Founders of the de-RSE chapter
Founders of the de-RSE chapter

By Martin Hammitzsch, GFZ Potsdam, Stephan Janosch, MPI CBG & Frank Loeffler, Louisiana State University

The days following the first conference of Research Software Engineers (RSEs) saw the launch of a German RSE chapter de-RSE. It was formed by RSEs working inside and outside Germany, and it will further the shared objectives of RSEs and become the collective mouthpiece for RSEs within the German science.

All of the authors were exposed to the day-to-day problems caused by using software in science, and this meant that many of us were following the Software Sustainability Institute, and a few other activities around the globe. The lucky ones among us were even able to participate in events over the last few years to see how to improve our situation. Over the last few years a critical mass of motivated Research Software Engineers (RSEs) formed at various locations across Europe, North America and a few other countries. Then in September 2016, the world's first conference for RSEs took place in Manchester. It was the right time for this event. Bringing together RSEs lead to discussions about how to transfer the UKRSE spirit to other countries. How could other national science systems benefit from the professionalisation of software engineering in sciences? How can the people behind research software receive the the acknowledgement and resources they deserve?

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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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As part of the ongoing public consultation on the midterm evaluation of Horizon 2020, the Free Software Foundation Europe published and submitted to the European Commission its Position paper for the endorsement of Free Software and Open Standards in Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme.

Because software is a vital part of today's scientific research, the FSFE believes that Open Access policies promoted in the framework of Horizon 2020 should also explicitly cover the publication of software under Free Software licences. This way, the EU will truly support Open Science.

If you would like to contribute your views, please read more about how to participate in the public consultation and how to share the FSFE's position paper, here: https://wiki.fsfe.org/Activities/OpenScience_InterimEvaluation_Horizon2020

The consultation, run by the European Commission is open for everyone until 15th January 2017.

Photo of inflatable Santa by Bart FieldsEveryone at the Software Sustainability Institute would like to wish our friends and colleagues all the best for the holiday season.

After a busy year, including the first Conference of Research Software Engineers, the announcement of a wonderful new set of Fellows, and even more eventsSoftware and Data Carpentry workshops, and Open Call projects, we need a little break to get ready for everything we've planned in 2017. So please excuse us while we switch off our email from the 23rd December to the 2nd January, and enjoy the festive season (responsibly)!

RSE conferenceBy Catherine Jones, Diversity Chair.

Why did the RSE Conference have a diversity chair? What was the impact? What can we do better next time? These are the three questions I hope this blog will answer.

Different backgrounds and experiences enhance a team and help to avoid group think. Diversity has many different aspects, but the main two that the RSE conference focussed on were gender and ethnicity. It was an aspiration that the conference organisers, speakers and attendees reflected the makeup of the RSE community. Having someone responsible for diversity ensured that it was consciously considered during planning. As part of this commitment to diversity, the RSE Conference had a diversity statement  and code of conduct.

Who organised it?

What was the makeup of the committee? This was remarkedly gender balanced for the domain, the chart belows shows the gender split. Sadly it wasn’t very ethnically diverse.

Gender on committee

Who contributed?

Of the registered attendees 72% were male, 16% were female and 12% preferred not to say or didn’t answer. So that for those who identified their gender 18% were female. Looking at ethnicity: 76%…

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Participants of #hgfos16By Stephan Janosch, Research Software Engineer at Max-Planck-Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden

RSEs in Germany

A handful of people from Germany attended the first Research Software Engineers conference #RSE16. However, few as they may have been, they made a plan: to transfer the community spirit among research software engineers from the UK  back to Germany. After some discussion, we decided  to register the domain http://www.de-RSE.org and set up a website and a mailing list.

Once the mailing list was online, a big surprise was posted within a few days: a free open science workshop for 70 people on scientific software would take place on November 2016 in Germany. Now, that would be the perfect chance to kick start a German RSE community, wouldn’t it?

Workshop—“Access to and reuse of scientific software”

November was upon us faster than expected, and so was the 1.5-day workshop (hashtag: #hgfos16) about accessibility and reuse of scientific software, organised by the Helmholtz Open Science office. An audience of 77 people, as diverse as that at #RSE16, listened to three…

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Congratulations to Toni Collis, Research Software Engineer and Policy Consultant at the Software Sustainability Institute, who won the HPCWire Readers' Choice Award for Outstanding Leadership in HPC for her outstanding work to improve inclusion in the scientific software and High Performance Computing community. The award was presented at the 2016 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC16), in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As well as working with the Institute, Toni is the Director and co-Founder of the Women in HPC network, which also picked up both the Readers Choice and Editors' Choice in the Workforce Diversity Leadership Award. Toni Collis is the Inclusivity Chair for Supercomputing 2017 to be held in Denver, Colorado.

The annual HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards are determined through a nomination and voting process with the global HPCwire community, as well as selections from the HPCwire editors. This is the second year that WHPC has received the Reader’s Choice Workforce Diversity Leadership Award.

RSE ConferenceBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director, Software Sustainability Institute

In a previous post, I discussed the success of the RSE Conference, but I’m hardly an impartial observer. To make sure that the conference improves every year, we ran a post-conference survey so that people could let us know what they thought.

We received 87 responses from the 202 attendees at the conference. That’s a response rate of 47% which is a phenomenal rate for this kind of survey. It’s best practice to offer a prize for feedback because it helps even out the balance of responses by providing an incentive to those who feel ambivalent or negative about the event. However, one £50 Amazon voucher doesn’t account for such a significant response, which means that people felt passionately about the conference. At this stage of the analysis, you’ve just got to cross your fingers and hope that this is good passion, rather than bad!

We asked whether people would attend the conference again—95% would—and whether they’d recommend the conference to others—100% would. That’s fantastic feedback, especially when we see that the conference was rated on average at 4.3 out of 5.

The majority of our attendees came from a background in Physical Sciences (30%), Computer Sciences (18%)…

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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:

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”.

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RSEHistory1.jpgBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director 

On a beautifully sunny day in March 2012, a small group met at Queen’s College Oxford and challenged a long-standing problem: why is there no career for software developers in academia? They didn’t know it at the time, but this meeting led to a nationwide campaign that created a vibrant and rapidly growing community, and established a new role in research: the Research Software Engineer.

The lack of a career path for academic software developers wasn’t new back in 2012, but it had gone largely unchallenged. Many academics were aware of the importance of software to research; they could see that the people who created this software went largely unrecognised, and they were beginning to worry about the consequences of this oversight. What happens when something is so vital to research, yet overlooked and severely under-resourced? Concerns like these were raised at our Collaborations Workshop, and this led the group to meet and challenge them.

A new role is born

The group that rose to the challenge consisted of Rob Baxter, Ian Bush, Dan Emmerson, Robert Haines, Neil Chue Hong, Dirk Gorissen, James Hetherington and Ilian Todorov (I missed this now-historic moment because I was running the conference). They realised that software developers lacked something more fundamental than just recognition—they lacked a name…

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