Department of Psychology

Successful series of open source courses organised by researchers

Mon Aug 17 15:32:00 BST 2015

Drs Susanna Martin, Tim Gamble and Elizabeth Gabe-Thomas, from the Department of Psychology, were awarded funding from the Researcher Development Fund (RDF) to organise a series of open source courses; these workshops focussed on PsychoPy, Arduino and R. r workshop

PsychoPy: The PsychoPy workshop was led by the creator of PsychoPy, Dr Jon Peirce (Uni. of Nottingham). He provided a gentle introduction to the software and coached attendees as they programmed a standard psychology experiment. Attendees were then provided time and support to work on their own experiment.

Arduino: The two Arduino workshops were led by Dr Chris Bevan (Uni. of Bath). He provided a non-technical background to programming and introduced the idea of using Arduino within psychology experiments. As an open workshop the attendees set the speed of the session with opportunities to ask questions, discuss research plans and consider the full potential of Arduino.

R: The R course was a whole day event led by Dr Ian Walker (Uni. of Bath). Ian introduced R as a free and powerful alternative to popular statistics programs such as SPSS. He initially orientated participants to the R environment, and then worked through some key example operations to input, analyse and graph various different data sets. He finally set some more advanced problems to work through, and gave the opportunity for people to import their own data to analyse.

The courses were very well received with participants reporting the courses as valuable and pitched at a good level, with the majority of respondents noting that they have since used their new skills, or intend to in the near future.

"I was really impressed with both speakers/leaders for the psychopy and R course (I did not attend the arduino course). They made the material very accessible, were enthusiastic and used teaching examples/hands on work that showcased clear applications to my area of research. Time very well spent!"

"[the arduino course was] very applicable to a wide range of things and types of experiments, great introduction to programming"

Through providing open source training, staff can gain skills in new software and minimise reliance on proprietary software. It is anticipated that this will result in a group of researchers who are able to support one another as they learn new skills and share techniques. Already during the courses, staff from different disciplines were sharing ideas and research processes to help others design studies.

The RDF funding had benefits beyond allowing for the running of these workshops; the researchers involved also gained valuable hands on experience in organisation, budgeting and project management. Support from the RDF was invaluable and the researchers would recommend others to take part in the RDF initiative. A full report can be found online, which provides details on the courses, and the associated project learning outcomes.