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Centre for Advanced Research Computing


ARC is UCL's research, innovation and service centre for the tools, practices and systems that enable computational science and digital scholarship


RSE Initiatives – 6 months in

By Amanda Ho-Lyn, on 7 June 2024


At ARC I think it would be fair to say we strive to develop and improve not only on an individual level, but also on a group level. One of the ways we are doing this is through our RSE (Research Software Engineer) Initiatives – aiming to advance/evolve the RSE team to improve collaboration and delivery of the best possible software. They involve taking a more objective look at the current processes within our department and determining, by consensus, whether some of these processes need to be updated, or if a new solution should be devised. These are not overnight quick-fixes but rather, slow & steady progressions in the right direction.

We’ve focussed on 3 main areas: Professional DevelopmentBest Practices and Knowledge Sharing.

As we’ve recently reached the 6 month mark of embarking on this journey, I thought I’d share an overview of each initiative’s aim and how we’re doing.

Professional Development

Notable people: Connor Aird, Stef Piatek & soon to be Paul Smith

This is about understanding how we currently decide to upskill (soft and technical) ourselves, what opportunities there are and how we can enable and support more/better opportunities.

The way we decided to figure out what people are doing regarding their professional (and to some degree personal) development was by interviewing them.

At the time of writing almost all the interviews have been completed and data gathered, being prepared for analysis.

Best Practices

Notable people: Haroon Chughtai, Kimberly Meechan & Emily Dubrovska

This looks at how much we engage with establishing and following best practices with technologies, languages and tools. We also want to determine whether there are areas where we could formalise/document this for future RSEs – a notable example is within the Python Tooling Community.

We decided it would be worth modelling the approaches of the Python Tooling Community and seeing whether there are other language/technology communities within ARC that don’t have best practice guidance but would benefit from it. This was done through a survey.

At the time of writing, the next groups of interest are Web Development and DevOps – both in the stages of requirements gathering/gaining an idea of what guidance could be documented or be built on, as well as looking into how it could best be delivered. 

Knowledge Sharing

Notable people: George Svarovsky & Amanda Ho-Lyn

This is about understanding how we currently share knowledge across the group – particularly project information – and how we can improve our current systems to be more usable and make information more accessible.

We decided to do a survey to see how people felt about how information is currently shared and also how much they actually felt they knew about different aspects. There were also some mentions of discontent about where information was posted and shared across a plethora of platforms.

At the time of writing, we have added a mini landing page to the ARC GitHub (note that you must be part of the org to see it) in an attempt to centralise relevant links to various places – this is a living thing and can be updated as necessary. We have also sent out a survey (thank you to those who took the time to complete it) and have plans to act on the results – see my post with more details about this (coming soon).


Thanks to everyone who’s been a part of this and continues to help us improve – especially to Asif who is forging the way ahead. And keep an eye out for more surveys! 😁


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