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Sustainability of HPC Research Computing: Fostering career paths for facilitators, research software engineers, and gateway creators


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The sustainability of research computing has gained increased attention in academia over the last decade. This is evident in multiple projects and initiatives such as the NSF-funded XSEDE Campus Champions, ACI-REF (Advanced Cyberinfrastructure - Research and Education Facilitators), the Working Towards Sustainable Software for Science: Software and Experiences (WSSSPE) workshop series, as well as existing and starting Research Software Engineer (RSE) national associations. Funding bodies support research computing sustainability with solicitations and projects, e.g., the CyberAmbassadors and funded institutes such as the UK Software Sustainability Institute, the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI) and The Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI), as well as funded institute conceptualizations such as US Research Software Sustainability Institute (URSSI). The European Commission just published a report “Recognising the Importance of Software in Research - Research Software Engineers (RSEs), a UK Example” emphasizing that a viable career path for RSEs is crucial to sustain research software and research computing. SGCI is currently launching a program for gateway ambassadors to build a community supporting researchers and developers to set up collaborative environments for increasing the usability of research computing infrastructures.
A major concern in achieving research computing sustainability is improving career paths for facilitators, RSEs, and/or science gateway creators - whether they are staff or faculty at academic institutions or national labs. Facilitation of research computing and software contributions are generally not a factor in career advancement in academia; typical evaluation criteria include publications and citations, successful proposals and funding, and advised and graduated students. Multiple initiatives and projects are trying to improve this situation.

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Sustainability of HPC Research Computing: Fostering career paths for facilitators, research software engineers, and gateway creators

