RSLondonSouthEast 2020: Bringing together researchers and RSEs in the London and South East of England region

Jeremy Cohen, Department of Computing, Imperial College London and RSLondonSouthEast Workshop Chair

On Thursday 6th February 2020, nearly 100 researchers, RSEs, software engineers, funder representatives and others with an interest in research software gathered at the Royal Society in London for RSLondonSouthEast 2020.

This was the 2nd annual gathering of the Research Software London (RSLondon) community and as attendees arrived and collected their delegate badges in the morning, there was a great sense of enthusiasm for the day of talks, networking and discussion that lay ahead.

After a short introduction by Jeremy Cohen, the workshop chair, the workshop kicked off with the morning keynote from James Hetherington, Director of e-Infrastructure for UKRI with his thought-provoking talk “Data & Computers & Code & People: four infrastructural challenges for computational science and digital scholarship”. James looked at some important challenges for UK digital research and where these fit in the research landscape. The morning keynote was followed by the first of three talk sessions.

The workshop accepted abstract submissions for either regular talks or lightning talks. Regular talks were assigned a 20-minute slot including approximately 5 minutes for questions. Lightning talks were assigned 5-minute slots including time for one brief question. The three talk sessions included a total of 7 regular talks and 6 lightning talks covering a wide range of topics and domains.

Prior to the lunch break, we had a presentation by Sarah King from UKRI EPSRC, the main sponsor of the workshop, highlighting the various schemes through which EPSRC have provided extensive support to software-related research and RSEs in recent years. Sarah’s presentation was followed by the poster lightning talks – an opportunity for the presenters of the 9 posters in the lunchtime poster session to give a brief 2-minute pitch highlighting their poster. The poster lightning talks were chaired by Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, University of Southampton. In his role as a trustee of the Society of Research Software Engineering, sponsor of the poster session, Simon gave a brief introduction to the society, its aims and activities, and how to sign up.

After a morning of interesting and informative talks it was time for a well-deserved lunch break and a chance to chat with the other attendees and take a look at the posters.

The afternoon session began with a fascinating keynote from Camilla Longden of Microsoft Research. Camilla talked about some impressive machine learning use cases showing how ML techniques have been applied to solve problems across a wide range of different domains.

In the afternoon discussion session, participants were asked to think about wishlists – things that they consider most important or would most like to see – across four different areas of the research software domain. Each of the four topics – Policy, Training, Community and Software Development – was assigned to two tables and participants were invited to switch to a table hosting the topic they were most interested in. The eight groups spent around 30 minutes talking through their ideas and coming up with a list of the 5 most important points they felt were relevant in their area. As chair of the session, Neil Chue Hong, Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, University of Edinburgh, then went through each of the 4 topics, inviting the two tables covering each topic to report back on their discussion and key points. Neil wrote up a summary of the responses from the groups as he went round the room. The discussion session gathered some really interesting feedback and the session organisers will be writing up the outputs from the discussion as a blog post.

It was great to see lots of activity during the day on Twitter and you can check out some of the posts by looking at the hashtag #RSLondonSE2020.

Following closing remarks from the chair, the workshop was over all too soon, for another year. We thank the sponsors, speakers and attendees for making this another enjoyable workshop and RSLondonSouthEast will be back in 2021. In the meantime, be sure to check out the variety of other interesting workshops and events in the RSE calendar over the coming year. Next up is the SSI’s Collaborations Workshop (CW20) taking place in Belfast, 31st March-2nd April.

About the author: jgraham