11am - 2:45pm
Wednesday 9 May 2018

What is research software engineering?

A research software engineer (RSE) combines expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research.


University of Surrey
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  • Simon Hettrick
  • Mike Croucher
  • Evren Imre


In line with the emerging understanding of software as a research infrastructure, there has been a growing recognition of the RSE role: an enabling actor that collaborates with researchers to create maintainable, extensible and reusable software; makes it a tool for communicating the generated knowledge; and facilitates reproducible research.

Register for the event

If this describes you, who you want to be, who you want to have around, or you are just intrigued, please send an email to Evren Imre to register for the event.


11am - 1145am

A Brief History of Research Software Engineers

Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, Co-Director of the Southampton Research Software Group.

11:45am - 11:55amCoffee break
11:55am - 12:40pm

How can RSE Change Your University for the Better?

Mike Croucher, Director of
Research Computing at the University of Leeds, EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow.

12:40pm - 1:45pmLunch
1:45pm - 2:15pm

Vignettes from my Adventures in Research Software Development

Evren Imre, Research Fellow at CVSSP.

2:15pm - 2:45pm

Here be Dragons

Christian Kroos, Research Software Developer at CVSSP.


Back in 2009, the Research Councils were starting to be concerned not only at the amount of software that was being used in research, but also at the lack of support for this new and soon-to-be ubiquitous research tool. One important response to this concern was the foundation of the Software Sustainability Institute. The Institute soon realised that there was a missing role in research, and this led directly to their Research Software Engineer (RSE) campaign which has changed the shape of the research community.

In this talk I will review the scale of software use in academia, detail the community into which the Software Sustainability Institute took a leading position and describe the history of the Research Software Engineer campaign: From the coining of the term, to the growth of the UK community, to the spread of RSE activities across the world.

I will end with a discussion on the "average" RSE using details from the last RSE survey, and then detail the main successes of the RSE campaign.


Simon is Deputy Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, and Co-Director of the Southampton Research Software Group.

Simon is responsible for research and campaigning at the Institute. He works with stakeholders from across the research community to develop policies that support research software, the people who develop that software and the researchers who rely on it. Simon's research focuses on the use of software in the research community with the aim of understanding practices and demographics.

Simon is a passionate advocate for Research Software Engineers. He orchestrated a five-year campaign to gain recognition for this group, which has since grown into a substantial international community. He was the founding chair of the UK's Association of Research Software Engineers. He is the Principal Investigator of the RSE Network.

Simon is a member of the UKRI expert group on e-Infrastructure. He has a background in patent law, and holds a PhD in laser physics.

In early 2015, Sheffield’s central RSE team had one member: Me.

Three years later, it was made up of a diverse group of people who supported research software in many forms across the entire university with income measured in millions. In this talk I'll discuss how we did this, the impacts we made to the University and how we had a lot of fun along the way.


Mike is Director of Research Computing at The University of Leeds and an EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow. Previous roles include being the co-founder of the RSE group at the University of Sheffield and Head of Research Software Support in the faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester.

Mike's entire career has been focused on one thing: To enable researchers and educators to do computing better.

He is additionally a Principal Investigator on the EU funded OpenDreamKit project which supports the open source mathematical software ecosystem, Co-Investigator on the national RSE network and has had his name on a bunch of other grants where he supported software stuff.

He blogs on Walking Randomly and tweets for @walkingrandomly.

Research software development still has its uncharted territories. These pertain less to the resulting
product; the software, than the development process itself.

The availability of research software strongly influences the direction of research by offering novel data acquisition and analysis methods, and by reducing the time and financial resources a researcher has to spend on the creation of software tools.

Yet currently, the design process happens mostly on the fly, only taking the requirement of the task at hand into account. Guiding principles (going beyond best practices in general software development) as they are established e.g. for digital user interface design (structure principle, simplicity principle, etc.) are missing.

The specific nature of research software sets it apart from other software. Particularly in engineering, research software is typically developed against the background of a fast changing research field, often enmeshed in a heterogeneous software environment and its users are likely to be highly proficient in the use of computers.

In this talk I will present some considerations on research software design based on my own experiences developing research software, both as a researcher and as a research software developer.


Christian Kroos is a cognitive scientist with focus on algorithm development. He was awarded an MA and PhD in Phonetics and Speech Communication with Logic as minor by the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität (Munich, Germany).

Over the last two decades he has conducted research in:

  • Germany at the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität
  • Japan at the ATR, Kyoto
  • USA at the Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT
  • Australia at the Western Sydney University and Sydney and Curtin University, Perth
  • The UK.

Spanning cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and the arts.

He currently works as Research Software Developer at the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) at the University of Surrey.

The nature of computer vision research makes it inseparable from software development. Over the 18 years I have been a vision researcher, I did my fair share of development activity, and then a bit more.

In this talk, I will discuss some of my worst ideas, some of my best ideas, and hope to impart some of the lessons I picked up along the way.


Evren Imre is a computer vision researcher, specialising on camera tracking and multiview geometry.

He was awarded his PhD on Electrical and Electronics Engineering by Middle East Technical
University, Ankara, Turkey. After a brief stint at INRIA, Nancy-Grand Est, France as a post-doctoral
researcher, he joined the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP), University of
Surrey, where he has been a research fellow for nine years.

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