Fellow Feature: Alexei Karas

Every year, the Netherlands eScience Center shares a call for applications for our Fellowship Programme. The Programme is aimed at members of the academic research community who are passionate about acting as ambassadors for the use of research software. It is for individuals who have the ambition to promote or improve the use of research software within their organization or discipline. Our 2023-2024 fellows are currently halfway through their fellowship year. What better time to showcase their progress over the course of their programme.     

We will present you with interviews with each of the 14 Fellows. From creating tutorials to organizing interactive seminars, our Fellows are at the forefront of shaping the landscape of research software practices.    

Keep reading to learn more about the progress of the project, ‘Teaching Reproducible Workflows to Future Researchers’ led by Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, Alexei Karas

Q:  Could you tell me what role research software plays in your daily activities? 

A:  I teach students how to work with Stata, R and Excel in Economics courses; I use the same tools to conduct empirical research on banking and higher education. As Director of Education, I use research software to make data-driven policy decisions. 

Q: What initially inspired you to apply to the Fellowship Programme at the Netherlands eScience Center? 

A: I heard about the programme from a former colleague who had a successful Fellowship last year. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to expand the UCR Data Center, our existing initiative to promote the (reproducible) use of research software at University College Roosevelt. 

Q: How is the eScience Center Fellowship helping you to promote the use of research software in your own community? 

A: Last January, we ran a series of workshops for selected student apprentices and other interested students and faculty. The apprentices then used what they learned to work with faculty and staff on various projects that incorporate research software in teaching, research and university administration. 

Q: What have you enjoyed, thus far, during your fellowship at the eScience Center? 

A:  I found the training days offered by the eScience Center particularly valuable. I learned a lot from the workshops and enjoyed getting to know the other Fellows. It was good to have an opportunity to share our experiences with promoting research software in our communities. In addition, the fellowship allowed me to reconnect with the Quantitative Analysis Center at Wesleyan University, the initial inspiration behind our UCR Data Center. 

Q: What are some challenges that you have faced throughout your project, thus far? How have you overcome these obstacles?  

A: When we sent out the call for apprenticeship project proposals, we did not know whether there would be enough interest in the community. I approached several colleagues to persuade them to send in their ideas. That way, we received 10 proposals and found even more students who wanted to participate. 

Q: Keeping this project in mind, what do you hope to do after your Fellowship? 

A: If this project is successful, we hope to offer a similar, potentially expanded apprenticeship programme every year. In addition, we will work towards further embedding research software use in the curriculum, supported by UCR’s current thematic focus on data science and AI. 

Q: What do you hope will change in the use of research software in your community after your fellowship? 

A: As faculty become more familiar with reproducible workflows, they can incorporate these skills into their teaching and research. In turn, as more students learn to use research software, they will also be able to help their peers answer interesting questions in a reproducible way. 

Who are we 

The eScience Center is a research organization dedicated to applying research software to answer research questions in any scientific domain through project collaborations. It has the largest concentration of dedicated, high-level research software expertise in the Netherlands. The eScience Center also has a fellowship programme and makes all of its software and training materials openly available online. For more information about what we offer, visit esciencecenter.nl.