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Researchers represent Centre at annual conference for Research Software Engineers

Five researchers from FAIRsharing and the larger Data Readiness Group at the University of Oxford attended RSECon22 in early September, presenting a poster and several talks during the conference

From left: Graham Lee, Allyson Lister, Ramon Granell and Prakhyat Gailani. Image by Milo Thurston

RSECon is the annual conference for Research Software Engineers (RSEs), this year taking place online and in person at the Frederick Douglass Centre at Newcastle University.

Oxford e-Research Centre Senior Researcher Ramon Granell presented a poster on the semi-automatic mapping of external scientific databases into the FAIRsharing platform, alongside Dr Milo Thurston. Ramon, who works with Professor Susanna-Assunta Sansone in the area of data management across all research areas, says, “Meeting again in person with the RSE community has been a great experience. I enjoyed both the conference talks and social events. I especially found interesting how RSE experiences and common challenges and difficulties were shared. For example, 'coding confessions' was a great session in which seven software developers confessed a big error they have made when developing research code. The talk that Prof Neil Ferguson (University College London) gave about how the epidemiologists and RSE worked together in a record time to develop tools to analyse Covid data was brilliant. I also like examples of interdisciplinary applications that use Machine Learning, e.g. an inspiring writing tool for kids trained with thousand of tales, and a healthcare platform to monitor people with dementia using house sensors.“

Milo Thurston, RSE and Technical Coordinator of the FAIRsharing project, adds, “Having attended this conference since it started it’s heartening to see how the community has increased in size; the event was surprisingly crowded and noisy at times, packing the main lecture theatre and the social events. Perhaps these large numbers will hasten a better understanding within university departments of the important role of the RSE, an understanding which has developed quite slowly. The benefit of such events is not necessarily learning new skills, but finding out what new things there are to learn. This one was no exception, with some interesting discussions on licensing, citations and funding (particularly by means of Community Interest Companies) to be had. Looking forward to the next one!”

Dr Allyson Lister, who also works on the FAIRsharing project, was a first-time attendee and hopes to attend future events. She says, “Learning about how the RSE communities are built and managed was exciting, as the number of community members has grown to 600 during this conference. The best part of the conference for me was the opportunities for networking and discussions. I had a number of interesting conversations that will hopefully grow into collaborations over the coming months. The community was welcoming, the talks were excellent, and Newcastle itself made for a fantastic venue.”

DPhil candidate Graham Lee gave a number of talks at the conference, including one on the interesting and relevant topic of ‘Who is an RSE?’. Graham has been interviewing RSEs and people who work with RSEs as part of a doctorate trying to understand the occupation. He says, “After three years of isolation and online events it was great to feel truly part of the RSE community once more in Newcastle. The programme from the conference was carefully chosen: my own talk on RSE identities was followed by Dr. Melanie Langer of the STRIDE project presenting work that came to a different conclusion through a different methodology: it will be fun to explore that dichotomy!”

Web developer Prakhyat Gailani also attended RSECon for the first time and says, “I had great time in the conference. So much to learn in area of software research development. It was a good opportunity to meet people from different areas of software engineering and exchange views. It was great learning experience both socially and technically. The venue for the event and after parties were easily accessible in the wonderful city of Newcastle. I am motivated to enroll to the community and hoping to host a session next year.”

All the talks will be available in due course from the RSE Society YouTube channel

Data Readiness Group

 

With thanks to TyneSightPhoto for the images below

Allyson in a workshop about engagement with the wider community

Ramon giving his talk on his poster, “Semi-automatic mapping of external scientific databases into the FAIRsharing platform”

Graham gave a number of talks at the conference, including one on the interesting and relevant topic of “Who is an RSE?”