Learning more about the Research Software Engineer community

Author: Guest blogger
Posted: 14 Mar 2016 | 12:55

This article is published on behalf of Simon Hettrick from the Software Sustainability Institute.

I love starting a new policy campaign. There’s this sweet spot of no responsibility between the time when you first raise an issue and the time when you’re first asked “Where’s the evidence?”. After that, life far more difficult. 

We’ve been campaigning for Research Software Engineers (RSEs) since 2013. It’s been an interesting campaign, because many of the people we sought to represent weren’t aware that there were hundreds of people like them. Our first step was to raise awareness of the issue, which involved giving the role a name that people could get behind. We helped set up the UK RSE Association – which boasts over 500 members - got the press interested and ran some events. Now that we have a community, people can legitimately ask for evidence about it.

It’s time for a survey.

We’ve argued that RSEs are fundamental to the work of research groups, but their role is overlooked and not rewarded. Consequently, people want to know whether RSEs are happy in their job, whether they are recognised on papers, and whether they are rewarded both financially and through promotion.

In addition to this insight into the career of an RSE, we’ve used the survey to collect information about the projects they are working on, things like the bus factor, and provision for technical hand over. This will help us measure how important RSEs are to the research they support. What happens if your RSE moves to another project?

We’re also using the survey to learn more about the RSE community – specifically about the skills they think are most important, and the skills they would like to acquire. This will allow us to work on training to support the RSE Community.

We’ll write a report to summarise the survey and will use the evidence we collect to support our campaign. In the meantime, if you would like to complete the survey, or know people who should, please distribute this link:



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