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2023 RSCL Year in Review

An annual recapitulation

Published onDec 15, 2023
2023 RSCL Year in Review

The year 2023 marks the first full year of Leiden University’s expertise area in Research Software Management, having been initiated at the Centre for Digital Scholarship in July of 2022. Research Software is expressly significant to Leiden University’s aims and ambitions in Open Science, being named one of the program’s four pillars, as well as one of the central themes of the NWO’s Open Science NL national program.

To realise a Research Software expertise area at Leiden University, we have engaged in the following activities over the past year:

University Policy for Research Software

Building upon the RSCL’s workflow documentation for Research Software Management, as well as our participation in the national template for software management planning, we have drafted a policy document at the university level to outline responsibilities and practices for open and reusable research software. The document has been contributed to by researchers, data stewards, research software engineers, privacy officers, and information managers across Leiden’s faculties. In the coming months, a final draft of the document will be sent through the process of ratification by policy officials at the university.

In tandem with the composition of a Research Software Policy for Leiden University, expertise area lead Dan Rudmann became a co-chair of PRO4RS, an international working group from the Research Data Alliance and the Research Software Alliance on policies at research organisations for research software. The working group recently presented their work at the RDA Plenary in Salzburg. By co-chairing the working group, we ensure that international expertise and the most current developments in the field inform the creation of the Research Software Policy at Leiden University.

Leiden’s policy document also helps to surface needs for other forms of documentation to support the work of people working in Research Software at Leiden University. For example, guides to software licensing, citation, and publishing are currently under development.

Training Programs

Research Software Management is an emerging set of practices that are informed by fields such as data management and open access publishing, but also have their own unique considerations. Over the past year, Dan Rudmann, who oversees the Research Software area of expertise, has given trainings to PhDs and researchers in the faculties, and has recently implemented a course on Research Software Fundamentals offered at the university library. These Research Software Management trainings are further supported by courses that educate researchers and PhDs at Leiden on research software development, such as programming in Python, which are offered by Research Software Engineers Ben Companjen and Peter Verhaar.

Leiden University also took part in a national initiative to connect Research Software trainings throughout the country. As a member of the Research Software Training NL network, institutions can share resources toward building more robust educational programming for their communities.

Furthermore, the Research Software Community works to facilitate peer-to-peer learning sessions through the newly implemented Coding CAFE. The project, which brings together community members to share their skills and engender discussion on topics of community interest, is supported through a national collaboration and the Thematic Digital Competence Centers. Leiden held its first CAFE session in November.

Community Events

The Research Software Community Leiden initiates events at the university to bring people together across faculties for knowledge sharing and professional development. In the spring, RSCL held its official launch event, bringing together people across the university to share their work and hopes for this community. Following the launch, the RSCL hosted NL-RSE in June for an educational event on Automated Software Testing.

In the fall, RSCL hosted a day of events on professionalisation, entitled Level Up! The events provided space to hear from people working in research software within and outside the university on how to design careers and advocate for more systems of support at research institutions.

Projects and Initiatives

Through concerted efforts in community engagement, made possible by the unique network of individuals working in Research Software within Leiden and across the Netherlands, the Research Software expertise area has created and participated in a diverse and exciting array of projects. In January of 2023, version 1.1 of the national document Practical Guide to Software Management Plans. The document proved to raise important discussion points to build upon Leiden’s expertise area, significantly questions pertaining to recognition and reward in research software management.

To begin to address recognition and reward needs in the Research Software program, we partnered with the Netherlands eScience Center to assist in the development and implementation of the Research Software Directory, a showcase layer for Research Software designed to support the value of software as a research output. The past year has seen both the launch and implementation of the directory throughout Leiden University.

The RSCL has also been working with Research ICT at Leiden University through the Digital Competence Centre to begin to realise infrastructural support for Research Software Development, specifically the implementation of a robust versioning environment. The ISSC department Generic Research Application Services has initiated important work to scope the technical needs and services to support a crucial part of the Research Software Management workflow.

In addition, we helped to organise a workshop at the Recognition & Rewards Festival this past year on ways in which support staff, including Research Software Engineers, could be better supported by their institutions. Further supporting the notion that Research Software should be recognised as a first-class research output, Leiden University partnered with TU Delft at the Open Science Fest in August of this year to present a workshop to rethink publishing strategies and conventions in publishing types.

To connect our community in Leiden to the national community of Research Software Engineers, Dan Rudmann was elected to the Core Team of the NL-RSE in March. Through this organisation, we have been able to bring events and experts to Leiden University to support Research Software development and reuse.

Both within Leiden and nationally, the RSCL has taken part in conversations on what is meant by the notion of Community at research institutions. Earlier this year, we also took part in the drafting of a documentation on community management, connecting our area of expertise to others nationally in Research Data Management, Digital Competencies, and Open Science. The RSCL also supports the Leiden Research Support Network and the Open Science Community Leiden to enhance practices to empower communities at Leiden University.

And So On

In addition to the work outlined above, RSCL members have collaborated with adjacent and further-afield domains to provide new forms of support to researchers and colleagues throughout Leiden and on National and International levels. We look forward to evolving this work into 2024.

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