Understanding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Challenges Within the Research Software
Neil P. Chue Hong1[0000−0002−8876−7606], Jeremy Cohen2[0000−0003−4312−2537],
and Caroline Jay3[0000−0002−6080−1382]
1Software Sustainability Institute & EPCC, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh,
2Department of Computing, Imperial College London, London, U.K.
3Department of Computer Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, U.K.
Abstract. Research software – specialist software used to support or
undertake research – is of huge importance to researchers. It contributes
to signiﬁcant advances in the wider world and requires collaboration
between people with diverse skills and backgrounds. Analysis of recent
survey data provides evidence for a lack of diversity in the Research Soft-
ware Engineer community. We identify interventions which could address
challenges in the wider research software community and highlight areas
where the community is becoming more diverse. There are also lessons
that are applicable, more generally, to the ﬁeld of software development
around recruitment from other disciplines and the importance of wel-
Keywords: research software, software engineering, research software
engineering, diversity, EDI.
Developing specialist research software to support computational science is an es-
pecially challenging process. Unlike more traditional software engineering tasks,
researchers or, increasingly, RSEs (Research Software Engineers) who write this
software need an understanding of the underlying scientiﬁc challenge being ad-
The methods used in research favour a hypothesis-driven approach. This
creates a diﬀerent working environment from the wider software engineering
industry, where software is built to meet a client’s speciﬁcation. As noted by
Hettrick et al.,
“To be eﬀective, software development in research should be approached,
not as a one-oﬀ transaction, but as a partnership between researcher and
software expert.” 
arXiv:2104.01712v1 [cs.SE] 4 Apr 2021
2 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
The “partnership between researcher and software expert” mentioned here
highlights a need for varied skills and good communication. It is clear that much
computational research requires diversity of skills and experience, working in
partnership, that spans software engineering and science. Researchers are more
likely to be working with others who have diﬀerent technical expertise, use dif-
ferent technical terminology, and may be communicating in a tertiary language.
Diversity in project teams, and workplaces in general, is important and it
is widely accepted that there are many beneﬁts from ensuring diversity within
teams and communities. For example, there is evidence to show that diversity
in terms of knowledge or skills can be beneﬁcial  and that gender diversity
within groups can result in higher quality scientiﬁc outputs . However, there
are cases where diversity can raise challenges, for example with reduced feelings
of well-being amongst members in highly-diverse teams . Diversity in the
context of teams in industry and research is an area that has been the subject
of extensive research and there are some contradictory results from the many
studies undertaken. Stahl et al.  look at a number of diﬀerent studies of cul-
tural diversity concluding that there are both beneﬁts and drawbacks. Whether
beneﬁts can be realised while minimising more challenging aspects will depend
on eﬀective process management. In the context of software engineering, Capretz
& Ahmed  looked at how diﬀerent personality traits relate to suitability for
diﬀerent roles in software projects. Ultimately they conclude that diversity in
terms of personalities and skills is important in helping with problem solving
tasks involved in building and maintaining software.
The diﬀerent types of diversity highlighted so far, including diversity of skills
and knowledge, culture, personality and gender are, of course, just some of the
many diﬀerent aspects that lead to diversity amongst a group of individuals.
Others, among a huge range, include ethnicity, disability and age.
Research Software Engineers are, at present, much more likely to come from
a research background than software engineering professionals working in other
ﬁelds. Nonetheless, we know from surveys within the RSE community that a
similar diversity crisis to that identiﬁed in other ﬁelds exists. In this paper,
we examine current problems with diversity in research software engineering
and consider potential causes. Our aim is to present a better understanding
of existing diversity within the RSE community in order to develop insights
and recommendations to address current issues. We achieve this through an
empirical analysis of existing open data collected and made available through
large-scale international surveys of research software engineers undertaken by the
RSE community. We also review related work from allied areas which suggests
ways of addressing the challenges identiﬁed.
As pointed out by Mathieson in , based on 2018 ONS data, just one in
eight of almost 340,000 software development professionals in the UK are women.
