DTL organises programmers meetings five times a year, allowing scientific programmers from various life science domains to exchange experiences. Recently, DTL performed a survey to evaluate whether these meetings are appreciated and what we could change to improve them.
Rob Hooft, organiser of the programmers meetings: “The programmers meetings are open to anyone, whether you are working at a DTL partner or not. And programmers from outside the Netherlands are also welcome. By attending these meetings, scientific programmers can see that they are not alone in their quests and find out where to get help from colleagues if they get stuck. Some people refer to these meetings as the ‘water cooler of bioinformatics in the Netherlands’.”
In June 2016, DTL performed a survey to evaluate the programmers meetings. Rob Hooft: “The survey was filled in by 37 people, most of them regular or irregular attendees of the meeting, as well as some people that attended in the past.“
Reasons for attending
As with many meetings, people indicated that attending competes for their time with other professional activities. Still, a large fraction of those surveyed said that they attend as often as they can. The most frequently mentioned reasons to visit the meetings were to:
- learn about new techniques and software;
- get a deeper insight into solutions to problems encountered in the work;
- meet new people in the field, or to talk to others they otherwise rarely see.
Rob Hooft: “The respondents were generally very happy with the content of the programmers meetings. At present, regular attendees present the majority of talks and workshops in the meetings. And we occasionally invite external speakers. This concept apparently works well. We noticed that especially topics on IT technologies and hands-on workshops are appreciated. Therefore, we will try to get more of these components into future meetings, but we will also try to include domain specific or domain-crossing topics to learn from each other.”
A few respondents noticed that many recent topics were specific to the domain of healthcare. “The goal of these meetings is to cover all branches of the life sciences and to cross-pollinate. So we will start to keep a special eye out for other subjects e.g., from agriculture and marine sciences. From now on, we explicitly solicit contributions from other fields”, comments Rob Hooft.
Scientific programmers and group leaders are invited to subscribe to the DTL ‘programming interest mailing list’. Here, requests and announcements for these meetings are made. In addition, scientific programmers occasionally answer each other’s technology questions through this list.