How the Research Bazaar (#ResBaz) has grown

Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 1. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.
Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 1. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

In late 2015, I wrote for The Research Whisperer about an exciting and revolutionary way of teaching digital research skills to researchers across the globe.

We called the project The Research Bazaar (ResBaz), a nod to the ancient Istanbul marketplace where crowds would exchange prized items, listen to bards speak folklore, and ultimately, create a rich and diverse community. In place of clothing, jewels and food (though we always made sure to feed our hungry researchers), ResBaz operated as an exchange of ideas and digital methodology.

Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 2. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.
Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 2. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

Birthed at The University of Melbourne, the ResBaz team offered year-round workshops in number of digital tools (like Python, R, MATLAB, data visualisation, archiving, mining, and 3D Printing).

These workshops operated with core pedagogy principles in mind. This translated to:

  • What is the most effective, dynamic and efficient way of teaching these skills?
  • How do we make researchers retain knowledge in an ever-expanding laboratory or library?

Workshops were designed to be interactive and challenge-based, giving researchers hands-on experience with their digital tool of choice.

Another way to ensure knowledge retention is to build community. All ResBaz workshops were taught by fellow researchers who understand the ins and outs (read: struggles) of the academy. Trainers would organise social events and drop-in sessions outside of the workshop to refresh their newly attained digital skill-sets. This was also key in battling another insidious tenant that plagued our research community: loneliness.

A yearly event, The Research Bazaar Conference, is a crescendo for community building and the workshop campaign. Attendees from all research departments, age brackets, and career stages spent three days discussing data and learning how different digital tools could help shave time and money off their research pursuits. The conference felt more like a festival with yoga, storytelling, talent-sharing and arts and crafts peppered through the itinerary.

After 2015, ResBaz became global. The 2016 and 2017 events saw sites pop up in Auckland, Wellington, Perth, Dunedin, Brisbane, Sydney, Guayaquil, Vancouver, Oklahoma, Tucson & Oslo – all united under the #ResBaz umbrella.

Thinking strategically, we needed to make sure all sites were comfortable joining the ResBaz brigade. Realistically speaking, we understood that different institutions had different strengths and limitations (budgeting and resource allocations would all vary across sites). ResBaz needed to be as accessible and flexible as possible to allow for this variance. We decided that ResBaz could vary in size and scale across geography (perhaps your conference was a single day event) but that each site would champion three core values:

  1. community – we would always put people over technology and make the space about bringing researchers face-to-face,
  2. open access – we would make all our teaching materials and event resources open to the public (we try to make ResBaz a free event, also), and
  3. diversity – we want to make sure that attendees were from all walks of life and initial application questions would be used to bolster the event’s diversity.

It’s now 2018 and the ResBaz project faces new challenges and opportunities!

This past year has seen Dr Christina Tuke Flanders, Tyne Sumner and I editing a book to help researchers discover new tools and allow ResBaz sites to sharpen their curriculum. The Digital Research Skills Cookbook (for physical purchase via Amazon; a digital open access copy will be made available very soon) was written by members of the University of Melbourne’s ResBaz community. The book was developed with two audiences in mind:

  1. students – each chapter gives a taste of how an individual tool can be applied to their research, and
  2. trainers – each chapter provides helpful tips and a guide on how to best teach these tools at ResBaz-styled workshops.

The book was officially launched at the Melbourne 2018 ResBaz event in February.

We’re hoping this new addition to the ResBaz family helps inspire institutions and teams from all over the globe to build their own communities, conferences and digital research skills campaigns. As such, the final chapter of the book has been dedicated to ‘hosting a ResBaz’, as one might host a dinner party. This support isn’t just limited to words on a page. Representatives from ResBaz sites are encouraged to link up regularly and share their newfound challenges and ideas.

The official ResBaz blog was assembled as an initial dive into the global community. And it’s definitely not too late! If you’re interested in hosting a ResBaz in 2018, check out how to make it happen.

But that’s not all!

We’ve already started the marination process for the second edition of The Digital Research Skills Cookbook, with particular attention paid to our core values: open access, community, and diversity. On 3 December 2018, we’ll be organising a “ResBook Sprint” for teams around the world to contribute to this next edition. Not one team, person or group owns The Research Bazaar and it’s important that we make our events and projects as collaborative and accessible as possible. Register your interest or find out more.

As the bazaar continues to grow, so too does the marketplace of ideas. Learning is a process. It’s dynamic and diverse, completely in step with the research we spend our days with.

ResBaz continues to be a space for exploration and excitement. It’s for researchers, by researchers. We hope to see you there!

Dejan Jotanovic was one of the founding members of The Research Bazaar, and formerly the Digital Spaces Manager at Research Platforms (ResPlat) Services at The University of Melbourne.

Dejan has spent his last year living in Brooklyn, New York as a freelance writer drinking awful American coffee.

Prior to this he has completed a Master of Public Policy & Management at The University of Melbourne, with key interests in inequality, social and science policy.

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