International Leaders Workshop

30th-31st January 2018 at the Alan Turing Institute, London

Bringing together leaders of Research Software Engineering groups and communities around the world to help each other improve access to software expertise in research by pooling knowledge, coordinating efforts and establishing collaboration. 

Participants were people running (or setting up) RSE groups, national networks or initiatives. People with knowledge of, and the ability to influence, RSE provision in their country. We defined RSE groups as teams of dedicated software developers working with researchers on software and providing tools, advice, collaboration and training, though group names and job titles vary.

To find out more about what was achieved at the workshop, see this blog post and this poster


  • Improve the ability of RSE leaders to influence funding and career structures in their countries
  • Support the establishment of further national RSE networks
  • Instigate international collaboration and coordination on RSE matters
  • Connect RSE leaders to spark collaborations between them and their onward networks
  • Understand similarities and differences in the RSE landscape and funding between countries


Day 1 – Tues 30th
08:30 – 09:00Arrival, coffee and pastries
09:00 – 09:30Introduction and talk on UK landscape
09:30 – 11:00Invited Talks (Session 1)
11:00 – 11:30Refreshment Break
11:30 – 13:002 Minute Lightning Talks
13:00 – 14:00Lunch
14:00 – 15:30Invited Talks (Session 2)
15:30 – 16:00Refreshment Break
16:00 – 17:30Breakout Pitches & Brainstorming
17:30 – 19:00Free time /  Pre Dinner Drinks
19:00 – 21:30Workshop Dinner at The Somers Town Coffee House
Day 2 – Wed 31st
09:00 – 09:30Introduction
09:30 – 11:00Breakouts
11:00 – 11:30Refreshment Break
11:30 – 13:00Breakouts
13:00 – 14:00Lunch
14:00 – 15:15Feedback from breakouts
15:15 – 15:30Closing Summary
15:30 – 16:00Refreshment Break

Invited Talks

David E. Bernholdt, Jay Jay Billings, and Barney MacCabe
Making RSE Visible and Supported at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
While Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has long had de facto research software engineers (RSEs) and at least the rudiments of a job track that they can follow, historically, RSEs have mostly been in the shadows. Through an internal Scientific Software Initiative, we are now working to enhance ORNL’s software development capabilities while simultaneously making RSEs more visible and better supported within the institution. While very much a work in progress, I will discuss how we’re trying to “professionalize” software development at ORNL, including career path and professional development issues, and our funding and management model. I will also discuss some of the similarities and differences between the national laboratory and academic environments with respect to RSEs.

Ian Cosden
Research Software Engineering at Princeton University
The Research Software Engineering group within the central Research Computing department at Princeton University has expanded rapidly in the last year growing from a single person to a team of five. 2018 promises continued growth as demand for the unique skills of RSEs has exceeded both expectations and capacity. In this talk, I will outline the current Research Computing landscape at Princeton and how the RSE group is differentiated from other Research Computing efforts. I will cover the unique ways we have deviated from traditional funding models and organizational structures as well as some of the obstacles we encountered in establishing the group. I will briefly discuss how we hope to capitalize on the current success of the group and our plans for some of the long-term challenges we anticipate.

Samar Elsheikh
Sudan’s first Software Carpentry
Lack of relevant lab experience and programming skills is one of many specific challenges that face individual researchers and research teams in Sudan. Organising local and informative training programs, establishing consulting unit and providing support and guidance are common ways to overcome that. In this talk I will motivate the need of establishing a national RSE community in Sudan, through highlighting the researchers expectations, organisation, ups and downs of the first Software Carpentry in Sudan.

Sandra Gesing
Research Software Engineers, Science Gateway Developers and Cyberpractitioners – Initiatives in the US
The conceptualization of the US Research Software Sustainability Institute (URSSI) just received funding in December 2017 and aims at building the focal point for RSEs in the US similar to SSI in the UK. The Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI), opened in August 2016, provides free resources, services, experts, and ideas for creating and sustaining science gateways on national and international level. Science gateways – also called virtual research environments or virtual labs – allow science and engineering communities to access shared data, software, computing services, instruments, and other resources specific to their disciplines and use them also in teaching environments. Especially the goals of the workforce development and incubator services have a broad overlap with RSE initiatives to improve career paths of developers and building on-campus developer teams. ACI-REFs (Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research and Education Facilitators) is a synonym for RSEs and the goal of the project and the trainings aims also at building a network and training the trainers for efficient research software support. The talk will give an overview on the diverse initiatives and highlights the international collaboration possibilities.