This example demonstrates that there is a long way to go to address the lack of
diversity in the wider software engineering domain, as well as the more focused
domain of research software engineers. Professional software engineers can gain
their skills through a variety of diﬀerent routes and they may come from a wide
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 3
range of diﬀerent disciplines. For example, they may have developed their skills
through a degree programme or vocational training in computing or a related
area. Alternatively, they may come from a completely diﬀerent disciplinary back-
ground and have re-trained through one of a large number of “coding schools”
that oﬀer training, often via intensive courses, in software development skills.
The wide array of routes into the ﬁeld creates an expectation of a diverse ﬁeld
which makes it all the more surprising that this is not the case.
We highlight three core contributions this paper provides to understanding
the importance of diversity among RSEs working in computational and data
–Providing an evidence-based analysis that demonstrates the current prob-
lems with diversity in the research software engineering community.
–Demonstrating that there is already extensive “domain mobility” for RSEs
and that a lack of such mobility is therefore not likely to be a cause for a
lack of diversity within the ﬁeld.
–Oﬀering four general recommendations that we believe can form a basis to
support addressing the lack of diversity in research software engineering.
In Section 2we examine the International RSE Survey results from 2018
and undertake further analysis on this data. Section 3highlights the three areas
that we see as both helping to explain and provide the basis for addressing the
lack of diversity amongst RSEs, while discussion and conclusions are provided
in Section 4.
2 Surveying RSE Diversity
To understand the diversity challenges facing those embarking on careers as
Research Software Engineers, we require a better understanding of the landscape
as a whole. The Software Sustainability Institute coordinates an ongoing series
of surveys of the RSE community. In the most recent survey , from 2018,
participants were asked a number of socio-demographic questions.
Percentage of UK
who are: RSEs AcademicsSoftware
Gender (female) 14 46 14 48
(BAME/Mixed) 5 15 21 12
Report disability 6 4 10 13
Table 1. Comparison of 2018 demographics for Research Software Engineers, Aca-
demics, Software Developers and general working population in the United Kingdom.
Our reanalysis primarily focuses on UK data, as this is where the authors
are located, but the numbers from other countries in the survey are broadly
similar. Table 1compares RSEs with UK Higher Education Statistics Authority
(HESA) data , and a study by the British Computer Society (BCS) of soft-
ware development professionals in the UK  based on 2018 Oﬃce for National
4 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
Statistics data. Limitations in the RSE data currently available to us mean that
we focus on aspects of gender, ethnicity and disability, as opposed to other types
This comparison indicates a gender diversity gap, which we might expect
given the percentage of women working as software developers is also 14%. But
this could be better: software is a fundamental part of all research, and 46% of
academic staﬀ are female. The ethnicity data indicates a greater problem. Of
the respondents who declared their ethnicity, there were only 6 non-white and
5 mixed race RSEs – 5%. These ﬁgures are signiﬁcantly lower than the 28%
BAME students studying computer science  and 10% of BAME physicists
. Although we should not aggregate non-white ethnic categories together, as
they will experience diﬀerent challenges and biases, it is striking that RSEs do
not ﬁt the general proﬁle of those working in the IT industry, where there is
greater ethnic diversity.
Fig. 1. Flow of UK RSEs from academic discipline studied to domains they now work
in, categorised by gender: 79.8% male (green) / 14.3% female (purple) / 5.9% other
responses (grey). N=203.
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 5
An important area of research is understanding if diversity can be improved if
RSEs are drawn from a wider set of degree backgrounds. Figure 1shows where
RSEs are working based on their academic degree. Only gender diversity was
considered, given the low ethnic diversity and number of respondents reporting
a disability. Gender balance is relatively uniform across ﬁelds rather than mir-
roring the gender balance in that ﬁeld. Over half of RSEs have a ﬁrst degree
in Physics and Astronomy or Computer Science. In the UK, 17% of CS under-
graduates were female compared with 41% of physical sciences undergraduates
, suggesting that RSEs come from the “computational” subset of a subject.
