Rise of the RSE

Mike Croucher

Head of Research Computing, University of Leeds

Co-Founder of Sheffield RSE group http://rse.shef.ac.uk/

EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow

Twitter: @walkingrandomly

What is an RSE?


History of the international RSE movement


Background reading


How to build an RSE team

Neil Lawrence (2014)

"How would you like to ditch your commute,

and change the world?"

Sheffield RSE - March 2015



Enhance The University of Sheffield's capacity to produce high quality, efficient and sustainable research software

....for the entirely of human knowledge

....in all relevant languages and technologies

My 'plan'

  1. Help academics with software
  2. ??????
  3. ??????
  4. Profit!!!

Sheffield RSE - Sept 2017

Sheffield RSE - March 2018

  • Mostly grant funded
  • Mostly permanent/long term contracts
  • Support entire university
  • Underwitten by IT and faculty of Engineering

My task now

    Do it again at Leeds

How did we do it?

Find someone who needs you

aka 'Take away their pain'

The ideal

Results = TheAnalysis(MyData)


Many researchers

  • I am under-resourced
  • I lack training
  • I don't have time
  • I feel so alone

FATPOU Support

aka 'No job too small'

aka 'The first hit is free'

FATPOU is vital

Organically discover researcher needs

Build reputation and relationships

Let RSEs develop themselves

Provide quick wins

FATPOU needs institutional buy-in

CATPOU Support

aka 'Win grants'

aka 'grant support'

aka 'The pay off'

Sheffield RSE - Co-founders

Fractional RSEs on grants

Align with the University business

aka 'Speak their language'

aka 'Be everywhere'

HPC in Urban Studies courses


aka 'Coding isn't enough'

Focus on people

We have a problem!

Gary Mcindoe

The talk

RSE problems

  • No career pathway
  • Not recognised by HR as a thing
  • Not many RSE groups
  • Lack of recognition for software itself

Accept it

This is how things are.

We are agents of change


aka 'Find allies'


  • IT department
  • The library
  • Departmental RSEs
  • Sheffield R User's group


  • UK RSE
  • Tier-2 HPC centres
  • Software Sustainability Institute
  • Archer Champions
  • RSE-Leaders


  • Software Carpentry
  • JuliaCon
  • Mozilla OpenScience
  • OpenDreamKit


aka 'Monocultures considered harmful'

Diversity - people

Diversity - people

Diversity - people

Diversity - technology

What next for RSE?

  • Improved recognition
  • Improve career structure
  • A growth in the number of software experts
  • Greater access to skills for researchers

What next for RSE?


Copyright: niserin / 123RF Stock Photo