Today the scientific research rely more and more on software and data. And not only the dependency but also the complexity of software and size of data will grow. Most of the software is developed by researchers themselves or, in few cases, by dedicated programmers recruited to larger research groups. With Konstantin Stadler we have formed one such a group, the Digital Lab at Industrial Ecology programme at NTNU for example.
Academia has yet to realize the scale of their dependence on software. Without access to software engineering expertise, research software is significantly less likely to meet the requirements of reliability and reproducibility that we expect from research.
Many researchers are gifted programmers, however we can not expect them to concentrate on software engineering. Researchers should be able to concentrate on their research and gain expert help when it is needed.
External consultants can be hired but it can be expensive and mostly there will be lacking of knowledge and specifics of research environment.
What is needed is a new role in academia – the Research Software Engineer (RSE) – a role that combines an intimate understanding of research with experience in software engineering.
Some RSEs start off as researchers who spend time developing software to make progress with their research. Because they enjoy this work and have invested time and effort in developing specialist skills, these researchers continue to focus on software and its use in research. Others start off from a more conventional software development background and are drawn to research by the challenge of using software to further research. This combination of skills is extremely valuable for science, but RSEs often lack a formal place in the academic system. This means there is no easy way to recognize their contribution, to reward them, or to represent their views.
Created the term Research Software Engineer
To improve this situation we, the group of enthusiasts gathered in a conference outside Stockholm, have decided to launch a Nordic Research Software Engineer (RSE) network, which is inspired by similar networks that have been established and are presently thriving in the UK, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany.
Without a name, it is difficult for people to rally around a cause, so the term Research Software Engineer was created. The Nordic RSE network will now start working to raise awareness of the importance of this role for research and to bring the RSE community together across the Nordic countries by organizing conferences, workshops and on-line forums.
As a first step towards building this community we are conducting a short five-minute long survey on the situation regarding research software development in the Nordic countries. If you write research software, then this survey is for you! You can participate in the survey here. And if you have colleagues or friends who write research software, please forward this information to them! To be informed about the results of this survey and other items of interest to research software developers, visit our website, follow the initiative on Twitter and/or sign up for the Nordic RSE mailing list. Finally, if you would like to join us in building the community, please read this web page.
The core team members
Radovan Bast, High Performance Computing Group, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Anne Fouilloux, IT Group Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo
Radek Lonka, RSE at Digital Laboratory, Industrial Ecology Programme, NTNU Trondheim
Jarno Rantaharju, RSE at Swansea Academy of Advanced Computing, Swansea University, UK
Konstantin Stadler, Manager and Lead Researcher of the Digital Laboratory, Industrial Ecology Programme, NTNU Trondheim
K. Thor Wikfeldt, Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration and PDC Center for High-Performance Computing, Stockholm
The text was inspired by:
This blog post was written by Research Software Engineer Radek Lonka, NTNU – Department of Energy and Process Engineering