However, within computer science research within the UK just under 23% of
academics and researchers are female . This perhaps suggests that a larger
percentage of female CS undergraduates move on to a research or faculty posi-
tion in CS than male undergraduates, or that female CS researchers are moving
into the ﬁeld after undergraduate studies in other areas. However, it could also
be attributed to other factors such as industry hiring trends. Of interest here
is that, while over half of RSEs have a Physics and Astronomy or Computer
Science-focused ﬁrst degree, the percentage of female RSEs is still somewhat
below the percentage of female CS research/faculty staﬀ.
The areas that RSEs support are more widespread than the ﬁelds they are
currently recruited from. There are teams oﬀering general RSE support at a
number of institutions and many RSEs working in the biosciences, geosciences,
and medicine. This suggests that a challenge research software engineering has
is encouraging more people with ﬁrst degrees in these areas (which have more
balanced gender representation) to become RSEs. This is important because
domain knowledge can be especially valuable when undertaking RSE projects.
Things to consider include the wording of job adverts, which can aﬀect who ap-
plies for them  — can we encourage more candidates from other disciplines?
There may be lessons for the software development ﬁeld more generally — there
are a signiﬁcant number of RSEs whose background is in biological sciences or
geosciences, as well as some from social sciences and the humanities, showing
people with “non-traditional” degree backgrounds seek careers as software prac-
One encouraging aspect of Figure 1is there appear to be many lines going
from one discipline on the left hand side to a diﬀerent discipline on the right
hand side, representing an RSE working in an area diﬀerent from the one where
they trained. This suggests that there is scope to improve diversity within the
RSE community through attracting individuals from more diverse domains into
the RSE space. This provides an opportunity for more immediate improvements
in the diversity of the RSE community than the multi-year timeline that we
might expect for eﬀorts to improve diversity amongst undergraduate cohorts. To
investigate this movement between domains, which we call “domain mobility”,
we undertook further analysis of the most recent 2018 RSE survey data.
Table 2shows an example of “domain mobility” for a series of domains where
the number of survey respondents was >20. We deﬁne partial mobility as RSEs
working in one or more domains outside the domain of their highest degree, while
6 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
Discipline N Partially
Biological Sciences 95 44.21 8.42
Chemistry 22 40.91 22.73
Computer Science 241 51.45 22.41
Electrical & Electronic Engineering 36 41.67 38.89
Geography & Environmental Sciences 46 52.17 6.52
Mathematics 69 47.83 47.83
Physics and Astronomy 261 31.80 19.92
Table 2. Example of domain mobility across a selection of disciplines from the 2018
RSE survey data where N>20.
also still undertaking work in the domain of their degree. Full mobility applies a
further ﬁlter to partial mobility by excluding RSEs who still work in the domain
of their highest degree. So, in the case of Mathematics, where the ﬁgures for
partial and full mobility are the same, none of the survey respondents who said
their highest degree was in Mathematics undertake RSE work in the domain
of Mathematics. It should be noted that while domain mobility is a positive
concept, and the ability to work across a wide variety of diﬀerent domains is
a great beneﬁt, we do not have any data on the reasons for these movements
between domains. The movements may be individuals wanting to undertake
RSE work in, and learn about, a diﬀerent domain to their original area of study.
However, there are also likely to be cases of movement between domains being
made out of necessity due to a lack of job opportunities in an individual’s domain
of choice, for example.
2.1 Code and Data Availability
The Jupyter Notebooks used to perform the analysis are available from .
International RSE data can be obtained from , apart from some gender data
which have not been publicly published at the time of writing.
3 Improving EDI in the research software community
In this section we investigate three areas that represent both challenges and
opportunities for improving equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within the re-
search software community. Through the material in this section, we hope to
highlight possible reasons for the lack of diversity in the research software space
while also providing some thoughts and guidance on how these can be addressed
and how the community can work together to help improve a wide range of
aspects of diversity. The material here is aimed at both developers of research
software, and at team leaders, technical managers and individuals in other man-
agement and community leadership roles. For individuals who write software,
we aim to oﬀer thoughts and advice that can help improve understanding of
the beneﬁts of diversity and recognise situations that can contribute to a lack
of diversity. For managers and team leaders, we hope to improve recognition of
opportunities to address diversity challenges, both locally within teams and in
the wider community in the context of events and activities.
