Network successfully matches research team with software developer

Network successfully matches research team with software developer

Earlier this year the Oxford e-Research Centre, along with the Dept. of Computer Science, the Bodleian Libraries, Advanced Research Computing and Digital.Humanities@Oxford, set up the University-wide Research Software Developers Network (RSDN) for software engineers, developers and data scientists who combine expertise in programming and/or data development with an intricate understanding of research.

RSDs support the work of researchers in developing or customising the software that is fundamental to so much of modern research.

The network aims to connect these individuals in order to share expertise, provide appropriate advanced training, and through assisting re-employment, retain the RSDs' vital skills and experience within the University.

One of the purposes of the RSDN is to connect software developers with the right skills, experience and knowledge to research teams who need their expertise for particular projects. We aim to achieve this by advertising software development roles on the website, by connecting people at events and through the member profiles, and by providing a forum for requests for software development advice and assistance.

Recently RSDN member and Environmental Change Institute EPSRC Fellow Dr Phil Grunewald was able to use the network to link up with a developer for his ambitious new study, the METER project. This study will collect electricity readings and activity information from thousands of people using cheap Android phones with some Java code (for electricity readings) and a Cordova based app for activity entries.

Phil needed a developer to create a custom visualisation tool, which would send a user-friendly graphic to the participants showing their activities and energy use over the length of the trial, and allow them to add annotations. The annotations would give further information about the type of use and why it was needed at that particular time.

Having given a talk about his project at one of the regular RSDN events, Phil was approached by Joe Rosa, a web database developer from NDORMS (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences). Joe is now working with Phil to develop the visualisation tool in D3.

Philip says of the network, "Software development turns out to be central to so much of our research nowadays. The RSDN has brought me into contact with some great people. Howard Noble and Martin Hadley were especially helpful in advising on the right tools and approaches for our software developments. Taking the wrong turn early on could become very costly for a project like mine and I am very grateful to the RSDN for providing access to such expertise".

His team are now recruiting a full time Data Scientist to work on the management and storage of the project data and develop analytical tools. The postholder will be responsible for handling large amounts of multivariate data, developing tools to sanitise, explore, analyse and visualise patterns in the data.

If you have a project that requires software development, you can advertise short term work contracts or ask for advice on the RSDN website, by using the Twitter handle @OxfordRSDN, or on the RSDN email list.