A growing number of people in research organisations combine expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research. Although this combination of skills is extremely valuable, these people lack a formal place in the academic system. Without a name, it is difficult for people to rally around a cause, so we created the term Research Software Engineer.
Research Software Engineers are people in a variety of roles who understand and care about both good software and good research. It is an inclusive definition that covers a wide spectrum of people from a researcher who is primarily focused on getting results for papers but does a lot of programming programming to a software engineer who just happens to work for a research organisation. People from right across this range are encouraged to join the UK RSE association and seek out others with shared interests. Somewhere in the middle lies the RSE who may actually have that as their job title and/or might work for one of the fast-growing set of Research Software Groups.
Image showing spectrum: SE – SE in research – RSG member or RSE specialist in research group – Researcher developer -Researcher
Are you a Research Software Engineer?
Regardless of your formal 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 does computers 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?