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 7
3.1 Safety in similarity?
Diversity, whether in terms of gender, ethnicity, skills or other characteristics, is
important in bringing diﬀerent perspectives, ideas and experiences to a commu-
nity. Diverse teams can lead to higher quality science  and improved technology
business performance .
However, as highlighted by Merritt  in the context of hiring staﬀ, indi-
viduals want to work with people who are like them and Lang & Liu  point
out contradictory evidence for the beneﬁts of diversity within teams. They high-
light work by Byrne in the 1971 book “The Attraction Paradigm” that suggests
certain similarities within teams can be helpful in ensuring eﬀective working en-
vironments. However, they do also highlight a series of other work that supports
the idea of diversity within teams and groups being beneﬁcial. Van der Zee, et
al.  highlight previous work that suggests that we tend to have a positive re-
sponse to similarity while the opposite is true for dissimilarity. They also point
out other previous work suggesting that we have an attraction to people who
share similar attitudes and values to our own since this makes communication
with them easier.
A very large study of over 20 years of scientiﬁc papers  shows that paper
co-authors are more likely to be of similar ethnicity. However, where papers are
the result of collaborations between authors at diﬀerent locations, it was shown
that this can result in them being published in journals with high impact factors
and receiving more citations.
The above examples demonstrate that there is a perceived “safety” in being
around people who have similar interests, backgrounds and/or values. We see
that this is likely to work both ways and that in the case of a community,
such as the RSE community or groups of software practitioners more generally,
individuals choose whether or not to engage partly based on whether they see
people like themselves within that community. Of course, while individuals may
seek out others who they feel are similar or who they have things in common
with, diversity can be extremely important and hugely valuable in providing
diﬀerent views, ideas, attitudes and perspectives. Ultimately this can lead to
important beneﬁts, even if there may be learning experiences to be had along
the way. These include, for example, getting more used to working with people
who may not look at every opportunity, challenge or research problem in the
same way. Many of us will have had experiences that support this when attending
community events and workshops which often involve breakout group discussions
or problem-solving tasks.
Awareness is an important step here and this begins with educating team
leaders, community managers and event organisers to be more aware
of situations where there is a lack of diversity and the beneﬁts of ad-
dressing this. Developing a stronger understanding of the beneﬁts of diversity,
but also the challenges that can arise in ensuring that diverse groups can collab-
orate eﬀectively, is an important step towards addressing the lack of diversity
in the scientiﬁc software community. This is especially important for individuals
in leadership or organisational roles. Various guides, for example the Hopper
8 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
Conference Diversity Guide  and NumFOCUS DISCOVER Cookbook ,
provide detailed information on approaches for helping to ensure diversity at
conferences and events. There is also a role for RSE group leaders in encourag-
ing and enabling the RSEs in their teams to collaborate with other institutions,
as this diversity might lead to higher impact of their work.
3.2 Increasing equity, diversity and inclusion at events
The events that we consider in this section include everything from large confer-
ences and workshops to small local community events with only a small number
of attendees. Large events often have dedicated organising teams and poten-
tially co-chairs speciﬁcally dedicated to areas such as EDI. This is unlikely to
be the case for a small community event with perhaps only a few 10s of par-
ticipants. Nonetheless, being able to widen participation at events requires you
to start with an understanding of the community the event is targeted at and
an awareness of the particular aspects of diversity that you aim to improve .
One suggestion for improving equity and inclusion at conferences, from work
looking at 30 conferences in the conservation and ecology domain, is to write up
and promote details of the actions and processes followed to support improving
EDI . This work demonstrates that concerns around ensuring diversity at
conferences and events are not speciﬁc to the research software community. The
sort of open approach espoused through supporting and promoting EDI activi-
ties could be beneﬁcial across many, if not all, domains. It would help to oﬀer
a demonstration of a conference’s eﬀorts to support aspects of EDI and also
provide evidence for the wider community to help identify what works and what
is less successful. This should help to avoid repeating less successful approaches
to addressing diversity and inclusion concerns across diﬀerent domains.
