“This might have been my 30th conference but it was the first where I felt thematically 100% at home and understood”.
The first (ever!) RSE conference in 2016 attracted 202 people from 14 different countries. We received 38 talks, double what we could accommodate, and we ran 15 workshops. We passed on expertise on subjects from Docker to “How to be a Happy RSE” and most things inbetween. There were almost 450 tweets and, if you would like an overview, these have been storified. We would highly recommend a quick read of the storified tweets to get a flavour of last years conference.
The UKRSE Association’s AGM took place after the first day of the conference, and we are really pleased to report that a new committee has been voted into position. We have two excellent Chairs in Alys Brett and Christopher Woods, and we’re positive that they will be doing great things with the Association over the coming years.
The success of the conference was completely due to the passion of the people behind the event, ably led by Rob Haines. It would not have been possible without our sponsors, and we have WSSSPE to thank for providing another incentive to attend to our US attendees.
On our online feedback form, we asked whether people would attend the conference again—95% would—and whether they’d recommend the conference to others—100% would. That’s fantastic feedback, especially when we see that the conference was rated on average at 4.3 out of 5. The majority of our attendees came from a background in Physical Sciences (30%), Computer Sciences (18%) and Biological Sciences (17%), but we managed to attract attendees from a wide range of disciplines (albeit at lower numbers). We’re good at appealing to the physics, computer science and biological science communities because many of the committee come from these fields. This year, we’ll target some of the less well-represented communities to broaden the background of our attendees. After all, all research relies on software, so RSEs come from all backgrounds.
We asked people to rate individual aspects of the conference. The keynotes rated very highly (on average 4.2 out of 5, and 41% of respondents awarding them top marks), as did the talks (3.9 out of 5) and the workshops (3.8 out of 5). The conference venue—the Museum of Science and Industry – was always going to go down well: it received a rating of 4.4 out of 5 (60% of respondents awarded it the top mark). The dinner venue did less well with 2.8 out of 5, because it was a little too cramped. There will be more elbow room this year!
When running something new, many of the decisions you make are based on a best guess. We were keen to understand whether we had achieved the right technical level and the right balance of activities (i.e. talks and workshops). 70% of the respondents thought the technical level was just right, and 78% thought that the balance of activities was just right.
We in the RSE community feel very passionately about our work and the importance of building a sustainable community around things like the RSE Conference. We may be far from impartial, but the feedback on our first ever conference shows that the community feels likewise.
Some of the feedback from our delegates:
“Overall it was a fantastic conference put together really well. I especially loved the small size (very manageable and easy to meet everyone!) and the venue (how refreshing to walk to other rooms quickly instead of running across conference centers).”
“This conference was great! Thank you very much!”