SORSE 2020/21 has come to an end

Authors: Marion Weinzierl, Teri Forey

The international Series of Online Research Software Events (SORSE) was launched on September 2, 2020, and closed in a big finale event on March 24, 2021. It had been initiated to replace all the cancelled national Research Software Engineering (RSE) conferences and events, and was organised by members of the various national committees – plus additional volunteers – from 7 different national RSE chapters. Involved trustees from the Society of Research Software Engineering were Claire, Teri, Kirsty and Marion. The full list of people who were involved can be found here. The programme committee met 33 times, starting in July 2020 (not counting the preliminary platform review meetings, which assessed a range of different online event and video chat platforms to decide on what to use for the events series). We will have a final wrap-up meeting (or more, if required) in April, to discuss how to put the SORSE website into maintenance mode, what other actions are left, and how to write up our experiences and lessons learned from organising this events series.

Over the course of the 44 events, hosted on Zoom, approximately 400 people attended and 85 people presented, with 17 different hosts. The SORSE Twitter account has, at the time of the closing of SORSE, 470 followers, and the “Ask Us Anything” Slack channel in the RSE Slack has 55 members. The SORSE programme offered talks, software demonstrations, panel discussions, open discussions, posters and lightning talks and workshops. At the Christmas event, which was sponsored by the Society of Research Software Engineering and featured an address from our Society president, people from 9 different countries were present. All events were recorded and remain available on the SORSE YouTube channel, and some also resulted in blog posts.

At the beginning of 2021, the programme team decided to let the events series come to an end. The reason for this was twofold: SORSE has required a significant effort by all those involved actively in the organisation. It became increasingly difficult to find hosts for the events, and some committee members have announced that they wanted to lay down some of their roles and responsibilities in the near future. Additionally, with discussions about national and international RSE events in 2021 getting more concrete, many of the SORSE committee members considered getting involved in those new events.

At the closing event, we ran a feedback session, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, with lots of people asking for further SORSE events. While the current committee will now wrap up and make sure to record their knowledge and experience gained, it is possible that SORSE might start up again, with a different mix of people, at some point in the future. We hope that what we have learned from producing SORSE will be helpful and applicable to online or hybrid online/in-person RSE conferences to come.

About the author: mweinzierl