SciPy 2014 In Review: Workshops, BoF Sessions, and Sprints

This is the third and final part of our trip report on the SciPy 2014 conference, which was held in Austin, TX.  In this post, we will review some of the conference’s interesting workshops, as well as Birds of a Feather (BoF) and sprint sessions. For an introduction and overview of tutorials, please read our first SciPy blog post, and for a review of posters and presentations, please read our second SciPy blog post.

Software Sustainability

The Working towards Sustainable Software for Science workshop was held in tangent with the conference. The goal of the half-day workshop was to “collect and share experiences from the Scientific Python ecosystem on how projects have successfully, and unsuccessfully, addressed sustainability.” The workshop began with presentations from community leaders regarding how they have sustained software development. It included a panel discussion and an open forum for discussion on how to best manage education and training, funding, community growth, and development, as well as how to shape policy at the national and international levels.

Birds of a Feather Sessions

BoF sessions were given a more primary focus at this year’s conference, as the conference’s main track had blocks dedicated to the sessions in the presentation rooms. A number of interesting topics were covered. Our experiences with a few of the sessions are detailed below.

  • SciPy 2015: The SciPy 2015 BoF session was well attended, with many interesting discussions on how to move SciPy forward. A suggestion made by one of the attendees was to engage the Insight Toolkit (ITK) community to bring in the medical imaging community.
  • You Win or You SciPy: This was an intriguing session on the challenges the scientific Python community faces. Its content reflected well on the current state of the scientific Python community and on its culture.  Matt McCormick moderated this session.  For more information, please check out this video recording.
  • Packaging: The first inaugural Packaging BoF session was initiated this year by Anthony Scopatz. This was a fun, offsite session that consisted of a series of lightning talks related to issues such as Python packaging. Jean-Christophe Fillion-Robin came home with the audience-awarded favorite talk, which earned him the Safety Third badge.


The Packaging BoF Safety Third badge.  From left to right, Jennifer Seiler, Jean-Christophe Fillion-Robin, and Anthony Scopatz


The sprints were also very productive.  Bradley Lowekamp and Matt McCormick had a chance to work on the ITK release, SimpleITK wrapping, and IPython notebooks. Close proximity to the conda and hashdist developers meant we got to work with them on packages for our projects. We also worked with people from scikits-image, which is currently the most popular Python image processing package.


Overall, SciPy 2014 was a great conference for Kitware to attend, as we had the opportunity to engage with many members of the software development community. A few takeaway themes come to mind. Evidence was presented that Python will be, if it is not already, the dominant language with which to teach scientific programming. This has many, mostly positive, implications for both programming and science! Also, issues such as reproducibility and open science remain important topics for many in the SciPy community. Finally, the SciPy conference is a productive, educational, and fun event.

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