Funded BEAR Software Engagements

RSEs on Funded Projects

The Research Software Group offers both free (centrally-funded) engagements and project-funded engagements. Funded engagements are usually longer than free ones, or involve more RSEs.

The idea is to allow a research group/project to pay for one or more RSEs with particular skills for a period of time. This could be a short project (e.g. two RSEs running a two-week workshop) or a long project (e.g. 50% FTE for 2 years). To achieve this we have a central pool of RSEs that can work on such projects without them leaving the university when the project finishes.

Onion Model - simple

Many RSEs will continue to operate in colleges, departments and research groups independently of the RSG. However, there are now three ways for RSEs to become part of the RSG to a greater or lesser extent. The diagram is described further below.

The diagram is comprised of five groups of RSEs:

  • First the centrally funded RSEs who provide support for BEAR’s main services and offer the centrally-funded BEAR Software Advice/Coding/Coaching services.
  • Secondly are the college-funded RSEs who are line-managed in the RSG but work exclusively for the relevant college or academic unit.
  • Thirdly the pool of grant-funded RSEs, who can be available for including in grant applications, and will grow over time as more RSEs are recruited to it. Please discuss your grant application with us before including a pool RSE in the proposal. See below for more information on including a BEAR RSE in grant applications.
  • Fourthly, some research groups will continue to recruit and manage their own RSEs, but we are now offering the option of a formal “dotted line” to the RSG to assist with managing the RSEs and allow them to be associated with peers with similar skills.
  • Finally some RSEs will continue to work independently of the RSG, meeting up informally at events or in the Research Computing Community slack workspace.

Grant-funded RSEs

Here we set out three options for including an RSE in a grant application.

Option 1: Independent RSE

Here a research group would include either a named existing member of the research group, or a new anonymous RSE on a grant proposal. If a new anonymous RSE is included then they would then be recruited by the research group on the award of the grant, probably at 100% FTE. The new RSE would probably be fixed term (for the life of the grant) and might be academic (governed by the FEC model and thus including the estates charge as well as employment overheads) or academic related (including the employment overheads but without the estates charge).

It is worth noting that advertising an RSE job as an academic post may attract different candidates from an academic-related post.

It can also be valuable to mention the “free” BEAR services in the grant application, such as the free BEAR Software engagements or BlueBEAR, Research Data Store, CaStLeS, etc. These are centrally funded by the university and thus an important university contribution to a research project.

Option 2: Dotted line to RSG

This option is similar to Option 1, but in this case the research group and the RSG could work together to recruit the RSE. The RSE would have a “dotted line” to the RSG, providing some formal line management from the RSG and a direct community of colleagues. These RSEs would be able to participate in certain RSG meetings and have direct access to the RSG’s RSEs to ask questions etc.

Option 3: RSG pool of RSEs

If a suitable RSE is available for inclusion in a grant application then they could be named on the application. Otherwise a new RSE could be hired by the RSG if a grant is awarded and there are sufficient funded projects to justify hiring a new member of staff.

In this model we prefer one of two options:

  • Short projects (e.g. a month or less) can have any percentage FTE of RSEs - e.g. 20% of one RSE and 90% of another for a month - depending on availability.
  • Long projects (typically 3 months or more) should be defined as 50% of an RSE, or multiples. E.g. two RSEs at 50% for 2 years. For each 50% FTE we will actually quote 45% of the RSE, and 5% of a senior member of the RSG who will provide code review, support, mentoring and advice to the RSE.

The RSG will make all reasonable efforts to manage the availability of its RSEs to meet its commitments.

In the situation where a new RSE needs to be hired and the grant is funding less than 100% FTE then the RSG would seek to combine two or more grants to create a single post – or failing that may be able to fund the remainder of the post from its own resources. Please note that this is not guaranteed, but a commitment will be made on a case by case basis.

All RSG pool RSEs are academic related, and so do not attract the estates charge. They are line managed by the RSG, while their tasks are overseen (or perhaps specified) by the project principal investigator(s). One key consequence of our RSEs being academic related, is that grant funding may not cover the cost of the RSE (e.g. where a funder only funds 80% of the cost). In this case either the College will need to provide the remaining 20% funding, or the RSE can work 80% of the desired time (which would not be the case if they were included at FEC).

Worktribe Notes

Please remember to talk to us before submitting a bid that includes a pool RSE. We will recommend an appropriate grade to include in worktribe (usually grade 7 or 8) depending on the technical skills required and work to be done, along with details of the senior RSG team member to include at 5%.

To include a pool RSE in your bid:

  1. Open your project in worktribe and click on the “budget” tab.
  2. We recommend you add an anonymous person with the Post Title: "Research Software Engineer", selecting “Technician” in the Role dropdown menu.
  3. Select the appropriate dates and percentage of time on the project (e.g. 45% of an RSE and 5% of a senior RSG team member) that you need. Use the grade/point information we provided to you.

Specifying "Technician" or “Other Staff” as the Role will mean that the post will not incur the additional overheads (e.g. Estates, Indirect costs) which are incurred by academic staff.

Important information

If you are considering including an RSE on a grant project please get in touch with us at an early stage by emailing bear-software@contacts.bham.ac.uk .

We cannot guarantee to supply grant-funded RSE time if we were not consulted prior to the bid being submitted to the funding body. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in this position do get in touch and we will try to help.

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