Dr Ed Bennett

A Swansea University Senior Research Software Engineer has been awarded the first Fellowship offered by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in Research Software Engineering.

Dr Ed Bennett from the Swansea Academy of Advanced Computing, has successfully secured the Fellowship—the only one awarded this year—competing with bids from the particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy research communities across the UK. Worth £600k, it will help drive the development of cutting-edge research software and promote the vital role of software in enabling high-quality research.

The Fellowship will support Dr Bennett in his aim to help the wider research community by improving software they use, to support and train other researchers and to conduct his own research. Some of his key responsibilities in these areas will be:

  • Work with researchers in the Lattice Quantum Field Theory community to work towards fully reproducible data analysis—the idea that any researcher should be able to re-run the software used to create the tables and figures in a publication, and get output identical to the published version. This will include defining a set of common standards and practices, and developing tools to make it easier for other researchers to follow.
  • Collaborating with partners at Aberystwyth and Cardiff universities to improve the performance of the software they use in their analyses of solar and gravitational wave events, respectively.
  • Training researchers both at Swansea University and at partner institutions at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Advanced Computing (CDT AIMLAC) on reproducibility and software development techniques
  • Developing a career pathway for future research software engineers at Swansea University.

Dr Bennett said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that STFC has selected this project for funding. Since I first found out about the idea of fully reproducible analysis, it has been clear to me how much potential there is for this to be realised in computational science. The work I plan to lead in this Fellowship over the next 5 years will enable a significant step forward for the reproducibility and reusability of research software in solar, gravitational, and particle physics in Wales and the wider UK."

As research software engineering is a relatively new field, the Fellowship will also support his leadership role in highlighting the vital contribution that it has in top level research.

Dr Bennett said: “In the last decade, there has been a realisation that research is only as good as the software it uses and if there are mistakes in the software, there will be mistakes in research results. It is my aim to promote the role of research software engineering so that it will sit alongside more traditional academic and research roles.”

Director of Swansea Academy of Advanced Computing (SA2C), Professor Biagio Lucini, said: “We at the SA2C are thrilled to host the Fellowship of Dr Bennett. This award is a recognition of the effectiveness of his activity in promoting the role of the Research Software Engineer in Wales and beyond. His ambitious project will definitely advance flagship areas of STFC supported research across the Welsh universities.”

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