The 2016 Research Bazaar festival of digital literacy

The Research Bazaar is a worldwide festival promoting the digital literacy emerging at the center of modern research. Held in February each year, @ResBaz is a series of simultaneous three-day conferences where researchers from around Australia, New Zealand, North and South America will come together to up-skill on the latest digital research skills. Swinburne PHDs and early– and mid-career researchers are invited to attend this free event, hosted by our colleagues at The University of Melbourne. In line with ResBaz 2016, the University of Melbourne is also offering accreditation courses for Software Carpentry  / Data Carpentry instructors. This is great opportunity for PHDs and early career researchers who want to build up their research CV and establishment themselves as Software Carpentry Experts. This course will run on the 21st – 22nd January. If you're interested in being accredited you should fill out the software carpentry application form.

Each day at ResBaz will be split into daytime and evening events. The day will be dedicated to classroom teaching time where you will learn the latest digital research skills. The evening will be about networking with your fellow cross-disciplinary researchers and having fun. 

Tutorial streams and minor electives include:

  • Data Analysis with Python, R or MATLAB
  • 3D printing with AutoDesk or 3D Slicer
  • Natural Language Processing with NLTK
  • Data visualisation on the web with D3.js
  • Research maps with CartoDB and TileMill
  • REDCap for medical and clinical survey data
  • AURIN for urban data collection
  • Using Omeka for image repositories

Short introductions on other topics like databases, LaTeX document editing, data cleaning, survey data collection and more are also included in the program, along with a packed social program aimed at promoting knowledge and skills sharing among researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds.

If you have any further questions, please tweet to @ResPlat using the #ResBaz hashtag.

.Astronomy7: Countdown to Day Zero - Part 2

This morning I sent out the remaining .Astronomy7 Day Zero invites. After spending more than a week fretting about tutorial topics, venues and scheduling, everything just seemed to fall into place, as life usually does. It feels like it was yesterday that I first thought that Day Zero would be great for the next .Astronomy7. I can tell you exactly when I first thought  "if we ever have .Astronomy in Australia we should definitely run a pre-conference training day". It was part way through the .Astronomy6 conference and we were all walking from the Adler Planetarium to the pub for a few beers, and a bunch of were talking about the kind of skills everyone had. Then the following day or day after I caught the train and bus in with Demitri Muna (@demitrimuna) and we both agreed that it would be great to have at the next conference, and that we'd try our best to make that happen – at least this is how I remember it. I'm also certain that we weren't the only ones who thought that this would be a great idea.

So here we are, with five weeks to go before .Astronomy7 and I'm starting to wander what we've got ourselves into. Not really, it's going to be pretty great – I think – damn those high expectations.  So last week Amanda and I published a blog post on the .Astronomy website explaining our motivations and why we think it's important to run these types of training sessions for astronomers, and not just as a pre-conference activity. I also finally settled on some sort of vague schedule and plan for incorporating short tutorials into a giant hack. Since we have limited time (just one day) we've still got some things to figure out, but I'm hoping that this will be a collaborative process.

Keep you posted...

.Astronomy7: Countdown to Day Zero – Part 1

At this year’s .Astronomy 7 conference, we’ll be running a pre-conference training day (‘Day Zero’) to showcase previous Hack Day projects and to introduce some of the tools participants have found most useful for their Hack Day experience and general work flow. Day Zero is optional, but we encourage everyone to attend, because Day Zero is about sharing skills, ideas, and lessons learned from previous .Astronomy participation and continuing professional development. During Day Zero we will run a number of short tutorials – disguised as one giant hack – to help make all participants feel more confident about jumping into the hacking arena.

why is day zero important?

Traditional astronomy conferences usually focus on a specific subdomain and are primarily used as a forum for researchers to present rigorous scientific outcomes, to network for the next job, seek the best future hire, and/or visit with old colleagues and friends. Rarely do researchers get to create innovative projects in collaboration with non-astronomy researchers, data scientists, freelance/tech-industry software developers, education professionals, and science communicators, or attend hackathons.  The .Astronomy conferences offer a playground for astronomy that is more specific than a general hack day, but more dynamic than a normal scientific astronomy meeting.

