A growing number of people in academia 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. This means there is no easy way to recognise their contribution, to reward them, or to represent their views.
Without a name, it is difficult for people to rally around a cause, so we created the term Research Software Engineer. We are now working to raise awareness of the role and bring the community together.
Some Research Software Engineers start off as researchers who spend time developing software to progress their research. Because they enjoy this work and have invested in developing specialist skills, they continue to focus on software and its use in research. Others start off from a more conventional software-development background and are drawn to research by the challenge of using software to further research.
The attraction of being a Research Software Engineer is similar to that of being a researcher: the role attracts people who want to know how the world works. The Research Software Engineer works with researchers to gain an understanding of the problems they face, and then develops, maintains and extends software to provide the answers.
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?