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What do you expect from Nordic RSE?

Jarno Rantaharju

The Nordic RSE group is new. This is a great time to take part in the active development of the organization by making sure your voice is heard. We need your help in deciding what is important for the organization to do and what kind of an organization we should aim for.

For inspiration, you can check out the websites of other RSE associations:

The purpose of this discussion is to solicit input from prospective members of the Nordic RSE group.

a) What kind of activities they think would be useful?

  • Advocating for X (value of good software, ...)
  • Networking opportunities, workshops
  • Exchanging skills
  • Formalizing the profession (create career structure)

b) How the group should be organized?

  • Registered association
  • Professional organization
  • Something else

Questions / discussion prods:

  • Do you consider yourself an RSE? Who is an RSE?
  • Would you join the Nordic RSE organization? Are you a member?
  • Why would you join as a member?
  • If you have joined other professional associations, what have they done for you?

Questions and comments

Ice breaker:

  • Are you an RSE?
    • RSE interested, with a plan of becoming one, some day, maybe
    • yes, leading a rse group
    • yes, working directly with reseachers (no RSE group, temporary employment, also just learned about the term)
    • yes, though only learned the term recently. In a bioinformatics group doing infrastructure projects
  • What is an RSE?
    • research software engineer (duh)
    • supporting researcher through code/software development (but can be part of a researcher job)
    • A software engineer in the area of research (akin to a software engineer in the area of finance). Also to say that domain knowledge is important. Probably more focused on software as infrastructure.
  • What an RSE is not?
    • Sysadmin/IT support (although there's typically a lot of IT support involved...?)
    • Can someone make a carreer as an RSE? or is it where you end up when everything else fails?
      • Hopefully it is a career path. There are (supposedly) RSE positions and openings, but in my experience they are hard to find. It is definitely not where you end up when everything else fails! It is an alternative path to regular academic research (and to software development in industry). It is typically suited for people who want to focus more on the hands-on problem solving rather than "selling" research and applying for grants, also with a more long-term focus on software usage and sustainability (which is hard to focus on when under academic pressure).
    • For a lot of people the name "Research software engineer" is confusing and they only put emphasis on the word "research", thereby expecting the RSE do be some kind of (lower grade) researcher but with a more technical background than a "true academic researcher", and that bothers me (because in academia researchers are not supposed to be evaluated based on the number of scientific papers they produce). Maybe removing entirely the term "research" and replacing it by something like "Domain specific" or whatever else would make it easier for people to understand and better define their role? Add something to link it to science and perhaps to computing infrastructures (that could change the acronym from RSE to something like "Domain Specific Scientific Software and Computing Infrastructure Engineer" = DSSSCIE or DoSSSCIE or DoS3IE instead?)

a) What kind of activities they think would be useful?

examples from abstract: Advocating for X (value of good software, ...) Networking opportunities, workshops Exchanging skills Formalizing the profession (create career structure)

ideas that came up during discussion:

  • build an identity on what is RSE, local communities: communication with others, sharing ideas
  • be more specific about what an RSE is and also what it is not (not a researcher, not a technician, not a handyman, etc.) -> making it possible for people to label themselves as RSE
  • Sweden: Reasearch Engineer exists and gets confused with RSE
  • it should be pushed to make it possible to hire RSE -> Nordic RSE should push to make it an official title
  • this has to happen also within universities
  • but RSE is not yet a field that professors could chose to hire and thats where Nordic RSE could start (big push from a lot of people) -> association with members could do that
  • if Nordic-RSE grows to registered 500 members in the Nordics that call themselves RSE there would be more weight behind what we do. One could write letters and influence
  • Nordic RSE as place for feedback (eg for Norwegian Reasearch Council)
  • building understanding (people should know the idea) and not fully focus on formal job title (since this may take long). Make groups and PIs aware that a person with a RSE role could solve many common problems faced in research
  • defining the RSE: how much research? how much software? how much engineer? ->check what UK has done, one definition on nordic RSE website
  • knowledge sharing in meetups etc
  • permanence: RSE often first position to get cut, importance of position has to be highlighted
  • service / research
  • jobboard: help finding RSE jobs (that are not mentioning RSE specifically), currently done on coderefinery chat -> better to have on webpage
  • acknowledgement for RSE work, writing documentation could be as important as writing a paper, attempts happening in international RSE
    • As a new RSE, I want to ask if acknowledgements is a metric that is typically tracked and used throughout an RSE career? How important is it (apart from being fair in acknowledging work done)?
  • Hackathon type of event to get advice on publishing code and related topics
  • joining forces to organize (online) workshops similar to coderefinery (so that community can link to it) -> setting up a list of these on nordic RSE website that we can recommend
  • use to build up list of recommended training material and resources.
  • networking:

b) How the group should be organized?

ideas from discussion: Should we have official association?

  • necessary to receive money
    • for eg workshops (continuation of Coderefinery, software carpentry)
  • could also be done via some university
  • will probably need to be done at some point

How could NordicRSE association be useful for us:

  • how to attract also researchers doing RSE in addition to RSEs -> highlight that we also want researchers doing RSE work to join NordicRSE
  • acknowledgement also for their RSE work (even if they do not identify as RSE (yet)) -> continue to teach how code can be made citable -> how else to help with this? -> public guidelines on how to cite research software -> community shows how the ideal should be -> list journals which take software publications on Nordic RSE website (similar to UK RSE)
  • advocate for that software should be cited
  • create career-path or make more public that there is one; if there is no path, people are maybe not interested
  • adding open source research software as merits for universities (making it more likely they will spend money on hiring RSEs)