Lab Meeting on 17 October 2019

There are so many fantastic updates this week that were all in the hackmd notes because we spent the meeting hearing from Georgia about the Autistica/Turing Citizen Science project.

Check out the video below for a quick overview of why understanding autistic people’s sensory processing differences is important, and please join the project mailing list at to stay updated on our project.

Thank you to Kate Sytnik, a PhD student who studies sound guided navigation in gerbils in the Leibold lab at the University of Munich, who visited the lab this week. She interviewed Kirstie right afterwards for her podcast “Mind over Matter” Stay tuned for some Marxist rants and tips for early career researchers continuing their open research journey!

Celebrations and cool things to share

Louise has a new project starting up this week on methods for generating synthetic datasets. This is came up in one of the Reproducible Research Champions projects last year so it’s going to be really useful. (And Kirstie is very keen for it to be a chapter in The Turing Way 🙌). She’s also delighted that so many people came to this Monday’s Reproducible Research Lunch! Using Docker is definitely a theme we should return to in future; it hits a good spot as it’s both useful and doesn’t get covered in most programming courses/tutorials.

Sarah’s blog is live on the Turing website: “Diving into leadership to build push-button code”. The following (abbreviated) conclusions are really wonderful:

Coding with other people is fun! Pair programming is something we try to achieve at the Turing, but it can be difficult to do depending on the project and the time constraints of those working on it. This was the first time I’d experienced true collaboration. Where I had an idea that I wasn’t sure how to implement, and someone with the skills had helped me shape it and realise it. It gave me a sense of community and belonging. I hope I’ve forged connections with ‘Team BinderHub’ that will last the duration of our careers.

There’s a role for everyone in a team and these are equally important. Even if it’s reviewing code or writing documentation, these are as important (arguably, more so) than the code itself. Code that does what you think it’s doing and has been explained well will have a much longer lifespan than code that is difficult to follow, regardless of how clever it is, if poorly documented.

I found my strength as a leader. You might remember at the beginning of this blog post I mentioned that I’d never led a hack project before, so I also learned a lot about my leadership capabilities. I think I did well. I identified the strengths of each of my team members and gave them a task suited to them whilst letting them explore new concepts, offering my own insight and opinions when required.

Hackathons are not where projects end. While the first 80% of a project to get the infrastructure in place can be achieved in a short amount of time, like a hackathon, the last 20% is hard and often takes longer. But this extra effort is necessary for the software to be taken up by others.

Patricia was frustrated with the way a recent hackathon was facilitated. She was reflecting on how sensitive she is to being made to feel welcome and how difficult that can be at larger conferences. The main problem is when folks are using the event both for collaborative working and for hanging out with their friends. It ends up being really hard to join conversations and meet new people. (Sorry you had a rubbish time - turns out running an unconference or hackathon is harder than most people think! –KW)

Yini recommended a Coursera course on “Improving Your Statistical Questions”

Ang is still working on a revision 😓😓😓 and is looking forward to being more sociable in the near future.

Kirstie really enjoyed the Autistica Artificial Intelligence and Early Intervention Summit. It was two days bringing together AI researchers and data scientists, autism researchers, clinicians, autistic adults and parents of autistic children. The goal was to dream big about how we can use AI to support early intervention in autism, and then brainstorm grant proposals to be submitted next month. Turns out people liked her citizen science idea….so stay tuned for a proposal going in soon! 😅

Elizabeth is learning more with Vue.js, and she shared a really wonderful experience that reminded her why licensing is so important! Someone had openly published code to do close to what she wanted, but because they licensed it under an MIT license she was able to remix and extend it without any concerns 💃💃

Malvika is teaching a Software Carpentry workshop this week and shared this beautiful picture of where she works. They have 30 students from different countries in Heidelberg to learn together.

View from a high building across trees and moody sky
The view from European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. Source: Malvika's twitter feed.

Georgia really enjoyed the British Library’s Diversity and Inclusion week! She’s going to sign up for a staff tour of the basements (and other Turing team members are welcome to join 😱😉).

