If we value software, we need "a fundamental sea-change" in academia

Author: Simon Hettrick
Posted: 17 May 2013 | 09:26

Combining the skills of a scientific researcher and a software developer, the research software engineer is ideally placed to bring scientific software up to scratch. An ongoing discussion that began at the Collaborations Workshop asks what obstacles need to be removed to clear the way.

Beneath the arched ceilings and elaborate chandeliers of Queen’s College, at the University of Oxford, an odd mix of researchers and software developers congregated last March. The Collaborations Workshop, organised by the Software Sustainability Institute (the Institute), brought together people from all sorts of backgrounds to discuss the future of scientific software development. And it was here, under the gaze of beautifully robed portraits, that they began to map out a new career path in the difficult terrain of academia.

Developing software for research doesn’t just require the person to be a skilled developer. They also need to have an in-depth knowledge of the science, so they can fully grasp the scientific lingo and the problems they are trying to solve. While some come from a software engineering background and choose to specialise in science, others are researchers at heart who have learnt to develop their own software. While these people can go by many names, the Institute calls them research software engineers.

More information about the research software engineer and the Institute's plans for ensuring that this vital role is recognised by the research community can be found in the original article on the Institute's blog.