I spent much of this week helping teach a small part of EMBL-EBI’s excellent Managing a Bioinformatics Core Facility course (Here’s the 2021 public materials). It was my first time participating, and I was really impressed. There were a large number of new, motivated, engaged core facility leads; the workshop was very interactive, with multiple exercises every day, lots of group discussion and sharing of experience, and a lot of material covered.
The audience being leaders of core facilities, much more time was spent on cost recovery models than would be common in research computing and data teams (there was even one brief section which touched on hourly vs fixed-price billing, which was fantastic to see - readers will know where I stand on this, e.g. #140). There was also a terrific series of exercises on service design, which also isn’t common to discuss in our circles but really should be.
But it was fascinating to see how similar the fundamental issues were. Many of the questions which came up would be very familiar to you, reader — hiring and retention, motivating staff, working with recalcitrant researchers, dealing with benign neglect from leadership, demonstrating impact, improving execution, prioritizing efforts, juggling the needs of a diverse and growing research community.
I think it’s pretty clear that in the RCD community we’re currently about five years behind our core facility colleagues on issues of building a community of practice and professional development, certainly for managers and leaders. Honestly, this is great news! We were much further behind a decade ago. The tireless and thankless work of groups like CaRCC and CASC have been pushing us ahead in terms of building a community of practice around research computing systems in particular, and in building an IC career ladder framework; and of course the RSE movement has been great for building similar things at least at the IC level for software.