North-West University Becomes Software and Data Carpentry’s first African Partner

In November 2014 the first large-scale Software Carpentry event was run in South Africa as part of the eResearch Africa conference in Cape Town [1]. Since then 15 more Software, Data, and/or Library Carpentry events were run by the Southern African community across many disciplines and several institutions [2, 3, 4].

Software Carpentry [5] aims to equip researchers, support staff, and postgraduate students with relevant skills related to research software development and scripting. Data Carpentry [6] teaches research data science skills to the same audience but expecting no prior exposure to research computing and programming. The Carpentries address the critical need for training in skills that enables 21st century research by allowing researchers to spend more time on their research questions and less time on mundane data manipulation tasks.

The North-West University [7] has been heavily involved in further developing the Southern African Carpentry community. In 2015 NWU led the development of a 12-month proposal [8] that kicked off in April 2016 with the first South African in-person instructor training event [9]. Since 2015 NWU has been involved in four internal Software and Data Carpentry events as well as four events run at other Southern African institutions. The university currently has five qualified instructors as well as two preparing for check-out. Instructors hail from diverse disciplines such as genomics, digital humanities, chemistry, and IT.

At the end of 2016 the NWU entered into a gold partnership with Software and Data Carpentry. The partnership marks the beginning of a new phase of capacity development around computing and data at the university, it is the culmination of months of hard work, exciting workshops, and interesting conversations with colleagues from all over the world. The NWU Chief IT Director, Boeta Pretorius, has been the main sponsor for Carpentry activities around the university and hope that the partnership will help to develop and enhance computational research skills amongst NWU researchers and postgraduate students while developing increasing numbers of local instructors. The training events have been run as part of the NWU eResearch Initiative [10] which commenced in 2015.

NWU’s 2017 Software and Data Carpentry efforts will be lead by Martin Dreyer, an IT consultant in Boeta’s team. Martin recently participated in instructor training and have been summarising Software Carpentry activities on the blog [11] since August 2016.

We look forward to continue our collaboration with Software and Data Carpentry and with you, our community! For enquiries or to organise a workshop for your department or research group please contact

Thank you