eCSE Early Career Observer experience

The ARCHER2 eCSE programme provides funding to carry out development of software used by the ARCHER2 user community.

As part of our commitment to encouraging Early Career Researchers and to developing their skills and experience, we periodically offer the opportunity for a small number of such researchers to attend the eCSE Panel Meeting as observers.

The aim is to give Early Career Researchers a better insight into how this competitive selection process works, to assist them with preparing their own funding proposals in the future.

At the Panel Meeting in December 2022, three Early Career Researchers attended as observers. Thomas Hicken, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London, tells us about his experience:

Hello! I am Thomas, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Physics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and in December I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to see first-hand how grant funding gets allocated! As part of the ARCHER2 eCSE programme, as an early-career researcher I was able to observe the discussion behind allocating grant funding for software development on ARCHER2. Think fly-on-the-wall, and that is exactly the kind of experience that was on offer, and I can say that I learnt a lot from seeing how the process works.

As a predominantly experimental physicist who has become more involved in high-performance computing since the start of my postdoctoral position, I am no stranger to writing proposals requesting experiment time at large-scale facilities. That said, I had never appreciated what the other side of this process – the reviewing – looks like. As an observer I was able to see the proposals in advance of the review meeting and was sent the same guidance as the reviewers. Although I didn’t contribute to the actual reviews, I decided to imagine I did need to review them and assigned scores to each proposal following the guidance, allowing me to directly compare to the actual reviewers’ decisions. The first thing I learnt was just how much time the reviewers have to put in to reading all of our proposals. As a task that is largely invisible, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to anyone who has ever read anything I have written! In the meeting it was really obvious how much careful thought had gone into each and every review, and decisions were discussed in great depth. One thing in particular stood out from these discussions; the importance of clarity. I’m pleased to say that my list of scores from my pretend reviewing was fairly similar to that of the review team, but the biggest deviations were when I hadn’t understood something in the proposal. The review team, all being far more expert than me, would often understand these points and be able to work around them, but I know that going forward I will certainly be trying to be even clearer in any proposal I write. The whole opportunity to observe the meeting has really opened my eyes to the proposal process and was an incredibly valuable experience!

I would like to finish by expressing my gratitude to the ARCHER2 eCSE team for having this programme in place for early career panel observers. I have no doubt that this will improve the quality of all our proposals, not just for ARCHER2, but for everything we apply to. If you ever see an opportunity to get involved in something similar, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to do so!


eCSE Panel Observers, 14th December 2022:

  • Anna Crawford, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh
  • Thomas Hicken, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Physics, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Saleh Pouresmaeeli, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Sheffield

We plan to run another Early Career Researchers Observers call during 2023, likely to be launched in parallel with the 10th eCSE call in the second quarter of the year. The call for Observers will be advertised on the ARCHER2 website and in ARCHER2 mailings.