the Research Bazaar will continue to grow in coming years, as a kind of umbrella event that brings together all sorts of initiatives in the digital research space. Software Carpentry is obviously a global giant in this area, and in many cases it is Software Carpentry instructors leading the way in establishing new ResBaz sites. We'd love to see this continue, so please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our Gitter channel if you'd like to get involved.