Questions we’re thinking about

Louise is wondering about other resources for learning Docker. The Turing Way chapter is useful but not quite detailed enough. (It gives a good overview and then jumps to “type these commands”, which is fine for the book but it would be great to link out to some more detailed descriptions.) The Carpentries has a lesson in development, but it’s very early-stage right now. Elizabeth recommended Chris Gorgolewski’s Docker for scientists workshop! (Side note: that’s the course that this picture of Kirstie comes from!)

Yo would like to set up an internship program that isn’t tied to Google Summer of Code (GSoC) or Outreachy but that still allows promising people to work for a few months either remotely or in-person and - importantly - to pay them decently for their work. It sucks that so many internships are unpaid or poorly paid and therefore pretty much just give the already-privileged a leg up. The UK is rotten about visas for this kind of thing so the two questions are 1) are there any existing examples like this? and/or 2) Does anyone know how to manage hiring contractors for short periods?

Yini is looking for recommendations of friendly python tutorials for data science and advanced statistics. Elizabeth recommended the SciPy lecture notes:, and Kirstie recommended Learning Statistics with R.

Patricia shared a recent article on impostor syndrome and asked whether impostor syndrome is even a real thing? (Kirstie’s pretty convinced that it’s mostly used to make individuals feel bad about structural biases they face.)

Elizabeth is looking to re-do her website and is looking for examples of academic websites that folks find impressive or inspiring? Konrad is looking for the same thing and noted that the MELD website is built from the same “So Simple” theme as the WhitakerLab website. Ang recommends Ted Satterthwaite’s lab website:

Sarah wanted to know everyone’s favourite way to bug fix 🐛🐛🐛 Yo, Louise and Kirstie all like printing statements to a logfile or console. Konrad recommends pair programming and Yo recommends rubber duck debugging. Louise gave StackOverflow a 💜 because it has saved her (and all of us!) on so many occasions! We’re all quite interested in knowing more about the pact with the devil option 😈

cartoon panel with six bug fixing options

Malvika, Yo and Berenice are working on their Mozilla Open Leadership based mentoring program and would love to have feedback on the current status of the web content at The big question is: if you saw this now, would you want to join? And if not, what could be improved to make it a more attractive option?

The lab loved it - particularly the clarity of the timelines and setting expectations on what the participants will be doing. Patricia recommended adding a “How to sell this to your supervisor or senior manager” page just in case anyone is worried about it being a large time commitment. Louise suggested adding a little more information on what the project idea needs to be in order to apply.

Patricia is looking for good facilitator training. Has anyone found one that isn’t too expensive?

Georgia is wondering about community building: how to facilitate it, encourage it, and manage it. (Maybe she could apply to!) She’s also doing a 5 minute lightening talk on the citizen science project on the 6th November for the Better Science through Better Data 2019 conference and is looking for suggestions on preparing it!

Autistica/Turing Citizen Science project

This week’s meeting was led by Georgia. She presented the Autistica/Turing Citizen Science project which aims to better understand sensory processing in autism in the real world.

The project is funded by Autistica and grew from a community priority setting exercise in 2016. You can read the report on the priorities and the process at

There are two deliverables from the grant:

  • A citizen science platform that can be adapted to answer other research questions
  • A participatory science framework that can be adapted for other projects

Georgia talked us through the goals of the project and the project values. She gave a quick demonstration of how the data is managed using the Open Humans infrastructure.

Thank you Bastian Greshake Tzvoras - who built the demo in just a few days - for being such a fantastic collaborator!

We spent time discussing how to recruit and engage two overlapping communities: autistic people and their families and open source web developers, and the ethics of web scraping for academic research purposes. We also dug into whether participatory design - and co-production - is the right fit for all areas of health research.

Everyone is welcome to join the project (we’d really appreciate it) and you can find out more at our GitHub repository:


Thank you Georgia for sharing your slides! They’re available under a CC-BY license (credit Georgia Aitkenhead).