July 2019 US-RSE Newsletter

US-RSE's First Newsletter

Published: Jul 24, 2019

Welcome to the first US-RSE newsletter. In this bi-monthly newsletter, we will share recent, current and planned activities of US-RSE. Newsletters will be available on our website besides the growing resources and information on US-RSE. A sign-up option for our newsletter is available here.

This newsletter contains:

  • Research Software Engineers (RSEs)
  • What is the US-RSE?
  • Upcoming meetings
  • @us_rse Twitter comes alive
  • US-RSE Community Building Workshops
  • Community call summary
  • Governance document development
  • Membership

Research Software Engineers (RSEs)

We like an inclusive definition of Research Software Engineers to encompass those who regularly use expertise in programming to advance research. This includes researchers who spend a significant amount of time programming, full-time software engineers writing code to solve research problems, and those somewhere in-between. We aspire to apply the skills and practices of software development to research to create more robust, manageable, and sustainable research software.

What is the US-RSE?

Initiatives in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are bringing together the community of people writing and contributing to research software at the national and international level. In the US this encompasses universities, laboratories, knowledge institutes, companies and other enterprises. US-RSE.org is a community-driven organization that supports so-called Research Software Engineers (RSEs).

Upcoming meetings

  • PEARC meeting If you’re attending PEARC, make sure to join us for the Birds of a Feather session on Monday, July 29 at 5:15pm. And find Ian Cosden, Charles Ferenbaugh or Sandra Gesing to get a US-RSE sticker! https://pearc19.conference-program.com/presentation/?id=bof111&sess=sess173

  • SC19 plans underway
    If you’re planning to attend SC19, there will be two panel discussions of interest to RSEs, one on RSE career paths and another on developing and managing research software. We’re also submitting a proposal for a US-RSE Birds of a Feather session. We’ll post more details as we have them.

@us_rse Twitter comes alive

@us_rse is our organizational Twitter account! We’re just getting started, but feel free to reference the handle or #rseng and #usrse hashtags if you’re active on Twitter. Want to help out with the account or have suggestions for materials to post? Join the #socialmedia channel on Slack.

US-RSE Community Building Workshops

We are in the process of preparing a proposal to obtain funding to organize and support community participants’ travel to a pair of US-RSE workshops. These workshops would be an opportunity to bring a good number of us together to connect, share, and advance the US-RSE community. We have reason to be optimistic, but it’s still early in the process. If you would potentially be interested in participating in a workshop, stay tuned, and we’ll share updates as they come in Slack and future newsletters.

Community call summary

We held our first community Web and phone conference July 16th. The notes from the call can be found here. The community discussed their thoughts on the key aspects of US-RSE as it develops. Topics included:

  • What might membership mean. Generally the sense was membership is self-identification as part of the community by signing up and open broadly.

  • Vision statement. There was some discussion of drafting a vision statement that goes a bit beyond the current “Goals and Aims” statement. The notion is that a vision statement might describe specific outcomes that are seen as aspirational results of the overall US-RSE.org activity.

  • How to iterate to an initial conclusion on the governance document. The consensus was to get an updated version out that incorporates feedback so far and to release that with a two week window for further comments. That cycle could repeat a little as needed. There was also discussion of how to “ratify” (see Governance document development).

  • The relationship between a social dynamics code of conduct and professional practice goals. There was a discussion on the potential role of a separate professional code of conduct that lays out what an RSE strives for in terms of actual characteristics of the work they conduct. In a field like civil engineering for example there is an underlying emphasis on professionals building things that don’t fall down and on safety. Creating a channel to discuss a possible RSE centric set of, domain specific, values was discussed.

  • Local chapters. There was discussion of the various different forms of local chapter that people might be interested in self-organizing. The US-RSE.org web/github site was seen as a place for providing source materials (see for example - https://github.com/rseng/starter-pack) to help anyone interested in forming a chapter. The general sense was that a loose federation model was appropriate at this stage.

Governance document development

Members of the current US-RSE.org steering committee are planning to update the draft governance document to incorporate feedback received so far. Following the community call suggestions, the plan is to release the next version of the document with a two week comment period and iterate further as needed.

The community call also discussed how to adopt the document once iterating on edits has converged sufficiently. The general preference was for an all members wide vote. A fallback of a majority vote from participants in the Slack #governance channel was also discussed. This was discussed in the context of a plan for transparently ensuring adequate agreement, in the event there is low participation in any membership wide vote. The plan is that the adopted initial governance document would be housed in GitHub, but the draft document development would continue to take place in a shared Google doc for convenience.


US-RSE.org Slack channel now has more than 100 members. Growth over time looks interesting and exciting!

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