An Open Question: A comparison of proprietary and open-access teaching materials for researchers

Mr Aidan Wilson1, Dr Anastatios Papaioannou1

1Intersect Australia, Sydney, Australia


Intersect Australia has been a significant eResearch training provider for several years. Since the first courses in eResearch tools like HPC and Microsoft Excel, the Intersect repertoire has expanded to over 25 distinct courses, delivered at our 12 member universities, hundreds of times per year to thousands of researchers.

Intersect began utilising open access training materials in 2015: teaching Software Carpentry’s Creative Commons licensed courseware in Python, Matlab, R, Unix, and Git. Shortly thereafter, two Intersect eResearch Analysts were accredited as Software Carpentry instructors. The following year this was expanded with four more accredited instructors, and in 2017, a further six instructors were accredited and Intersect joined the Software Carpentry Foundation as a silver member, a status we recently reaffirmed.

Throughout this period, Intersect has continued to maintain a proprietary catalogue of Intersect-developed courses taught alongside the Software Carpentry materials.

In this presentation, we will explore the differences, if any, in the reception of Intersect developed course material and openly available Software Carpentry material by course attendees. The differences in cost to maintain proprietary courseware or utilise openly available materials is explored. We will also analyse differences between the delivery of the two sets of courses based on other variables, such as the experience level and teaching style of the trainer.

This presentation will be valuable to similar organisations who are grappling with the logistics of running eResearch training courses, and deciding on strategies regarding developing their own material or using material that already exists in the public domain.

As one of Australia’s most recognised eResearch training organisations, Intersect hopes that other, similar organisations may be able to benefit from our experiences, so that the research community can ultimately benefit from high-quality training from a diverse range of providers.


Aidan Wilson is Intersect’s eResearch Analyst for the Australian Catholic University, and coordinator of Intersect’s training platform. Aidan’s research background is in documentary linguistics, concentrating on the syntax and morphology of Australia’s Aboriginal languages. He has also been actively involved in research support, and worked as a data manager for PARADISEC, an archive of Pacific and regional digital enthographical data, including linguistic and ethnomusicological recordings. In his time at Intersect, Aidan has been involved in a number of engineering and data science projects, including secure data movement for health and medical, and imaging datasets, and genome sequencing as-a-service.

Anastasios Papaioannou is Intersect’s Research Data Scientist, and one of the coordinators of Intersect’s training platform. Anastasios holds a BSc in Physics and MSc in Computational Physics, with his research focus mainly being on computational physics applied in medicine and biology. He also holds a Ph.D. in Computational Biophysics/Medical Physics from the University of Sydney. He has over 4 years of experience as an academic tutor and over 6 years in research. His role at Intersect involves working collaboratively with relevant stakeholders to develop and implement activities to ensure Intersect’s success in the Data Science field for research. He is involved in various national and state level health and medical (and other) eResearch data, while possessing a deep technical understanding of data and a combination of expertises such as programming, data and business analysis and analytics.

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