2nd RSE conference: an insider view

conference RSE diversity reproducibility Jupyter notebooks

I know! I have failed to post regularly, but in this occasion I have an excellent excuse: I have been super busy at work and I also went back home for some so much needed holidays!

Anyhow, I am not going to tell you about the amazing time I had in Mexico, but will focus on the second RSE conference. As an insider to the RSE committee I thought I would write something down and share it over :smiley:.

The road to the conference

At the very beginning of the year I had the chance to join the RSE-conference organising committee as the Diversity chair and talks co-chair. And being passionate about diversity and equality in STEM it just felt like an excellent opportunity for me.

Over the course of 8 months I had the chance to have a say in multiple matters of the event, from the number of simultaneous sessions that would run on the day to the colour of the volunteers and committee t-shirts.

All of the other committee members were awesome people to work with and also super keen to put together and amazing event. So it was not hard at all to keep momentum over the long organisation months and keep the spirits up during the event.

The diversity agenda

I am aware that the RSE community, as the scientific computing, or better said, the STEM community in general, is vey homogeneous. Hence promoting and fostering the diversity of the community during the RSE conference proved to be a challenging yet enlightening mission.

The first step was to make sure that the event itself was an event appealing to all the groups in the community. How do you achieve this? We started by thinking of an event that will have a programme covering the multiple areas and scopes of the RSE community (not an easy task given the inherent multidisciplinarity of the role). Then you think of both the big and small details that would make the event welcoming, useful, and safe for all of the individuals.

Where do you from there? I reached out to other teams, groups, and organisations working on diversity and equality in STEM areas and ran calls, code of conducts, and general wordings through them for feedback.

However, it did not finish there. We wanted to make sure that the presenters, workshop leaders, and keynote speakers represented the wider community, and that meant pushing for a fair representation of our underrepresented groups.

So as part of the main call for poster and presentations we offered mentoring for early career RSEs. We also encouraged RSEs working in areas other than physical sciences to submit a talk.

I can say that these actions paid off, we had a diverse range of speakers and topics covered. Though the topics were still physical sciences dominated, but it is still good to know that we are moving in the right direction.

The zero-hour

After a year worth of planning, regular meetings, Slack messages, hundreds of emails, a fair number of shared documents, more planning, coffee, social media campaigning, and more coffee the BIG day was there.

As soon as the doors opened a few dozens of RSEs showed up and there was no way back. I started seeing familiar faces, new faces, chatting to a myriad of people, and yet once again confirmed that the RSE community is awesome.

I am very happy to say that over the following 2 days everything ran quite smoothly and people seemed overall pleased with the conference content, format, and overall planning. Of course there are always things to improve, last minute changes or minor issues and organising events like this is nothing but an iterative process.

I even managed to chair my very first set of conference talks and despite feeling a bit very nervous :sweat: it was awesome. The speakers in my slot were great and what can I say they covered a topic I am in love with: Data visualization.

I won’t go in depth about the workshop I led as this will be the topic for another blog post. But for now all you need to know is that everything went A-OK! :fire:

:bangbang: I also got elected as a committee member for the RSE UK committee, for a one-year period. Over these time I will be heavily involved in policy issues as we are in the process of creating a new constitution. Also, I will be overseeing the diversity agenda for the organisation :smiley:.

The wrap up

As everything else, the conference came to an end after two long, exciting, and insightful days it was time to finalise the event, say good-bye to old and new familiar faces and start looking forward to the next conference.

Also, we sent out some surveys to know what is that the attendees thought of the event. Overall the people seemed quite pleased about the event and the content and generally happy with the way we addressed last year feedback. Again, there are things that need improving and I am sure the new committee will be dealing with theses issues.

I would like to close this post with a particular piece of feedback that made me think we moved in the right direction with our diversity agenda (needless to say this put a big smile on my face):

Thank you for being so clear about your anti-harassment policy. I thought it was very well handled – being straightforward about the fact that it’s still a problem, clearly stating what your policy was and having an actual plan in place to deal with it. I’d be very glad to see the same thing again next year.

Advent of Code 2017

Ho Ho Ho 🎄🎅 The Advent of Code is finally here! I know… I am only 4 days late, but I have been away and only had time to sit down and write this up.

2nd RSE conference: an insider view

I know! I have failed to post regularly, but in this occasion I have an excellent excuse: I have been super busy at work and I also went back home for some so much needed holidays!

My first months as an RSE

I shall warn you naïve reader, this is a long read, so go get yourself a cuppa (maybe some biscuits) before starting. You have been warned…


  • 2017
  • 2017
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