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Future of RSEs looking rosy following phenomenal conference

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Future of RSEs looking rosy following phenomenal conference

Simon Hettrick

Simon Hettrick

Director of Strategy

Posted on 19 September 2016

Estimated read time: 3 min
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Future of RSEs looking rosy following phenomenal conference

Posted by s.hettrick on 19 September 2016 - 12:37pm

By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

I’m a lazy writer, so when it comes to summarising last week’s RSE Conference, I will defer instead to the genius of Adrian Jackson’s tweet:

I felt a great disturbance in my twitter, as if loads of #RSE suddenly we massively enthused. I fear something awesome has happened.#RSE16

— Adrian Jackson (@adrianjhpc) September 16, 2016

With all the excitement about RSEs over the last couple of years, we knew it was the right time to run a conference to bring them together. We’ve had workshops and AGMs, but this was going to be bigger, better and way more intense. The thing that impressed me most was the buzz. We attracted a lot of new people, but they were interacting like old friends. We worked hard to have an inclusive event, but I think this is also representative of people feeling a part of the community. As one of the emails we received said:

“This might have been my 30th conference but it was the first where I felt thematically 100% at home and understood”.


And now I find myself at the stage in these posts where it’s necessary to list some numbers. The conference attracted 202 people from 14 different countries. We received 38 talks, double what we could accommodate, and we ran 15 workshops. We passed on expertise on subjects from Docker to “How to be a Happy RSE” and most things inbetween. There were almost 450 tweets and, if you would like an overview, these have been storified.

As anyone will know from my plenary, we have a significant gender imbalance in the UK RSE Community: our survey earlier in the year found that the community is around 11% female. One way we’re looking to redress the imbalance is just being open about it. I’m pleased to report that of the 95% of the attendees who reported their gender, 18% were female. That’s still a low number, but as I’ve said before, the aim is to at least represent your community at your events and preferably attract a more balanced community - as we managed. More information about conference attendance will be available when we publish our diversity report.

The UKRSE Association’s AGM took place after the first day of the conference, and I am really pleased to report that a new committee has been voted into position. We have two excellent Chairs in Alys Brett and Christopher Woods, and I’m positive that they will be doing great things with the Association over the coming years.

The success of the conference was completely due to the passion of the people behind the event, ably led by Rob Haines. It would not have been possible without our sponsors, and we have WSSSPE to thank for providing another incentive to attend to our US attendees.


For me, the RSE Conference was a phenomenal success. It has created a huge number of new collaborations and brought further attention to the fundamental importance of the RSE role in academia. I’ve been with the community from its very start and, after this week, I have never felt so positive about its future.

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