Photo courtesy of ResBaz AZ.
UA Campus Comes Together to Celebrate Digital Literacy
Research Bazaar Arizona – an innovative marketplace where researchers, students, educators, and data science enthusiasts can mingle, discuss, learn, share, and co-create on topics from how to code software to research publication – has brought together members of the University of Arizona community for a third year.
As the modern world increasingly integrates developing technologies with work life, digital literacy – the ability to use modern tools such as coding, computing infrastructure, analysis tools and pipelines, and data management techniques – is becoming a necessary skill regardless of a person’s discipline of study, style of work, or even stage of life.
Fortunately, the global phenomenon known as Research Bazaar offers a casual and collaborative academic venue to glean these skills.
Begun in 2015 by an innovative group at the University of Melbourne, Australia as a novel idea for a new academic workshop centered around building a community of practice for digital literacy has evolved into a global celebration with independently coordinated events at academic institutions all over the world, as researchers, students, and educators alike recognize the growing need for computational skills among academic communities.
“Understanding modern digital tools makes everyone more successful through a positive feedback loop,” said Blake Joyce, Assistant Director of Research Computing at the University of Arizona (UA)’s University Information Technology Services (UITS), who helped bring the Research Bazaar festival to campus for its third year. “I get analyses done more quickly and reproducibly, which lead to more publications, to more grants, to better research, and so on.”
“Data science is unique in that it is inherently transdisciplinary,” he said, which is why disparate UA campus departments including CyVerse, Data7, University Libraries, UITS, and the BIO5 Institutecame together to coordinate the event in May. “We’re working together to deliver practical data science and a community of practice at the UA.”
The festival was set up as an unconference, a participant-driven meeting in which attendees designate the majority of topics to be discussed from day one. This year, however, the event also brought speakers from large-scale data science and infrastructure projects such as the National Science Foundation’s XSEDE, or Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, and Code Ocean, a research collaboration platform.
The festival has grown substantially since its first occurrence on the UA campus in 2017, with 188 registrants and 105 attendees from a broad distribution of the campus research community participating in the 2019 event’s three days of workshops, presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities centered around spreading computational knowledge.
“We had much higher participation from the social sciences than in years past,” said Julian Pistorius, a CyVerse software engineer. Research Bazaar, he said, serves as a nexus for the exchange of ideas across domain boundaries, and aligns with the CyVerse mission to train scientists in the use of computational technologies to address previously unanswerable questions.
Bottom line, Pistorius said: “Digital literacy leads to better research and faster results.”
The Research Bazaar festival in 2020 will be held in the CATalyst Studios, a novel environment currently under construction in the UA Main Library. This new space is designed to support campus communities of practice, including those interested in data visualization, hands-on learning, and research computing.
“The CATalyst Studios is designed as an inclusive space for bringing together people from diverse domains to collaborate and share ideas, just like the annual Research Bazaar event,” said Jennifer Nichols, the Director of the CATalyst Studios.
Research Bazaar Arizona, also known to its regulars as ResBazAZ, maintains the momentum of the festival throughout the year, providing a network of collaborative support for the UA campus and broader southern Arizona community. Organizers offer casual meetings twice weekly to discuss and tackle data science challenges collaboratively. Visit https://www.meetup.com/ResBazAZ/ for information about Tuesday mornings’ “Coffee and Code” or Thursday evenings’ “Hacky Hour” events.