Fellow Feature: Sven Baars

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 14 Fellows. From creating tutorials to organizing interactive seminars, our Fellows are at the forefront of shaping the landscape of research software practices.  

In our upcoming interview,  you will read about researcher Sven Baars, from Utrecht University, who is focused on a project in the eScience Center called “Backend-agnostic parallel programs in Python”. 

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

A:  I basically spend all my time improving research software and designing the algorithms that empower the software to make sure that other researchers can study climate phenomena that would otherwise be impossible to study. 

Q: What initially inspired you to apply to the fellowship programme at the Netherlands eScience Center? 

A: The fact that the purpose of the Fellowship Programme and the eScience Center, in general, aligns very well with my personal views on developing scientific software. Especially in the sense that the focus should be on software sustainability and not on hacking code to write a paper and then forgetting about it. 

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

A: I think the research software is already widely used in my community, but the Fellowship gave me the incentive to advertise better policies around using the software. 

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

A: I find that the interactions with my mentor and the other Fellows have greatly improved my understanding of what a community around a piece of research software needs. This was very useful when deciding on a roadmap for my project. I also very much enjoyed the time I spent with my fellow Fellows. 

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

A:  I would say the lack of time to work on the project. Working on research software for the purpose of improving the software often does not produce any papers, and that’s usually the focus in academia. 

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

A: I hope to keep building a community around my software and advertising good practices in scientific software development. 

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

A: I would love to make the software easier to use, since most software in my area is very difficult to use, and therefore a lot of time is wasted by researchers that are new to this area. 

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.