Ensuring that event committees, speakers and panel members reﬂect the di-
versity that organisers would like to see among an event’s attendees has been
eﬀective in some ﬁelds. This builds on some of the ideas highlighted in Sec-
tion 3.1. Research that looked at presenters across 21 meetings of the American
Association of Physical Anthropologists found events that had either female, or
both female and male organisers, resulted in a much higher percentage of women
as ﬁrst authors of presented papers and posters . However a study by Bano
and Zowghi of six software engineering conference series  found that having a
female conference chair or program committee chair did not signiﬁcantly aﬀect
the number of keynote speakers that were female, or the make up of the program
committee. This work did not, however, look at all conference speakers.
While the ﬁgures shown in Section 2show a lack of diversity within the RSE
community, there is a perception, when attending RSE workshops and events, of
gender and ethnic diversity being signiﬁcantly better than the headline survey
ﬁgures suggest. RSE events generally have a signiﬁcant number of female speak-
ers, workshop organisers and community leaders. We see with the Collaborations
Workshop series, an event that focuses on general research software practice, a
positive change in the diversity balance. It has had a policy of ensuring diver-
sity of keynote speakers, and in 2020, 55% of steering committee members were
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 9
female, 42% of all speakers were female, 34% of attendees reported their gender
as female, and 20% of attendees reported their ethnicity as non-white or mixed.
Nonetheless, the challenge remains of attracting more individuals from a
wider range of backgrounds to get involved with RSE. A concrete action that
can be taken here is to work to increase the diversity amongst organisers,
speakers and sponsors at RSE events and be more open about the
approaches taken to support this. The latter part of this recommendation
should help organisers of other events, both within the research software commu-
nity and beyond, to learn from and build on eﬀorts to improve EDI. Ultimately
this should help to accelerate the process of improving diversity throughout the
3.3 An inclusive culture and safe space
An inclusive culture is an important foundation of diversity . Research teams
that include RSEs frequently have only one or two individuals in RSE roles.
Having valuable but diﬀerent skills, and diﬀerent career aims, can make RSEs
feel like the “odd one out” within a research group or team. As a result, RSE
communities of practice have developed in recent years to support individuals
in this ﬁeld. Possibly due to previous perceived marginalisation, they tend to be
open, welcoming communities. These communities provide a great opportunity
to meet, network and collaborate with others who understand the challenges
RSEs face in their day-to-day work.
At conferences and events, one way of formally promoting inclusion is hav-
ing a clear and well-publicised Code of Conduct. The importance of a Code of
Conduct and the challenges it can help to address and provide guidance on are
highlighted in . While still not commonplace at traditional academic con-
ferences , it is unusual to ﬁnd an RSE conference or workshop that does
not have a Code of Conduct – learning from the experience of the open source
community. To ensure best practice and clarity of the message provided, many
events choose to build on widely accepted, open codes of conduct such as the
template provided by the Geek Feminism wiki , and also have a diversity
In the context of workplaces and research teams, it is also important that
individuals feel that they ﬁt in, both within the workplace environment itself and
with the people based there. Cheryan et al.  call this “ambient belonging”.
They undertook a series of studies within a computer science context looking
at gender-based perspectives on the inﬂuence of diﬀerent environments. This
work showed that environments that had aspects that made them ﬁt with com-
puter science stereotypes reduced the interest of women participating in the
ﬁeld. Changing the environments to make them appear less like something that
would be associated with computer science increased interest in the ﬁeld. This
provides an example of the sort of potentially small, but nonetheless signiﬁcant,
changes that can help to develop an inclusive culture, a welcoming environment
and, ultimately, help to improve diversity. We consider that there may also be
opportunities to help improve other aspects of diversity through identifying and
10 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
making similarly small environmental or organisational changes in diﬀerent con-
texts, for example to improve the experience for people with disabilities.
The wide ranging use of codes of conduct at research software events and
the recognition of the importance of communities in helping to provide individ-
uals with a place where they ﬁt in is signiﬁcant. It suggests that the research
software community is developing events that are explicit in their desire to be
open and diverse, with clear statements on acceptable behaviour. We see that
progress is being made in developing an inclusive culture and providing envi-
ronments through events and activities that potential participants feel are open
and welcoming. It is of vital importance that this continues. There are two
concrete recommendations from this analysis. Firstly, within RSE groups,
both team leaders and members should be aware of the importance
of their working environment and how potentially small environmen-
tal changes may aﬀect other team members’ feelings of inclusion and
belonging. Secondly, in the context of community events and activities, event
organisers should look to highlight their support for diversity and in-
clusion through the use of a diversity statement and provide a clear
code of conduct highlighting acceptable behaviour.
