Chris Cannam

TenReasonsToBeAnRSE.jpgBy Chris Cannam, Dirk Gorissen, James Hetherington, Cass Johnston, Simon Hettrick and Mark Woodbridge.

Anthony Finkelstein wrote a great post about the benefits of being a software engineer: you can call yourself an engineer without getting your hands dirty, and you can wear jeans and a T-shirt to work (if you feel like being smart). All good points, but it got us thinking, whilst it may be good to be a software engineer, it's even better to be a research software engineer. And here's why.

(And if you're interested in this post, you should attend our workshop for research software engineers on 11 September in Oxford.)

1. Right at the cutting edge of science

You can read books and watch documentaries about research, but that's old news. If you really want to know what's going on, you have to work with the researchers themselves.

Research software engineers work right at the frontiers of science: they are the people who researchers work with in order to turn theories into results. And unlike researchers, Research Software Engineers don't have to pay for this privilege by writing papers.

2. Travel the world

Fancy a trip to Singapore, Rio, Hawaii, LA, Hong Kong, or Shanghai? Become a research software engineer.

We're not saying that you'll be…

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SmashedMonitor.jpgBy Chris Cannam,

These are interesting times in consumer computing. We’re in the middle of what seems likely to be a generational shift from the traditional desktop and laptop PC to what have been called post-PC devices.

The term post-PC typically refers to modern smartphones running iOS or Android, and also to devices such as touch tablets that are closer in size and utility to a conventional PC. From a user perspective the most distinctive thing about these devices is the touch interface. But just as significant, from the point of view of the researcher developer, is the way software development and distribution are handled.

The app store model

The thing that every post-PC device has in common, no matter what the device or who makes it, is the app store model for software distribution. This is a means of simplifying the discovery and installation of software for the end user, by restricting distribution from the developer through a single managed channel.

For most users this is an improvement over earlier, more ad-hoc distribution models, but it has implications for users who also develop software, as is typical of researchers. There are two main limitations of the app store model…

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