“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the first ever Research Software Engineering conference”
Rob Haines‘ opening line was met by thunderous applause from 202 people representing 14 different countries with a delegation that included funders, industry, academic researchers and, of course, research software engineers. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as it dawned on me that this was a historic moment and that I was there when it happened. I wasn’t the only one
I felt like I’d come home and that these people were my tribe…and what a tribe!
Microsoft loves Linux
The conference was a mixture of talks, workshops and networking opportunities with the opening plenary given by Matthew Johnson of Microsoft Research. Microsoft was the gold sponsor for the event and the swag bag included one of these
I reflect on the fact that I’m currently using my Macbook Pro as a Windows 10 machine to access the linux subsystem — we’re not in Kansas anymore!
Microsoft is a keen supporter of the RSE movement although the job title they use is ‘Research Software Development Engineer’, a title they’ve used for several years now. An RSE (or RSDE) does much more software development than a typical researcher and more research than a typical software engineer.
The choice of job role is important since it defines how you are assessed for things such as promotion. This is an issue that some of us are working to address within academia because many RSEs are currently assessed using the same criteria as researchers.
Docker…we need more Docker
The conference included several practical workshops on all sorts of interesting topics but the most popular, by far, was the Docker workshop. It was so oversubscribed that access to the room had to be strictly controlled! Even I wasn’t allowed in and I was on the organising committee!
Fortunately, the materials are freely available on github – https://github.com/mfernandes61/RSE_Docker_course/wiki
— Mike Croucher (@walkingrandomly) September 15, 2016
What a diff’rence a fellowship makes
I attended a discussion workshop called ‘The Role of the Research Software Engineer’ and gave a caffeine fueled lighting talk about the impact my EPSRC RSE fellowship has had within the University of Sheffield over its first six months. Slides are at https://mikecroucher.github.io/fellowship_difference/ but you might not get much from them since I like to talk over a set of images for things like this.
The EPSRC RSE Fellowship is the first of its kind and I believe that its had a huge impact on how the role of RSE is perceived by academic institutions. There were only 7 awards, however, so there is still so much more to be done.
Since members of the audience included representatives from various funding bodies, I wanted to help convince them that RSE fellowships are great value for money and they should consider launching their own.
Here is a list of links to some of the workshop materials. If you know of one I’ve missed, please let me know.
- RSE Docker Course
- Data Visualisation (truthiness hurts)
- Introduction to concurrent programming with Go
For more information about what happened on the day see the following links
- Simon Hetterick of the Software Sustainability Institute blogs about the conference at https://www.software.ac.uk/blog/2016-09-20-future-rses-looking-rosy-following-phenomenal-conference
- The twitter hashtag for the event was #RSE16 and this has been storified at https://storify.com/ResearchSoftEng/world-s-first-rse-conference