The Software Sustainability Institute runs a fellowship programme recognis-
ing the diverse roles and skills of those working to promote research software
practice. An evaluation of the programme showed it plays an important role in
supporting communities of best practice and skills transfer, and that a signiﬁ-
cant beneﬁt is the way it has raised the proﬁle of software in research, and those
people who develop and advocate for it . This has had positive eﬀects for
those who may previously have considered themselves as ‘outsiders’ in the role,
or lacked conﬁdence. This is exempliﬁed by a comment from a female respondent:
“Despite getting a PhD partially from a computer science programme, I
could see that my skills and knowledge were always at least to some extent
dismissed or doubted [...] since being elected a SSI fellow I most deﬁnitely
observed a signiﬁcant drop in mansplaining... I have little doubt that the
SSI fellowship was a signiﬁcant [reason] I got my current position as
(Head of Division at a Supercomputing Center).” 
4 Discussion and Conclusions
Our research has shown that the gender diversity of RSEs is similar to the ﬁeld
of software engineering, but does not reﬂect the gender balance of the academic
research workplace. This is particularly true where RSEs are working in domains
such as the biosciences, geosciences and medicine. Ethnic diversity among RSEs
is worse than in the wider software industry, but it is unclear why. The num-
ber of RSEs with disabilities reﬂects the academic research workplace, and is
poor in comparison to the IT profession. Given that 19% of the UK working age
population report a disability, there is much to be done to provide a equitable
workplace for RSEs with disabilities. Diﬀerences in workplace culture, environ-
ment or incentives may be factors, and further research is required. However,
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 11
general interventions to improve diversity appear to be increasing gender and
ethnic diversity at events.
We have highlighted the importance of communication and collaboration be-
tween individuals building software to support research and the computational
scientists and researchers that they collaborate with. We have also shown that
diversity among all parties in these collaborations can lead to better communi-
cation, a wider range of ideas and perspectives, and, ultimately more eﬀective
collaborations that produce higher quality outputs. The three areas discussed
in Section 3as key opportunities for improving equity, diversity and inclusion
within the ﬁeld of research software can be summarised as follows:
– Safety in similarity? The perceived safety of looking to collaborate and
work with individuals who have similar interests, backgrounds or values is
widely recognised. While there is research that suggests there can be bene-
ﬁts to this approach, there is also extensive work highlighting the beneﬁts
of diversity. However, this is something that can be approached from two
diﬀerent perspectives and individuals may be more likely to join and engage
with a community if they see people like themselves within that community.
– Increasing diversity at events: It is important to highlight and promote
actions being take to improve EDI in the context of events. It is also impor-
tant to ensure that both organising groups and speakers reﬂect the level of
diversity that an event’s organisers would like to see among its participants.
– An inclusive culture and safe space: This is a very important aspect of
both participating in a community, and being part of an RSE group, for ev-
eryone involved. A well-publicised Code of Conduct and diversity statement
with clearly deﬁned processes supporting them are key elements in helping
to ensure this within the context of events. In RSE groups, leaders and team
members need to be aware of the importance of an inclusive culture and
Poor diversity in the community of research software developers is likely a
result of the low levels of diversity in the disciplines that currently form the ma-
jor path towards an RSE role or career. We have identiﬁed scope to widen the
range of areas from which RSEs are recruited and it is hoped that this can be
achieved by better use of language in the way that RSE roles are advertised and
in the way that RSE is promoted, more generally. This may also have relevance
for professional software practitioners looking to get involved in the research
community, as it is clear that there are many people with “non-traditional” de-
grees seeking careers developing software. There is a role for professional bodies,
such as the British Computer Society, Association for Computing Machinery and
IEEE Computer Society, to support and embrace these career paths and help
improve the gender diversity at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Nonetheless, we feel that despite the knowledge gained from our extended
analysis of existing survey data, and the pre-existing material that we have
referenced, this is a hugely complex but very important area. It would beneﬁt
extensively from additional evidence that could be gathered through a range
12 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
of further empirical studies. Some of the areas that may be considered most
important for such studies in the short term include:
–Exploring why levels of diversity among RSEs are lower than in many of
the areas of study and research that already feed into RSE careers, such
as Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy. What are the levels of
diversity in other career paths for these subjects? What inﬂuences the career
choices that individuals make and are there speciﬁc aspects that steer them
away from an RSE career?
