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Summer bootcamps provide coding basic training



"It’s hard for scientists to do the cool things their colleagues are excited about without basic computing skills, and impossible for them to know what other new things are possible. Our ambition is to change that: not just to make scientists more productive today, but to allow them to be part of the changes that are transforming science in front of our eyes." ("Software Carpentry: lessons learned" in F1000 Research).

"We couldn't agree more with these words from Greg Wilson, founder of Software Carpentry (SWC)."

Which is why the Data Management Services group has expanded from hosting its first SWC bootcamp back in January to hosting three more bootcamps this summer. Nearly 100 graduate students, post-docs, and other researchers and instructors attended one of our summer bootcamp events, which were held in conjunction with specific campus groups: the Department of Biophysics, the Stanford Biosciences Student Association, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Software Carpentry Bootcamps are designed to teach researchers basic software skills -- using the shell, git, and python -- that will enable them to be more productive scientists. Software Carpentry BootcampEach of our three bootcamps was taught by a different team of instructors who volunteer their time and talents to the Software Carpentry organization. Content for the bootcamps varies somewhat each time, but always focuses on teaching skills that will help scientists get more done in less time, and with less pain. As Biophysics Professor KC Huang put it, these bootcamps "provided an advanced computational workflow curriculum to students who need it most."

Many of the summer bootcamp attendees echoed one person's comment that "It was all great!" While all of the content received high marks, attendees in particular mentioned that the session on version control with git was "super useful to learn" and that they "can't wait to explore [git] more!" One attendee even said that "Git will change my life!" 

Attendees also were clear in their praise of the quality of the instructors, their clarity, and their overall helpfulness. They specifically mentioned how well-organized and well-thought-out the sessions were, how approachable the instructors made the material, and how useful the hands-on approach with in-class exercises was to driving home the goals of the lessons.

Consulting an instructor, image by Amy Hodge CC BY 2.0The need for this type of service on Stanford's campus seems significant and appears to be growing. Alex Colavin, outgoing professional development chair of the Stanford Bioscience Student Association, pointed out that the bootcamps "provide curriculum available nowhere else on campus." We are about to begin planning for the upcoming academic year and are hoping to include more bootcamps in the services that we offer to Stanford researchers.

If you are interested in working with Data Management Services to host a Software Carpentry bootcamp for your group, center, or department in the next academic year, please contact Amy Hodge, Science Data Librarian, at or 650-556-5194.

by Amy E. Hodge

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March 9, 2016