  1. 1. Panel: Sustainability of HPC Research Compu9ng: Fostering career paths for facilitators, research so=ware engineers, and gateway creators Sandra Gesing, Marisa Brazil, Dana Brunson, Ian Cosden, Rafael Ferreira da Silva, Daniel S. Katz, Henry Neeman November 21, 2019
  2. 2. Non-Tradi*onal Academic Career Paths Cyberinfrastructure, research so=ware and science gateways are widely used in •  academia, •  na9onal labs and •  industry Lack of •  incen9ves •  recogni9on •  formal training in academia for facilitators, RSEs and gateway creators èLack of career paths in academia
  3. 3. Ini*a*ves Concerned with Career Paths •  ACI-REF Virtual Residency •  Coali9on for Academic Scien9fic Computa9on •  Campus Research Compu9ng Consor9um (CaRCC) •  Campus Champions •  CyberAmbassadors •  Internet2 •  Linux Clusters Ins9tute •  Research So=ware Alliance (ReSA) •  SIGHPC Educa9on Chapter •  So=ware & Data Carpentry •  Science Gateways Community Ins9tute (SGCI) •  UK Research So=ware Engineer Society •  US Research So=ware Engineer Associa9on (US-RSE) •  US Research So=ware Sustainability Ins9tute Conceptualiza9on (URSSI) •  …
  4. 4. Panelists •  Marisa Brazil, Purdue University Program Manager at Purdue, Coordinator of Campus Champions •  Dana Brunson, Internet2 Execu9ve Director for Research Engagement at Internet2 and leader of CaRCC and XSEDE Campus Engagement •  Ian Cosden, Princeton University Manager of HPC So=ware Engineering and Chair of Steering Commiee of US-RSE •  Rafael Ferreira da Silva, University of Southern California Co-PI on WRENCH and CUE4CHNG, member of the CI CoE Pilot project •  Daniel S. Katz, University of Illinois Co-PI of URSSI, ins9gator of the US RSE community, co-founder of the WSSSPE event series, and co- founder of ReSA •  Henry Neeman, University of Oklahoma Director of the OU Supercompu9ng Center for Educa9on and Research (OSCER), leader of the XSEDE Campus Engagement, founder and leader of the Virtual Residency
  5. 5. What are the gaps in the current landscape regarding career paths?
  6. 6. Community of Practice, Workforce Development and Diversity Gaps: •  Lack of diversity •  Difficult to scale university/ industry need for talent •  Loss of talent to industry/ reten9on •  Buy-in and Implementa9on of Professionaliza9on of RC roles •  Lack of well-established best prac9ces Advancements: •  Campus Champions – Community of Prac9ce •  Women in HPC •  Workforce Development – students and early career professionals (academia) •  PEARC Conference Series •  CaRCC work Marisa Brazil
  7. 7. Professionalization? Starters: •  Terms: Cyberinfrastructure (CI) - Research IT – Research Compu9ng and Data (RCD) personnel •  What was your career path? •  Are we an emerging profession? •  Are we like librarians, physicians, lawyers, or astronomers? Goal: Aract, retain, diversify, and develop CI professionals. Why professionalize? •  Na9onal shortage of RCD personnel •  High employee turnover •  Occupa9onal dis9nc9on from •  (Administra9ve) IT •  Researchers in other disciplines •  Precarious employment and careers Progress: •  Campus Champions - Community of Prac9ce •  Virtual Residency - Training •  CaRCC - hps:// •  CI Professionaliza9on Job Families and Career Guide •  Job Family Matrix •  Stakeholders and Value Proposi9ons document •  Facilitators network (People Network includes Researcher-facing Track) What is success? •  Children aspire to be part of the profession. •  Clear paths to enter and advance in the profession (creden9aling). •  Maintain the possibility to enter the profession from other disciplines. Dana Brunson
  8. 8. RSE Career Path Gaps •  Overall lack of awareness (knowledge and understanding of the role) •  RSE pipeline: qualified and poten9ally interested RSEs •  Organiza9on/Ins9tu9on: Researchers, Administrators, HR •  Where do RSEs belong in an organiza9on? •  Research staff, IT, etc. •  Incen9ves (credit) and evalua9on •  Career progression for RSEs not in large RSE groups •  Term contracts, so= money, and expecta9ons •  What statement does this make? •  Mid-career+ professionals •  Salary vs. industry Ian Cosden
  9. 9. CI workforce development •  Challenges •  2019 NSF Workshop on Connec9ng Large Facili9es (LFs) and CI •  “LFs face an ever-growing challenge in workforce training, development, and reten9on” •  “Compe99on with industry” •  “There are no curricula or cer9fica9ons in the area of CI” •  “Funding uncertainty, differences between research and industry skillsets, differences between research and industry work environments” •  Opportuni9es •  NSF CyberTraining program •  “Address emerging skills required in prepara9on and career growth of the scien9fic and engineering research workforce for innova9on, development, maintenance, and u9liza9on of advanced CI ecosystems” •  WRENCH project (hps:// development of hands-on pedagogic ac9vi9es for parallel and distributed compu9ng technologies •  CICoE Pilot project (hps:// •  Defining an overarching en9ty for LFs “that can strategically address workforce development, training, reten9on, career paths, and diversity, as well as the overall career paths for CI-related personnel” Rafael Ferreira da Silva
  10. 10. Evaluating people who build stuff •  Research So=ware Engineers and Gateway Creators build stuff •  We should evaluate them based on what they’ve built •  Do others use it, and if so, for what? •  To evaluate papers, we use cita9ons •  Let’s also use cita9ons to evaluate other products (“stuff”): so=ware, gateways, datasets, … •  Cita9on of datasets genng to be normal in some disciplines •  Cita9on of so=ware and gateways less common, but we now have principles, “standardized” metadata and checklists •  S9ll working on adop9on by publishers and ins9tu9ons •  For more info, google “data cita9on”, “so=ware cita9on”, FORCE11, Research Data Alliance (RDA), Research So=ware Alliance (ReSA) Daniel S. Katz
  11. 11. Can There be a Career Path for Few? Henry Neeman •  The number of researcher-facing Cyberinfrastructure professionals in non-commercial research ins9tu9ons in the US will never be high (and propor9onal in other countries). •  Federal Laboratories (a few dozen ins9tu9ons): Several per ins9tu9on. •  Not-for-profit research ins9tu9ons (a few hundred): One to a few per ins9tu9on. •  Academic R1s (131): A few to several per ins9tu9on. •  Academic R2s (135): One to a few per ins9tu9on. •  Academic Doctoral Professional (152): One to a few per ins9tu9on. •  Academic Masters-gran9ng (685): Less than one per ins9tu9on. •  Academic Bachelors-gran9ng (837): Far less than one per ins9tu9on. hp:// Best es*mate: Low-to-mid 4 figures of CI Facilitators for non-commercial research. •  The number of RSEs per ins9tu9on is likely to be far lower. •  Comparison: There were an es9mated 116,900 Database Admins in the US in 2018. hps:// •  Any career path for CI professionals is highly likely to be treated as an excep9on by most non-commercial ins9tu9ons, not as commonplace. •  Most ins9tu9onal CI teams are very small (one to a few), compared to Enterprise IT teams of dozens or hundreds. •  How do you promote someone if there’s nowhere to promote them to? •  Solu*on: Commercial uptake => many => normal career
  12. 12. •  How can academia and industry collaborate on improving career paths? •  How can we best combine ac9ons to develop a cri9cal mass that can change academic culture? •  How can we reach decision makers beyond the research so=ware and research compu9ng communi9es?