–Trialing approaches for increasing diversity and inclusion at events, including
workshops and conferences. Gathering statistics on the relative success of
these approaches and their contribution to improving diversity within the
computational science developer community.
–Looking at opportunities to further increase “domain mobility” through tak-
ing advantage of existing courses/training material or oﬀering new informa-
tion that can help individuals move more practically between working in
diﬀerent domains. Look at take-up of such opportunities across diﬀerent do-
mains and use this as a basis for longer-term analysis on how diversity in
the RSE community changes over time.
Once individuals become RSEs and engage with the RSE community, the
RSE community meets many of the requirements to ensure that it welcomes
and supports diversity. The open, inclusive, nature of the community is of great
importance here and, using gender diversity as an example, there are already
several women in highly-visible leadership roles.
Developing software for science and the wider computational research domain
is challenging. The relatively new ﬁeld of research software engineering encom-
passes many of the individuals undertaking these software development tasks,
regardless of whether their oﬃcial job title considers them to be a researcher,
professor, software engineer or RSE. It is clear that research software engineer-
ing, and research software in general, shares many diversity challenges with the
wider software development ﬁeld but we feel there are many opportunities to ad-
dress this. This begins with increasing awareness of the diﬀerent aspects raised
in this paper and using this as a basis to develop the environment and oppor-
tunities to help build equity, diversity and inclusion within the community. We
hope that the research software community continues to grow, and become more
diverse by sharing and learning from other practitioners.
We thank Simon Hettrick, James Graham and Rob Haines for their input, and
Olivier Philippe who originally processed the international RSE survey data.
NCH and CJ acknowledge support from EPSRC / BBSRC / ESRC / NERC /
AHRC / STFC / MRC grant EP/S021779/1 for the UK Software Sustainability
Institute. JC acknowledges support from EPSRC grant EP/R025460/1.
Understanding EDI Challenges Within the Research Software Community 13
1. Apa, A.: Driving Gender Equality in the Tech Industry: Breaking down un-
conscious bias (Jun 2018), [Online] Available at: https://womeninhpc.org/hpc/
2. Bano, M., Zowghi, D.: Gender disparity in the governance of software engineering
conferences. 2019 IEEE/ACM 2nd International Workshop on Gender Equality in
Software Engineering (GE) (May 2019). https://doi.org/10.1109/ge.2019.00016
3. Brett, A., Croucher, M., Haines, R., Hettrick, S., Hetherington, J., Stillwell, M.,
Wyatt, C.: Research Software Engineers: State of the Nation Report 2017 (April
4. Campbell, L.G., Mehtani, S., Dozier, M.E., Rinehart, J.: Gender-heterogeneous
working groups produce higher quality science. PLoS ONE 8(10), e79147 (Oct
5. Capretz, L.F., Ahmed, F.: Why do we need personality diversity in software en-
gineering? ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes 35(2), 1–11 (Mar 2010).
6. Chamorro-Premuzic, T.: How to design a diversity intervention that actually works
(Jun 2019), [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomaspremuzic/
7. Cheryan, S., Plaut, V.C., Davies, P.G., Steele, C.M.: Ambient belong-
ing: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer sci-
ence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97(6), 1045–1060 (2009).
8. Chue Hong, N., Cohen, J., Jay, C.: RSE Diversity Analysis Notebooks (Apr 2021).
9. Collis, T.: Improving diversity at hpc conferences and events (2016), J. West, L.
Rivera and N. Chue Hong (eds.). [Online] Available at http://www.hpc-diversity.
