Research Software Development & Management in Universities: Case Studies from Manchester's RSDS Group, Illinois' NCSA, and Notre Dame's CRC
Citation: Daniel S. Katz, Kenton McHenry, Caleb Reinking, Robert Haines (2019/05/28) Research Software Development & Management in Universities: Case Studies from Manchester's RSDS Group, Illinois' NCSA, and Notre Dame's CRC. SE4Science (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1109/SE4Science.2019.00009
arXiv (preprint): arXiv:1903.00732
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1109/SE4Science.2019.00009
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1109/SE4Science.2019.00009
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Research Software Development & Management in Universities: Case Studies from Manchester's RSDS Group, Illinois' NCSA, and Notre Dame's CRC
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) research software engineering (RSS)
Academic research software is primarily developed by faculty, students, and staff. This is a case study on three different organizations to manage research software engineer staff.
- These Research Software Engineer (RSE) groups have more in common than not.
- The RSE group is not a part of a single department, because it serves multiple.
- Services: software engineering, support for specific applications, training others.
- RSEs can provide long-term focus when grad students and postdocs cycle through.
- Promotions follow (but not exactly) the same structure in traditional academia.
- Research software engineers (RSEs) have some independence to choose which project they work on.
- RSEs can work on multiple projects. This way they can specialize in a domain, more can benefit from their experience. "Big projects anchor small projects, small projects broaden big projects."
- RSEs can embed within the academic lab during bootstrapping.
- RSEs can bring good software practice into those labs.
- Funding is "soft." Rather than fund a specific person on a specific project, they fund a specific project, and the people can be shuffled through.
- The cost of RSE labor is billed into each individual project, but the RSEs are (partly) insulated from contract-based academic funding.
- These groups require institutional funding to provide job security for RSEs, to fund the management of the RSE org, and other costs.
- Notre Dame's CRC teams follow agile more closely, with a product owner and scrum master.
- "Additional topics that need more community discussion include recognition that an RSE is distinct from a typical industry programmer or a general academic IT staff member; how RSEs should be written into funding proposals; and how universities can provide support to address the non-grant fundable aspects of software development such as group management and long-term maintaining of software capabilities"