The research software engineering group at Princeton University recently received six bids from departments interested in working with it, when it only has the resources to take on one. Group lead Ian Cosden hopes he can use this as a demonstration of increasing demand and argue for further funding. The group’s funding model sees the university pay for 50% of each project, and the department involved for the other half. These tend to be long-term projects lasting several months or even years, Cosden says. “We really work more as a partner collaborator to complement existing software engineering approaches within research groups.”
The group is currently working on four projects, and recently asked departments to bid for the fifth. “We have the central funding in place for 50%, so we put a call out saying ‘if you’re interested, submit a letter of intent, to begin the proposal process’. We expected two or three – and got six,” Cosden says. “Word has gotten out that these projects are successful and now everyone wants one.”
Users have reported that they are able to ask different questions and explore new avenues of science that were impossible before, due to the RSE group’s input, Cosden says. When other groups see that, they want to get involved.
Cosden hopes to take advantage of this momentum to gain more central funding, to allow him to hire more RSEs and bring in more projects. “We’re going to bring it to senior administration and say, look, here are six compelling proposals for how we can help research. Let’s try and find the ability to do this,” he says.