The Research Software Engineering (RSE) initiative at Imperial College London was established in response to growing recognition within the university of the importance of good software development practices in research, says RSE Team Lead Mark Woodbridge. This recognition motivated the creation of a centrally-supported RSE group integrated within the existing research computing provision, an approach that was endorsed by an external service review.
Woodbridge is now building this group of specialised developers.
“Not everyone at Imperial was previously aware of the RSE role, but the research community gave us a clear message that they could benefit from advice and support in using appropriate technology to accelerate their research,” Woodbridge says.
Woodbridge took up the role three months ago, and was joined by a senior RSE in January, with a view to recruiting more staff later in 2018.
“The College listened to advice from inside and outside the university, and this provided the initial impetus for what we’re doing. Of course, a business case had to be made on how the group could be economically and strategically justified, but we were fortunate to get agreement at the highest level. So now we’re building the team,” Woodbridge says.
“We’re growing our service organically, and continuing to evangelise and make the case for how we can improve not just productivity but also research integrity, reproducibility and scientific rigour. The job is never done – you always have to demonstrate the value that you’re providing,” he says.