The ARCHER2 eCSE Programme – software development opportunities for PDRAs and RSEs
By Chris Johnson and Lorna Smith EPCC on April 25, 2022
The eCSE is a funding programme that provides the opportunity for UK based researchers to secure funding for PDRAs and RSEs to carry out software development projects aimed at codes to be run on ARCHER2. With regular calls for funding, this is a key opportunity to enhance the performance and sustainability of key application codes.
The eCSE programme has been up and running for 2 years under ARCHER2, having run very successfully under the previous ARCHER service for over 6 years. During that period a total of 100 projects were funded involving 40 institutions across the UK. To date, under ARCHER2 we have so far funded 45 projects to RSEs working at 17 different UK institutions and with PIs based at 24 different UK institutions.
So what is the programme and who is it for?
The eCSE programme provides funding (salaries plus the usual overheads of a grant) for Research Software Engineers (RSEs) to carry out software development of codes to be run on ARCHER2. In this context, an “RSE” does not have to be someone with “RSE” in their job title or be someone working within a dedicated RSE group (but it could be!). Projects are often worked on by PDRAs who may have been employed as researchers (in the scientific sense) but at the same time have built up coding and software engineering skills during their research. So if you are a PDRA who has relevant software/coding experience, or even a PhD student coming to the end of your PhD programme where there has been a focus on the codes involved, the eCSE programme may well provide you with an opportunity to secure funding to develop a code further and to enhance your software engineering skills.
Individual projects can be for up to 12 months of effort, but the effort can be spread over multiple staff or over a longer time period if appropriate. Having either one or two technical staff is common, occasionally three. For example, you may be a PDRA who has the relevant domain experience which could be accompanied by some effort from an RSE from the ARCHER2 CSE team who would concentrate on the HPC aspects of the code. The precise split may vary and in some cases all of the work may be done by one person. So it is very flexible.
There is also the opportunity to make use of RSEs elsewhere, perhaps from someone based in a different UK institution. The “e” in eCSE stands for embedded, with the concept of staff being embedded in institutions across the whole of the UK.
Spreading the effort over a longer period is possible, providing greater opportunities for individuals who work part time, have more flexible working patterns or who have other responsibilities they may wish to continue within their existing role.
The purpose of the eCSE programme is enable codes to make the most efficient use of the ARCHER2 system. As well as providing funding to improve the performance or scalability of a code, a project may instead focus on adding new functionality or improve the maintainability or useability of a code. Codes don’t already have to be running on ARCHER2. The eCSE programme is an ideal opportunity to develop codes to make the transitions from a Tier-2 system or equivalent to run efficiently on ARCHER2.
Calls are run 3 times a year to a regular timetable https://www.archer2.ac.uk/ecse/calls/timetable.html and we can assist with the application process, both the logistical aspects of getting costings together and also on the technical side in terms of what is required to describe the codes involved or their current performance.
Bringing new people into HPC is very important and we are very keen to encourage people in the early stages of their careers. The programme is not simply about developing efficient codes, it is also about developing people and skills. Training courses are available and individuals gain access to a network of experienced technical staff.
Taken your interest?
We are happy to arrange one-to-one discussions about possible projects, or to present the programme to a research group as a seminar or webinar and can put you in touch with others who have experience of applying to the programme or working on a project. Sometimes we may be able to point you to people from your own institution or domain who have worked on an eCSE project. If you have any questions at all do just contact the ARCHER2 service desk firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locations of institutions involved in the eCSE programme so far under ARCHER2