“Most research would be impossible without software, and this reliance is forcing a rethink of the skills needed in a traditional research group. With the emergence of software as the pre-eminent research tool used across all disciplines, comes the realisation that a significant majority of results are based, ultimately, on the skill of the experts who design and build it.”
About Research Software Engineering
We have become more and more reliant on software, whether for numerical modelling, data analysis or visualisation. Researchers in many fields often develop their own software, something which has been recognised and encouraged in the UK by the Software Sustainability Institute. Increasingly, the role of the “Research Software Engineer” (RSE), someone who devotes a significant amount of their time to research software development, has also come to the fore, and a national association has been formed.
In Cambridge, as at many other universities, we have a Research Software Group as part of the HPC team in UIS, as well as several RSEs distributed across departments.
For the last three years, we have held an annual “Computation Seminar Day” in March, which highlights local researchers using computational methods. We welcome ideas for future events, which could be in any subject area. As well as communicating computational ideas within the university, we try to use the event to create a forum for local RSEs who can support each other both in social and technical aspects of their work.
Software engineering is more than just “programming”, but includes elements of planning, communication, collaboration and verification. The “Research Software Engineering” seminars address these issues in a friendly, informal atmosphere. The intended audience includes research students and staff, especially with an interest in writing software, but all are welcome to attend. Currently, the seminars take place at lunchtimes in the Maxwell Centre, West Cambridge.
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