Collaborations Workshop 2021

At the end of March 2021, I attended the Collaborations Workshop hosted by the Software Sustainability Institute. The following is my roundup of what the event is, who runs it, and some of my highlights.

What is the SSI?

The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI for short) is a network of UK universities, Research Software Engineering groups and policy makers dedicated in improving the quality, sustainability and recognition of research software. They help the members in their network learn software skills and best practices, and advocate for culture change in their organisations and institutions. I am also an SSI Fellow and if anyone has any questions about the Fellowship round in the future, please do get in touch (unfortunately, applications have already closed for the 2021 round). And read my previous blog to find out more about my Fellowship goals.

What is Collaborations Workshop?

The Collaborations Workshop (often shorted to CollabW) is an annual, 3-day event focussed around bringing together researchers, software developers, data librarians, managers, funders and anyone else who cares about research software to explore important ideas around software and research and foster interdisciplinary collaborations.

CollabW features a few keynotes but it is largely run as an unconference event with lightning talks, discussion sessions, mini workshops, and speed blogging events all relating to one or a few central themes. This feels radically different to traditional conference events as you are elevated from audience member to participant, giving you the opportunity to create something during the event and have discussions with a wide variety of other attendees. And it’s also a style we implement in our own Away Days!

The final day features a hack day where small teams can work on community-generated projects addressing a need they see in the research software community. Importantly, these do not have to be software projects to be eligible. Documentation and event planning projects, among others, have also featured at previous hack days. But most important of all, there are prizes up for grabs for the top 3 projects! 😉


The central themes of CollabW21, hosted online from 30th March to 1st April 2021, were FAIR Research Software, Diversity and Inclusion, and Software Sustainability.

Some of the highlights included:

These are my highlights from what I was able to attend, which unfortunately wasn’t everything!

Closing Remarks

This is the 3rd consecutive Collaborations Workshop I’ve attended (2nd one remotely) and I always find the atmosphere to be energising and full of creative potential. I really enjoy hearing about all of the initiatives that are being worked on to push forward research software, such the Hidden REF and FAIR4RS, and connecting with other RSEs and complementary roles from across the UK (and further afield!) to collaboratively address remaining issues in the community. If you’ve not been before, I would really recommend attending bext year! (Which will hopefully be in Belfast 🤞)