By the time he was making the case for setting up an RSE group at the University of Bristol, Christopher Woods had already proved how useful the resource could be. Becoming an EPSRC research software engineer Fellow in 2015 helped tip the balance.
Woods had been offering training and advice on using Bristol’s advanced computing research facility as a volunteer since 2006, when he was a postdoc Chemistry student. “Then I got a job as technical lead in the synthetic research centre, BrisSynBio, with the role of RSE included as part of the job,” Woods says.
The new role let him work with a much broader range of people across the university, and be in the right place when “there was a growing realisation that we were falling behind”, he says.
When the EPSRC’s Fellow programme was announced in 2015, Woods was encouraged to apply. “I was told: “you already know what you’re doing, and you’re already building a kind of RSE service. If you get this, then the University will give you lots and lots of support.’ So I did. And that made it very easy to build the political will,” he says.
“I got a very nice letter of support from the university, £50,000 in upfront capita, and real commitment to providing permanent positions. To argue for a group like this you need political backing from the university, you need to be respected, and you need to have the agency to do it – and I had already build that. So I was able to turn what I had been doing unofficially into an official role,” he says.