VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in research software engineering
Posted by Paula Martinez on 13 May 2022
This post was originally published as a news item on the Australian Research Data Commons website (13 May, 2022).
How can research software engineering be reframed to place diversity, equity and inclusion as a central organising principle in research software?
The Research Software Alliance (ReSA) organised the Research Software Engineers (RSE) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) "Vive la différence" workshop between March and April 2022. During the workshop, representatives from international RSE communities and others interested in DEI came together online and in person at the Lorentz Center in The Netherlands to discuss DEI initiatives in RSE, data science, open source software, and industry.
As a founding member of ReSA, the ARDC is a keen supporter of initiatives that bring together the research software community and ensure its sustainability as a vital enabler of research. The ARDC, as part of our National Agenda for Research Software, is pursuing action to sustain research software. In that work we suggest that "we sustain research software when it is complemented by roles which are themselves stable, inclusive, supported and valued". In particular, ARDC supports the RSE community in Australia and our region to grow and address its complementary goals in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Here are the highlights of the event from the region representatives as a way of giving you an overview and information on upcoming activities.
Watch the video https://youtu.be/ixqYDH-plCs
Dr Kelly Blincoe, Senior Lecturer of Software Engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering, presented some of her research on human and social aspects of software engineering. Her talk was about "developer perceptions on software code review". She posed the following question: Are the current practices in software engineering fit for purpose to be inclusive, or do we need to reexamine those?
Watch the video https://youtu.be/dI-sPrapgGY
Rowland Mosbergen is the founder of Practical Diversity and Inclusion and member of the Steering Committee of the RSE Association of Australia and New Zealand. He presented "Practical intersectionality improving diversity and inclusion in senior leadership". During this presentation he mentioned tips for each individual and each organisation to help with the process of improving diversity and to redefine merit. He will be presenting a more detailed version of this talk online on 25 May 2022, which is free and open to all.
Watch the video https://youtu.be/zByElDjMYk8
Saranjeet Kaur Bhogal is a statistician, R consultant and the RSE Asia co-founder. Saranjeet represented the RSE Asia Association and shared how her participation and volunteer work in various open source communities has helped her progress her career. She has been part of various international initiatives and feels the open source communities are safe and supportive environments, enriching her knowledge and experiences.
The workshop presenters covered a range of topics related to Research Software and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. You can watch them all online in the ReSA Youtube channel.
A hybrid event done well
One of the highlights of the event was how well those who joined online were included in the conversations. The event organisers and in-person participants demonstrated true commitment to inclusivity in all the discussions and group activities. As a small event, with a few dozen people participating (and one third of those attending online), it worked really well.
Saranjeet Kaur said, "I was amazed by the honest discussions at this workshop and truly appreciated that I was given a chance to share my journey. Some of the major takeaways from the workshop were how they managed the hybrid mode of the workshop, the open discussions around DEI, the lived experiences that the participants shared, and the new perspectives learnt in various group discussions."
Dr Paula Martinez said, "I truly appreciated how people were willing to share what they know in order to create better connections. For example, how subjective is the term minority? A minority in one place is not the same in another place. Just increasing our understanding of this will help us be more proactive to those differences and to accommodate needs to make everyone feel included."
Dr Kelly Blincoe said, "The conversations at the workshop were very thought-provoking. It was great to have such a diverse group of people in the room. This helped bring many different perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need to continue these conversations."
DiveRSE - Supporting DEI within the RSE community
The role title "Research Software Engineer" (RSE) was first used only around 10 years ago to describe individuals working in a research environment but focusing on building software. The Research Software Engineering movement started in the UK but has since spread around the world with international associations appearing in a number of countries.
To build on the outputs of the "Vive la différence" workshop, DiveRSE was created. DiveRSE is a series of talks and related activities supporting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the Research Software Engineering community, and is an ongoing initiative to support RSE communities around the world.
Dr Paula Martinez, the Software Project Coordinator from the ARDC has been involved in the RSE Association of Australia and New Zealand for a number of years, and is now part of the steering committee for the community. Paula said, "As part of my role in the steering committee, I plan to support the DiveRSE international series and invite representatives from the Asia and Pacific region to contribute by speaking or disseminating the efforts locally."
- The Vive la différence - research software engineers workshop has a video playlist. We highly recommend watching the video recordings via the ReSA YouTube channel.
- We encourage all research software engineers to become members of the RSE Association of Australia and New Zealand (RSE-AUNZ). Become a member for free and join conversations via the mailing list and future events.
- All those interested in RSE are also invited to join RSE Asia Association by filling out this short membership form. The RSE Asia Association is free and open to all, and welcomes people from all regions of the globe, irrespective of their location.
- In September 2022, the RSE AUNZ and RSE Asia are looking forward to launching a RSE unconference, which will complement the more established RSE NZConference. Become a member of RSE-AUNZ to contribute or keep up to date with developments.
Written by Dr Paula Andrea Martinez, ARDC and RSE-AUNZ and Saranjeet Kaur Bhogal, Co-Founder, RSE Asia Association. Reviewed by Kelly Blincoe (University of Auckland), Jo Savill (ARDC), Dr Tom Honeyman (ARDC).