Dispatch from the Oxford Research Software Developers Network kick-off meeting

On 05 May 2015 an email was circulated within the Digital Humanities at the University of Oxford calling colleagues that were working as research software (including data) developers. The idea was to keep in touch, share experiences and learn from each other; as well finding similar roles when contracts end (as University of Oxford works a lot with fixed-term contracts).

From the email:

The Oxford e-Research Centre, Computer Science and the Digital Humanities are working to set up a University-wide network of “Research Software Developers” (RSDs): those who combine expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research, and support the work of researchers in developing the (usually bespoke) software that is fundamental to so much of modern research. Many such people are employed across the University, but are not always well supported by cross-university structures. As a result they are often isolated and difficult to retain within the University. We are thus looking to connect these individuals in order to share expertise, provide appropriate advanced training, and facilitate re-employment with the University, hence optimising the use of their skills to enhance the University’s research.

After a short survey was circulated and a mail-list had been formed, the first kick-off meeting happened on 8th June 2015. I participated in this meeting (as a team member of BDLSS) and below are some of my notes of the event.

The people that had their names down on the agenda (possibly starting it all) were:

  • Jonathan Cooper, Computer Science
  • David Robey, Oxford e-Research Centre & Digital Humanities
  • Wes Armour, Oxford e-Research Centre
  • Charles Crowther, Classics
  • Michael Davis, Bodleian Libraries

Jonathan Cooper started the discussion and presented a few ideas, based on the survey. The main focus of the discussion was to:

  • decide the frequency, location and time of day for regular meetings
  • decide the content of the meetings (particularly for Michaelmas 2015)
  • summarize the suggestions made in the survey responses
  • create a representative body to facilitate placement and lobby for recognition

A few trends and popular suggestions emerged in the discussion:

  • interests: sharing, networking, training, career development
  • meeting types: lightning talks, discussions, training courses, longer talks, hackathons
  • content focuses: groups, services, material, courses

Looking forward, the discussion settled on 1-2 hour monthly meetings, lightning talks and discussions, and occasionally longer events.

A few points were made about the importance of having a profile within the network to allow discoverability: not necessarily a whole CV, but basic information and links to your other profiles online (LinkedIn, Github accounts, etc.).

On 25/06/2015 a Slack account was created, which you can join at https://rsdn.slack.com/signup/. The initial website for the Research Software Developers Network (Oxford RSDN) is at http://rsdn.oerc.ox.ac.uk. The next meeting of the network will be held on Tuesday 28th July at 9.30-10.30am in Lecture Theatre B in the Wolfson Building, Computer Science department. If you are interested, just come along. For more information on how to get involved visit http://rsdn.oerc.ox.ac.uk/.

– Monica Messaggi Kaya