Simon Hettrick

7337761518_57b80d725b_z.jpgBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

When I first started thinking about how we could create a career path for Research Software Engineers (RSEs) in academia, I assumed we would have to persuade university management to change their policies and make it possible, or at least much easier, for researchers to retain RSEs within their groups. The actual solution has been somewhat different, and much more effective.

Pioneers at a growing number of universities have seized the initiative and set up their own RSE group. These groups employ a number of RSEs and then hire them out to researchers at their home organisation. It’s a win-win for researchers: they gain access to the skills they need and—unlike hiring new personnel—they only pay when they need those skills. By servicing an entire university, RSE groups tap into enough demand to allow a number of RSEs to be consistently employed.

When RSE groups are first launched they tend to hire generalists, but as they grow they can hire more specialists, which makes skills available that researchers could only dream of accessing without such a group. As they grow, RSE groups need senior staff who can run larger projects and oversee the work of others, and this creates the RSE career path that has been so sorely needed.

In other words, we’re winning the fight for RSE…

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DOI

Last year, the Software Sustainability Institute conducted a survey of Research Software Engineers (RSEs) to learn more about them and their work conditions. The RSE community has grown from a concept born at an Institute event to an international phenomenon. It's important to learn more about this community so that our campaigning, and that of our international partners, continues to help RSEs gain the recognition they deserve for their huge contribution to research.

We began surveying RSEs in 2016, in 2017 we also surveyed Canadian RSEs and last year we added four further countries. Our thanks to our partners: Scott Henwood (Canada), Stephan Janosch and Martin Hammitzsch (Germany), Ben van Werkhoven and Tom Bakker (Netherlands), Anelda van der Walt (South Africa) and Daniel Katz and Sandra Gesing (USA).

Diffusion

In total, we analysed 841 responses across the five countries listed below.

Countries Number of analysed responses Link to analysis Link to data
Canada…
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4982558043_06968b80f1_z.jpgBy Olivier Philippe, Policy Researcher.

DOI

Last year, the Software Sustainability Institute conducted a survey of Research Software Engineers (RSEs) to learn more about them and their work conditions. The RSE community has grown from a concept born at an Institute event to an international phenomenon. It's important to learn more about this community so that our campaigning, and that of our international partners, continues to help RSEs gain the recognition they deserve for their huge contribution to research.

We began surveying RSEs in 2016, in 2017 we also surveyed Canadian RSEs and last year we added four further countries. Our thanks to our partners: Scott Henwood (Canada), Stephan Janosch and Martin Hammitzsch (Germany), Ben van Werkhoven and Tom Bakker (Netherlands), Anelda van der Walt (South Africa) and Daniel S. Katz and Sandra Gesing (USA).

Visit our RSE survey page for an overview of the results and access to the data and analysis.

By Simon Hettrick 

Next week, we will be hearing from the successful applicants to last year’s RSE Fellowship, funded by the EPSRC. The Fellows are exceptional individuals in the software field who demonstrate leadership and have combined expertise in programming and a solid knowledge of the research environment.

We’ll first hear from Jeremy Cohen who believes that “research software ought to be easier to use” and will describe his plans to help build communities of RSEs. We’ll hear why Phil Hasnip believes that most physics problems end up being materials problems. Joanna Leng will describe her desire to bring research computing techniques into the imaging community. Finally, we’ll hear from Leila Mureşan who will focus on the field of microscopy imaging.

The EPSRC has recognised the importance of investing in software development and the development of skills and career development for those engaged in software engineering. It is these aspects that this RSE Fellowship addresses. The Software Sustainability Institute and the RSE community campaigned for the development of this Fellowship so, and we are very happy to welcome the new RSE Fellows!

The RSE Cloud Computing Awards program was created to build a community that bridges researchers, university stakeholders, regional teams, and national services, to better understand how Microsoft Azure can enable better, faster, and more reproducible research.

Martin Callaghan

MartinI’m a Research Computing Consultant at the University of Leeds where I provide High Performance Computing (HPC), Programming and Software Development consultancy across a diverse research community, including the Arts and Social Sciences. This role is part RSE, part trainer, part consultant and part outreach. Although my role mainly involves HPC, there are many research projects where it hasn’t been a particularly good fit and Cloud has the potential to help us develop more appropriate solutions.

Before joining the University of Leeds, I worked as an Engineer designing machine tool control systems, a teacher and run my own training and consultancy business.

I’ve been a co-applicant and lead instructor on four successful grant awards to run bespoke three-day Software Carpentry workshops to support PhD students and early career researchers to improve their programming skills.

I also manage a comprehensive HPC and Research Computing training programme designed to be a ‘zero to hero’ structured introduction to HPC, Cloud and research…

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By Kenji Takeda, Microsoft Research.

