The committee are putting forward a proposal to support professionalisation of UKRSE.

The voting form is here. The deadline to vote is 5.45pm on Thursday 7th September.

Proposal to create the professional organisation, “The Society of Research Software Engineering”

The UKRSE committee would like to convert the UKRSE Association into a professional organisation. This document describes why we think this is a move of fundamental importance for the RSE community, the effects of this change on our membership, and how you can vote on the proposal.

Why do we need a professional organisation?

The UKRSE has seen significant growth: we’ll soon have 1000 members. This year alone we have organised a major conference with hundreds of attendees from around the world, we have helped create RSE organisations in other countries, we have transformed our web presence, and we have continued to campaign for recognition of research software engineering. With this success comes more ability to effect change, but also much more responsibility, and this is why we believe that it is time to form a professional organisation.

The UKRSE started as a collaboration that was backed by the legal and financial support of the University of Southampton (and the work of a lot of dedicated volunteers). We are incredibly grateful for this support, but its informal nature is not keeping pace with the community’s growth. A major focus in 2016/2017 has been developing the legal documents necessary to register the UKRSE as a “Charitable Incorporated Organisation”. This will allow us to hold funds, employ staff and operate as an independent organisation that represents only the interests of the RSE community.

What do you need from me?

The UKRSE is a democratic organisation, so we do not make changes of any magnitude without consulting our members. Transforming to a professional organisation will mean that we maintain some free services (such as our mailing list and Slack), but we will start charging an anticipated £10-£20 annual fee for people who want to support the RSE Community by becoming members of the Society. We want you to review our proposal and the reasoning behind it, and then vote on whether we should go ahead.

A vote on the proposal will be held online in the run up to the RSE Conference 2017. The voting form is here, with the deadline to vote being 5.45pm on Thursday 7th September.

Can I help?

You can help by commenting on the proposed constitution for the Society, which will be made available in the new year (especially if you have legal training or experience of charity governance!). You can join the Society from mid-2018.

What is a “Charitable Incorporated Organisation”, or CIO?

A CIO is a relatively new type of UK legal organisation that, mostly, is equivalent to a charity. After studying all of the possible types of legal organisation, the committee concluded that a CIO was the best fit for UKRSE. It provides the benefits of a charity with light-touch regulation and reporting requirements.

What will change?

The Society will be an independent legal entity that can financially support RSE activities, rather than an informal organisation with no legal presence. Its goals will be the same as those of the UKRSE, but the Society will be empowered to achieve those goals more easily. The ability to raise funds and, ultimately, employ staff will mean that the Society can have a far greater impact than is possible with the current UKRSE. Elections for the Society’s committee will become more formal, and the Society will be bound by a legal constitution.

The UKRSE is a free-to-join organisation. The Society will charge a small subscription (anticipated to be £10-20) for membership. The Society will still maintain a free-to-join mailing list on which anyone can learn about RSE activities. But only paid-for members will be able to stand for election or vote on Society matters.

What happens to the existing UKRSE committee?

With a few changes of committee members, we are proposing to keep the current committee in place until the RSE Conference in September 2018. It takes time to complete the legal requirements for setting up a society, and the practical reason is that more time is needed to make the change. If the proposal goes ahead, we will be legally bound to hold committee elections within 9 months of professionalisation, which will align with the proposed date for the RSE Conference 2018.

At that stage, and every year hence, 50% of the committee will stand down at each AGM and be replaced through a vote from the Society’s members.

To keep the current committee fresh, a small number of committee members who are unable to continue their service will be stepping down at the AGM at the RSE Conference in September 2017, and three new members will join.

Is this all really necessary?

We believe that this change is fundamentally important. With hundreds of people attending events, a position of authority in the research community, and the income generated by events like the RSE Conference, we are presented with a level of financial and legal responsibility that is simply not possible to sustain through our informal support by the University of Southampton. We agree that this is a tedious, involved and legal process, but we believe that it is 100% necessary to ensure a future for the RSE community in the UK.

What if I disagree?

You can raise concerns with the committee (see below) and, if they are not answered to your satisfaction, you can vote down the proposal.

We have thoroughly researched and debated the various options and the committee are confident that this is the best way forward. These changes are really needed so if the proposal is not accepted it will put the community in a very difficult position and could halt our good work. Also, without a positive vote the present committee would lack a mandate to continue for a further year to implement this, so fresh elections would need to be called.

How can I ask questions?

Please ask questions in Slack (in the #constitution channel) or by emailing the current UKRSE committee (info@rse.ac.uk). There will also be opportunities for you to ask questions of the committee in person at the AGM held as part of #RSE17. If you are not attending #RSE17 in person, then please email your questions, or get in touch, as we may be able to arrange your virtual attendance of the AGM via Skype.