Simon Hettrick

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.


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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.

2014: a survey odyssey

Back In 2014, I surveyed a group of UK universities to see how their researchers used software. We believed that an inexorable link existed between software and research, but we had yet to prove it. I designed the study, but I never intended to perform the analysis. This was a job better suited to someone who could write code, and I could not. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan and I found myself in the disquieting situation of having an imminent deadline and no one available to do the coding. Under these circumstances, few people have the fortitude to take some time out to learn how to…

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


All questions and suggestions should be sent to


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.


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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We need your help with our campaign for Research Software Engineers (i.e. software experts who work in academia).

Last year's survey [1] allowed us to prove that software experts make a huge contribution to research, but often go unacknowledged and are paid less than their research counterparts. To continue our success with this campaign, we need to track how the community evolves over time, so please complete our survey.

It takes around 15 minutes and all demographic questions are non-mandatory.

It would be very helpful if you could forward this email to any software experts you know who work in academia, or anyone who employs software experts in academia.

[1]: See RSE State of the Nation Report 2017, page 21.

About the survey

The purpose of this survey is to collect information about people who develop software that is used in research. We call these people Research Software Engineers (RSEs), but they use many different job titles (including postdoctoral researcher and research assistant).

Please note that this research is not compulsory and even if you decide to participate you can withdraw at any moment.

This study is conducted by the University of Southampton on behalf of the Software Sustainability Institute and complies with University of Southampton ethics guidelines (reference no.: ERGO/FPSE/25269). The investigators are Simon Hettrick and Olivier Philippe. The survey is hosted on Limesurvey servers in Germany and respects the provisions of the Data Protection Act. These records are anonymised and access is strictly protected…

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RSE State of the NationBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

The first State of the Nation Report for Research Software Engineers provides a history of the RSE campaign and a snapshot of the RSE community as it stands today. If you want to know how a name coined during one of our workshops turned into an 800 strong community which is gathering interest from around the world, then the report is a good place to start.

Most research would be impossible without software, and this reliance is forcing a rethink of the skills needed in a traditional research group. With the emergence of software as the pre-eminent research tool used across all disciplines, comes the realisation that a significant majority of results are based, ultimately, on the skill of the experts who design and build that software.

The UK has led the world in supporting a new role in academia: the Research Software Engineer (RSE). This report describes the new expert community that has flourished in UK research, details the successes that have been achieved, and the barriers that prevent further progress.\

The report is available for download from Zenodo: 10.5281/zenodo.495360.

ResearchFishBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

Researchfish® allows researchers to record the impact of their research outside of the standard metric of how many papers I have written. These outcomes, as they are called, cover publications, but also collaborations, events, awards and other metrics including - and of most interest to me - software.

Researchfish® was established with the support of MRC and initially focused on collecting outcomes from medical research. It has since been adopted by a broad range of funders, including the UK’s seven Research Councils. I recently had an interesting talk with the EPSRC’s Louise Tillman about what these outcomes might say about research software in the UK and, thanks to her, a week later I found myself in possession of a spreadsheet containing the research outcomes related to software for EPSRC researchers.

Just having the outcomes is pretty exciting, but to make things more interesting, I decided that I would write the analysis code myself. I’m not a software developer, but it’s getting progressively more difficult to stay that way when I spend my life surrounded by Research Software Engineers. Hence this post not only reports an investigation into Researchfish…

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