Teresa Gomez-Diaz, Geneviève Romier
The research software landscape in France
The context were RSE work: the research organisation in France (entities and institutes, universities and laboratories)
Who are the RSE and what is their profession with a few stats
How their work is organised (labs, professional networks)
What are the possible sources of funding
Initiatives and projects about research software

Scott Henwood
Research Software Engineering in Canada
Canada does not have a formal RSE community, but CANARIE is taking steps to change this. Best known for being the federal partner in Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN), CANARIE also has been funding and supporting research software development for the past decade. Recently, an initiative was launched to kick-start the national RSE community by funding local RSE teams at selected institutions. Scott will share how this initiative has come about and its expected outcomes. He will also discuss the longer-term vision for growing and fostering a national RSE community in Canada.

Chris Hill
The RSE landscape in the MIT region and research computing Q&A forums
This presentation will briefly review the research computing landscape
at MIT and some associated regional collaborations. It will look at the community of research software engineer type roles that are part of that landscape. Preliminary efforts to leverage Q&A forums (
to build a stronger identity for all aspects of research computing will be reported on. Ways (and some challenges) for workshop participants to hopefully engage in, help with and benefit from making this Q&A activity a vibrant, successful, global endeavour/experiment will be discussed.

Stephan Janosch, Martin Hammitzsch
Research Software Engineering in Germany
Right now the RSE movement in Germany is in the process of establishing an association. This talk will cover the way towards this founding process, the persons involved and the tools they use. The challenges we face are diverse and telling the leasons learnt can benefit other RSEs.

Radek Lonka
The RSE in Nordic countries
There are two known initiatives in Nordic countries which can be close to Research Software Engineering. First, the Code Refinery, whose goal is to teach students and researchers how to write better code and provide research groups with software development e-infrastructure tools by providing workshops and services. This project is aimed at the whole Nordic region. Not being part of the team I will only briefly talk about this project. The second project, the Industrial Ecology Digital Lab, is a two member group doing daily RSE jobs within an international program at NTNU University of Norway. In this talk, I will discuss Digital Lab as its member and talk about the beginning and journey of this group.

Melissa Weber Mendonça
Research Software Engineering in Brazil
In Brazil, there are no “researchers” – that’s not a job title! In fact, people are expected to work in academia doing three jobs at the same time: to teach lectures, to do research and to work in university extension programs. In this scenario, we must reimagine how to fit Research Software Engineers in our institutions, and how to advance the understanding that coding is research among other researchers and funding agencies. In this talk, I will describe the current situation for researchers in Brazil, and discuss some possible ways forward.

Aleksandra Pawlik
The research software engineering landscape in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia
Research Software Engineering community is growing on the Southern Hemisphere. On the both sides of the Tasman Sea there has been significant interest learning more about RSE characteristics and goals. During the 8th Workshop on Sustainable Software for Science: Practice and Experience (WSSSPE), held in Auckland in October 2017, a group of us discussed the next steps which will help in brining the RSE community together. This talk will highlight them and we hope to get more feedback from the international community.

Educational Initiatives at The Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI)
Daniel Smith
The Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI) is launching a series of educational initiatives throughout the United States who’s aim is to increase the usage of “best practices” (version control, continuous integrating, code coverage, etc) within the computational molecular sciences (CMS) community. These initiatives target either new graduate students, established graduate students, or specific CMS packages that already exist, but do not incorporate these best practices. A short discussion is held outlining these initiatives along with details on how MolSSI is attempting to maximize its impact within budgetary and personnel constraints.

Research Software Engineering in the Netherlands
Ben van Werkhoven, James Meakin
In 2017, the NL-RSE chapter was established by members of the Netherlands eScience Center, and the membership has quickly grown across the country. In this presentation we will present an overview of how Research Software Engineering is done in the Netherlands, from the Netherlands eScience Center who provide RSE resources to the nation, to a nascent RSE group at a teaching hospital in the east of the country. We will also present some preliminary results from the national NL-RSE survey conducted in December 2017.


The workshop was organised by the UK RSE Association with input on the programme from RSE leaders in at least five other countries. The participation of the speakers from USA was funded by EPSRC under a UK USA RSE Travel Award.

About the author: mturner