It is a privilege to announce the Research Software Engineering Cloud Computing Awards at the RSE 2017 conference! It is clear that cloud computing is helping researchers worldwide, across all disciplines, and it is a key enabler for AI and machine learning at scale. With these awards, Microsoft wants to empower RSEs to explore, educate and extend cloud computing for researchers. The goal is to create a community bridging researchers, university stakeholders, regional teams, and national services, to better understand how Microsoft Azure can enable better, faster and more reproducible research in everyday use.

We are looking for people who are passionate about exploring how cloud computing can be used in research, sharing their experiences with cloud computing, and advocating best practice in their research domain, institution, and/or community. The awards are flexible and will support training, workshops, cloud computing prototype designs and research solutions, and publication of open-source code and frameworks for Microsoft Azure. We are particularly interested in RSEs using AI, machine learning, and data science in their projects.

Each award provides £2000 GBP for education, outreach, and implementation of research solutions using the Microsoft Cloud. This is complemented by 12 months of Microsoft Azure credits at $250 USD per month, for one year. Awardees will be able to use the title RSE Cloud Computing Fellow.

Apply…

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pandas_in_space copy.jpgBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

This is a story about reproducibility. It’s about the first study I conducted at the Institute, the difficulties I’ve faced in reproducing analysis that was originally conducted in Excel, and it’s testament to the power of a tweet that’s haunted me for three years.

The good news is that the results from my original analysis still stand, although I found a mistake in a subdivision of a question when conducting the new analysis. This miscalculation was caused by a missing “a” in a sheet containing 3763 cells. This is as good a reason as any for moving to a more reproducible platform.

Data and citation

Before getting to the nitty gritty, here's where you can find the data and analysis. The data collected during this survey is available for download from Zenodo. Please cite "S.J. Hettrick et al, UK Research Software Survey 2014"​​, DOI:10.5281/zenodo.1183562.

The data is licensed under a Creative Commons by Attribution licence and the analysis is licensed under a BSD 3-clause licence (in both cases attribution to "The University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Software Sustainability Institute").

2014: a…

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On this page, we've provided more information about the RSE Cloud Computing Award and how it works.

Help

All questions and suggestions should be sent to competition@software.ac.uk.

Terminology

We will use the word event to refer to conferences, meetings, training, workshops and other events.

The word Fellow or Fellows will refer to a recipient of the RSE Cloud Computing Award.

The word expenses will be used to describe expenses incurred for both travel, subsistence and expenses related to the running of and attending events.

Eligibility

Applicants must:

  • Hold a full-time position at a university or non-profit research organisation;
  • Be able to receive award funds into a university/organisation finance account that can be drawn against for reimbursement of incurred expenses;

Applicants may have one or more of the following roles:

  • research software engineer who supports the work of researchers;
  • A researcher who uses software;
  • A developer who writes tools for researchers;
  • In a leadership role in projects or organisations that make heavy use of software, compute, and data services.

Applicants should be UK resident and primarily practicing in the UK. Exceptional applications from outside the UK may be considered at the panel’s sole discretion.

How we decide who succeeds

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The Research Software Engineering (RSE) Cloud Computing Awards, supported by Microsoft, enable RSEs to explore, educate and extend cloud computing for researchers.

Microsoft has championed the Research Software Engineers initiative since its inception. We are strong supporters and participants in the RSE community, and advocate the importance of RSEs as a key pillar of the research ecosystem.  The Azure for Research initiative has involved thousands of researchers worldwide, working on hundreds of projects, to see how cloud computing can empower researchers to achieve more. The goal of the RSE Cloud Computing Awards program is to create a community bridging researchers, university stakeholders, regional teams, and national services, to better understand how Microsoft Azure can enable better, faster, and more reproducible research.

How to apply

Microsoft is proud to work with the RSE Network to support successful applicants with the following benefits:

  • £2000 GBP to support education, outreach, and implementation of research solutions using the Microsoft Cloud;
  • 12 months of Microsoft Azure credits at $250 USD per month, up to $3,000 for one year;
  • Opportunity to provide direct feedback to Microsoft;
  • Promotion of RSE cloud computing activity with Microsoft Azure to a national and global audience, providing visibility of the applicant’s work and impact.
  • Use of the title RSE Cloud Computing Fellow.

Successful applicants should demonstrate…

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Research IT, Enterprise ITBy Laurence Billingham, British Geological Survey, David Golding, University of Leeds, Robert Haines, University of Manchester, Martin Hammitzsch, German Research Centre for Geoscience, James Hetherington, University College London, Simon Hettrick, Software Sustainability Institute.

This post is part of the Collaborations Workshops 2017 speed blogging series.

Universities need to strike a balance between risk and strategic opportunities (world-class research and world-class teaching). A semi-independent "sandboxed" service for research IT can deliver both, by isolating the stuff that needs to change fast from the stuff that needs to always work.

In mobile development, apps are "sandboxed" so that one app cannot break the phone. This analogy can work for services too. In research-led universities, we need…

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