Research IT

Building a Vibrant Research Software Community

Aman Goel, Research Software Engineer and Software Sustainability Institute Fellow, outlines plans for creating a research software community bringing together people involved with or interested in research software from across the University.

We have a culture of open, sustainable, and FAIR research software at the university, and yet, there is an absence of a University-wide research software community that fosters support, collaboration and dissemination of these ideas. This can lead to people who write research software feeling unsupported and unsure where to turn to for help and advice.

We realise how essential communities can be for people to grow and learn from others. Hence, Research IT aims to establish a University-wide ‘Community of Practice’ dedicated to research software and digital tools driven by the central Research Software Engineering (RSE) department based in Research IT. The community would be open to anyone involved in research across the University with an interest in research software and FAIR principles, regardless of experience.

Our Plan

We have devised a broad plan to cultivate the community :

  • Create a Research Software Community Space: We will establish a dedicated ‘Research Software Community’ within the Computation and Data in Research (CaDiR) community space on the University Teams platform. This will serve as a central hub for collaboration, knowledge sharing and support.
  • Encourage Knowledge Sharing and Discussions: Our online Teams space will foster a lively community where people can share their expertise, seek advice, and engage in discussions.
  • Shaping the Community Together: We value the input and feedback of the community members. We will actively seek their opinions and ideas to shape our future activities including meetings and identifying training needs.
  • Facilitate Collaborative Learning Events: We will host a series of engaging events designed to promote collaborative learning and knowledge sharing. We will take an approach where presenters can ‘come as they are’ and talk about current work and technology interests. The topics would be collected from the community to help drive important and timely conversations in the software space.

Activities within the Community

As a part of our research software community, we will host a range of activities:

  • Training Events: We will organise training sessions to help the community members upskill and adopt best practices.
  • Informal Chats: Researchers from diverse disciplines will have the chance to connect, network and build interdisciplinary collaborations.
  • Show and Tell Sessions: Community members can showcase their work, receive feedback and gain recognition for it.
  • Troubleshooting Sessions: We will provide dedicated troubleshooting sessions where researchers can bring their problems and receive assistance from experts and peers.
  • Career Development Discussions: We recognise the importance of career growth in research infrastructure roles, which are often under-represented in existing software communities. Hence, we will host discussions on career paths and development opportunities in these areas.
  • Soft Skills and Developer Health: Building well-rounded researchers involves more than technical expertise. We will facilitate discussions around soft skills, leadership, project management, developer health to support holistic professional development.
  • Mentorship Network: Establishing a mentorship network within the community will provide invaluable guidance and support to community members at all stages of their careers
  • Identifying Skill Gaps: We will assist community members in identifying skill gaps and offer resources to bridge those gaps effectively.
  • Collaborations and Joint Events: We will seek collaborations with other special interest groups such as R User Group, Data Science Club, and more to expand the reach and impact of our community
  • Integration with National Research Software Networks: We will facilitate connections with national research software networks such as the Society of Research Software Engineering, N8 CIR and the Software Sustainability Institute to provide broader opportunities for community members.

Join Us and Stay Connected

We are excited to announce that our first meeting will be held on the 21st of November so sign up now. To stay updated with the latest news and developments, subscribe to the RIT newsletter, and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

You can also join the Computation and Data in Research (CaDiR) Teams space here if you’re not a member yet!

If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to get involved behind the scenes, please don't hesitate to email me - we would love to hear from you!