We aim to introduce a range of skills that will not only be useful for managing larger data sets coming online in the near future, but also in a context of professions other than the traditional academic astronomy career. The rise of fellowship programs, for example the Insight Data Fellows and Science to Data Science programs can offer a variety of careers options for trained astronomy professionals.  Skilled data scientists are in great demand in the worldwide job market and researchers with analytical backgrounds are being offered jobs in leading tech-companies. We hope to offer astronomers access a broader skillset and the opportunity to learn how to work collaboratively on hack-like projects.

Over the past six years the cumulative .Astronomy community has grown to become a connected group of people contributing uniquely to professional astronomy, international science education, and general science awareness among the public.  Day Zero is for sharing experiences and lessons from the past and present in order to build interesting and better tools for the future in all these arenas.

The idea for Day Zero is to teach various tools by treating them as steps in one big hack (perhaps). For example we might want to start by data-mining the the social web (for example scraping the #dotastroTwitter feed), then  populate a database hosted on a droplet server (DevOps: SQL, VMs), then  create a word association visualisation using D3js (Javascript, HTML, CSS) and finally, document everything in an IPython Notebook or on blog (either on GitHub or hosted with the database). Or we may take the more traditional approach of example based tutorials. Personally, I’m excited about learning new data visualisation tools, for example learning how to integrate tools like Aladin Lite into a research webpage, and learning about APIs and data archives.

This year we are also creating an official .Astronomy7 Day Zero Guide for conference participants. The guide will contain details about all previous .Astronomy Hack Day projects as well as information about our favourite web tools (and installation notes) and code repositories. We intend to make the Day Zero Guide available to the wider astronomy community  as a permanent resource for everyday research.

We are very excited about bringing Day Zero to .Astronomy and plan to make it just as fun and innovative as the rest of the conference.

Watch this space…


.Astronomy7: wiki pages up and running

I spent the last few days putting together the .Astronomy7 Wiki pages. Unfortunately my poor editing skills meant that I spammed at least one person with a silly number of google notifications. Apologies @cosmicpudding! But it definitely helped with taking stock of what still needs to be organised and it definitely helped to sort out the flurry of Day Zero thoughts in my head. I'm glad there are five of us organising this conference. So many small/administrative things to do, so little time...

Software and development solutions for Swinburne researchers

This morning I met with the rest of the e-Research Triage group; Leon Sterling (PVC Digital Frontiers), Rajesh Vasa (Software Innovation Lab), Julie Madjarevic and Rob Shaw (Swinburne ITS Project Office), to problem solve infrastructure and software development requests for researchers. It's rare that all five of us can co-ordinidate schedules so it was actually really nice to catch up properly and have a fairly serious talk about issues facing Swinburne researchers. It's also rare that we field multiple requests at once (usually projects come in sporadically), so I came out of the meeting thinking that we might actually have achieved something.

The purpose of the e-Research Triage Group is to support research staff and students with their everyday research and project work, and to provide support for the non-standard software tools they use. Requests can take the form of:

  • general software training requests (e.g. R & Python, Intro to HPC or Linux.),
  • assistance with the installation and maintenance of open source software (e.g. Inquisit & R),
  • modification of existing research software tools,
  • development of research software tools or applications,
  • database development and web applications,
  • software requirements analysis for research projects,
  • assistance with software budgeting for general research and projects,
  • queries about software for data visualisation,
  • anything else relating to computing for research and
  • advice on setting up data storage and access portals


It's basically ITS support for data-intensive research, an area of Swinburne ITS that (dare I say it...) is woefully under funded and under resourced. Anyway, today we talked about how we could external software developers in to fix a somewhat broken MyTardis system for Quantum and Optical Sciences researchers, how we could get Swinburne ITS involved in the nitty girl logistics, and how we could make this magic happen with very little, if any money. Tricky hey?. We also talked about setting up databases for a social sciences twitter tracking project. It seem that Digital Ocean is really taking off as the cloud server of choice. According to Wikipedia it was founded in 2011, received its first significant startup funding in 2012, and by October 2014 surpassed Rackspace as the fourth largest hosting provider in the world. Wow.

Swinburne Software Innovation Lab

At lunchtime I saw Raj again at the Centre for Astrophysics Supercomputing's weekly Director's Lunch. Raj is Head of Research and Development at the Swinburne Software Innovation Lab. He talked briefly about the lab and how they are working to develop software solutions for industry. They are involved in some pretty impressive projects, including battlefield simulations for the Australian Defence Force. Apparently it's like running a galaxy formation simulation, but replacing galaxies with tanks. Kind of nuts...