SC21 Proceedings

The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis

Building Bridges toward RCD Professionalization and Careers

Authors: Patrick Schmitz (Semper Cogito Consulting), Arman Pazouki (Northwestern University), Shafaq Chaudhry (University of Central Florida)

Abstract: Research Computing and Data (RCD) professionals provide essential support for research cyberinfrastructure, and yet few people are aware of these exciting roles, how to find these jobs, and how to build careers as an RCD professional. This creates challenges in recruiting, developing, and retaining personnel. The CaRCC Career Arcs working group is creating resources to increase awareness of RCD roles and careers. This session will explore and solicit feedback on this work. A panel of RCD professionals will share experiences and facilitate conversations about RCD careers. Attendees will contribute their career experience to a new resource and discuss the results.

Long Description: Research is increasingly dependent upon Cyberinfrastructure (CI), from instruments and sensors to High Performance Computing (HPC), secure enclaves for data compliance; big data management and analytics; artificial intelligence and machine learning; cloud computing and more. Research Computing and Data (RCD) professionals help researchers leverage CI tools and technologies to advance their research. However, with no formal career path structure, these RCD roles are poorly understood, and organizations face severe challenges to recruitment, retention, and development.

An NSF-funded workshop identified professional development as the top priority [1], which resulted in the creation of Campus Research Computing Consortium (CaRCC, More recently, an NSF-sponsored workshop on Building the Research Innovation Workforce identified the need for recognition and a clear definition of the different roles in the workforce as well as the need for viable, reasonably funded career paths with location stability, and the availability of training, advancement, and upskilling [2].

Because RCD roles are not widely understood, people may not know how to prepare for and pursue these opportunities. Current RCD staff experience a lack of professional development plans. Hiring managers struggle to find candidates who combine the necessary technical expertise with an understanding of research workflows. These issues form serious barriers to recruitment and to growing a “pipeline” into these roles.

Recognizing this challenge, the CaRCC RCD Professionalization working group is gathering example narratives and working towards a framework to describe RCD Career Arcs. These efforts recognize the range of educational and professional paths that can lead to RCD roles, and the various directions an individual can pursue to grow their career. In addition to providing a resource for professional development, this work may provide an analytic tool to identify gaps and needs for missing training programs that will facilitate the transition from other positions into RCD roles, and, e.g., help develop existing RCD staff into RCD leadership roles.

The CaRCC RCD Professionalization working group launched an RCD Workforce Survey investigating pay ranges, institutional demographics, job turnover, and position type. However, this survey focuses on demographic data. Our work will gather deeper narratives into individual career paths to identify patterns that can inform individuals considering a career in RCD and help hiring managers understand fruitful domains and populations for recruitment. An SC21 Workshop “RSE-HPC-2021: Research Software Engineers in HPC: Creating Community, Building Careers, Addressing Challenges” is more narrowly focused on Research Software Engineers whereas this BoF considers the much broader set of RCD Professionals including roles that are Researcher-, Data-, Systems-, Strategy- and Policy Facing, in addition to Software Facing roles.

BoF attendees will learn about early themes identified, see the survey questions, volunteer to participate in the survey or be interviewed by the team, and have the opportunity to provide feedback on the survey results and analysis.

REFERENCES [1] N. Berente, J. Howison, J. L. King, S. Ahalt, and S. Winter, (2018) “Organizing and the Cyberinfrastructure Workforce” (June 9, 2018). SSRN: [2] L. Arafune, D. Brunson, T. Hacker, P. Smith. 2021. ”Building the Research Innovation Workforce.”


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