Research Software Engineers

What is a research software engineer?

A growing number of people in academia combine expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research. Although this combination of skills is extremely valuable, RSEs often lack a formal place in the academic system: they may produce fewer first-author papers than a researcher, and they may contribute to many papers and not appear as a author beyond a minor acknowledgement, if that! Their code is less formal than a software developers', and career recognition is correspondingly low. The term "Research Software Engineer" is an attempt to recognize and promote these people, and the advantages to being a RSE are similar to being a researcher. RSEs will almost always closely work with researchers.

You can read more about RSEs demographics in the Nordics in our 2018 survey.

Are you a research software engineer?

Most research software engineers don't have that as their job title. If you answer yes to many of the following questions, you are doing the work of a research software engineer:

  • Are you employed to develop software for research?
  • Are you spending more time developing software than conducting research?
  • Are you employed as a postdoctoral researcher, even though you predominantly work on software development?
  • Are you the person who write research software in your research group?
  • Are you sometimes not named on research papers despite playing a fundamental part in developing the software used to create them?
  • Do you lack the metrics needed to progress your academic career, like papers and conference presentations, despite having made a significant contribution through software?

Content of this page is derived from text originally provided courtesy of the UK Research Software Engineer Association.