The eScience Institute hosted its inaugural Oceanhackweek Aug. 20 – 24. As the first of its kind, we were excited to discover how the participants felt about the event, and offered to publish their reflections. Three participants took us up on our offer; these are their insights, very lightly edited.

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Rachel Jackson

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Rachel Jackson

As an adult returning to graduate school, I am at the beginning of my learning and research trajectory in physical oceanography. Attending Oceanhackweek has been an invaluable experience for me.

The workshop provided an excellent introduction to the existing infrastructure of oceanographic data-gathering resources. Also provided was an introduction to the open-source evolving tools for accessing and utilizing large data sets. The technical challenges in data-intensive research are daunting, and here this workshop’s model and enactment of collaborative work was particularly valuable to me. Working and learning among a supportive and diverse group of committed researchers was a pleasure.

I also much appreciated the strong argument made throughout the workshop for the importance of practicing open and reproducible science. In the context of big data and computational analysis, making research workflow visible, start to finish, is the only way to ensure verifiable results.

Given a changing climate and ocean, the stakes are high, and the research community needs to be nimble. This workshop presented both the tools and the model for ongoing, open, and rapidly productive oceanographic research.

I will be sharing these ideas with my fellow researchers, and I will be carrying this model forward into my own work. Thank you all so much for an amazing and encouraging week!!

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Liz Dobbins

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Liz Dobbins

I am grateful to have attended Oceanhackweek, and to have been given the opportunity to expand my skill set in such a productive and pleasant environment. I live in Fairbanks, AK, where we are rather isolated and aren’t naturally exposed to new tools or methods. Though I’ve been tinkering with open-source data science tools for a year and a half on my own, I haven’t had time to really dive in. Fortunately, Oceanhackweek gave me that time, introduced me to possibilities via the tutorials, and through the projects produced a technical structure that I can apply to our research in Alaska.

It was particularly helpful for me to be surrounded by a diverse group of scientists from different disciplines, career stages, and geographic areas. Programmatically, I feel the attendance of PIs from the Ocean Observatories Initiative and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) allowed them to take advantage of organically generated feedback on their data interfaces. More personally, younger attendees mentored me in technical aspects like GitHub, while I was able to provide them with insight into oceanographic data collection. And the staff at the eScience Institute was very welcoming and knowledgeable.

The project I worked on utilized conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) and biological data from a transect in the Gulf of Alaska, and integrated these data with a model dataset available via the IOOS data interface. Hopefully, this example will be immediately relevant to other scientists in Alaska. I am inspired to spread knowledge of these tools and methods, and will be giving a departmental seminar this fall on the lessons offered at Oceanhackweek.

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Christian Sarason

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Christian Sarason

It is sometimes hard to predict whether a given conference, training or hack-a-thon might be worth your time. In the tech world there are always new frameworks, languages and working styles to learn, and, if so inclined, you could probably bop from one to another with nary a break. The real challenge, of course, is to find a group of like-minded people that want to expand their horizons and learn together, and that is just what I found when I attended Oceanhackweek.

My career has been at the interface between observational data, modeling frameworks and science outreach to the public since I graduated from the University of Washington (UW). I have always enjoyed mashing up data in interesting ways to inspire curiosity or answer interesting questions, and the tools and approaches presented at Oceanhackweek covered the gamut.

Reproducible science, computing environment management, source code control, visualization and cluster deployment were all covered in a way that gave me confidence and workable examples to return to later as I work on my own projects. My only regret is that I didn’t have the chance to attend such a great event when I was a graduate student – learning these techniques would not only have helped me finish faster, I would have been much more sane while I did it!

If you get the opportunity to attend a similar session put on by the eScience Institute at the UW, don’t hesitate. You’ll be thrilled you did.