10. Favaro, B., Oester, S., Cigliano, J.A., Cornick, L.A., Hind, E.J., Parsons, E.C.M.,
Woodbury, T.J.: Your science conference should have a code of conduct. Frontiers
in Marine Science 3(Jun 2016). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2016.00103
11. Foxx, A.J., Barak, R.S., Lichtenberger, T.M., Richardson, L.K., Rodgers, A.J.,
Webb Williams, E.: Evaluating the prevalence and quality of conference codes of
conduct. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(30), 14931–14936
(Jul 2019). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1819409116
12. Freeman, R.B., Huang, W.: Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Coauthor-
ship within the United States. Journal of Labor Economics 33(S1), S289–S318 (Jul
13. Gardiner, M., Aurora, V., Smith, S., Benjamin, D.: Geek Feminism Wiki: Con-
ference anti-harassment/Policy, [Online] Available at: https://geekfeminism.wikia.
org/wiki/Conference anti-harassment/Policy, Accessed 10th Aug 2020.
14. Graham, H., Raeside, R., Maclean, G.: Understanding the status of under-
represented groups in the information and communication technologies: A report
to the engineering and physical sciences research council (July 2017), [Online]
Available at https://epsrc.ukri.org/newsevents/pubs/napierdiversityreport/
15. HESA: HE staﬀ by activity standard occupational classiﬁcation, atypical marker,
contract marker, mode of employment, terms of employment, contract levels, sex,
age group, disability, ethnicity and academic year, [Online] Available at: https:
14 N.P. Chue Hong et al.
16. HESA: HE student enrolments by subject area and sex, [Online] Available at:
17. Institute of Physics: What does a physicist look like? (Mar 2016), [Online] Available
at: http://www.iop.org/publications/iop/2016/ﬁle 67244.pdf.
18. Isbell, L.A., Young, T.P., Harcourt, A.H.: Stag parties linger: Continued gender
bias in a female-rich scientiﬁc discipline. PLoS ONE 7(11), e49682 (Nov 2012).
19. Liang, T., Liu, C., Lin, T., Lin, B.: Eﬀect of team diversity on software project per-
formance. Industrial Management & Data Systems 107(5), 636–653 (May 2007).
20. Mathieson, S.A.: How diversity spurs creativity in software development
(Dec 2019), [Online] Available at: https://www.computerweekly.com/feature/
How-diversity-spurs-creativity-in-software-development. Accessed 26th Jan 2021.
21. Merritt, C.: Why do we keep hiring ourselves? (Sep 2018), [On-
line] Available at: https://womeninhpc.org/diversity-and-inclusion/
22. NCWIT: What is the impact of gender diversity on technology business perfor-
mance? (2014), [Online] Available at: https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/ﬁles/
23. NumFOCUS: NumFOCUS DISCOVER Cookbook (Diverse & Inclusive Spaces and
Conferences: Overall Vision and Essential Resources) (2019), [Online] Available at:
https://discover-cookbook.numfocus.org/. Accessed 13th Aug 2020.
24. O. Philippe et al.: softwaresaved/international-survey: Public release for 2018 re-
sults (Mar 2019). https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.2585783
25. Society, B.C.: BCS Diversity Report 2020: ONS Analysis (Jun 2020), [Online]
Available at: https://www.bcs.org/media/5766/diversity-report- 2020-part2.pdf.
26. Stahl, G.K., Maznevski, M.L., Voigt, A., Jonsen, K.: Unraveling the eﬀects of
cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work
groups. Journal of International Business Studies 41(4), 690–709 (Nov 2009).
27. Suﬁ, S., Jay, C.: Raising the status of software in research: A survey-based
evaluation of the software sustainability institute fellowship programme [version
1; peer review: 3 approved with reservations]. F1000Research 7(1599) (2018).
28. The Hopper Fund: The Hopper Conference Diversity Guide: Do Better at Confer-
ence Diversity, [Online] Available at: https://conference.hopper.org.nz/. Accessed
13th Aug 2020.
29. Tulloch, A.I.T.: Improving sex and gender identity equity and inclusion at con-
servation and ecology conferences. Nature Ecology & Evolution 4(10), 1311–1320
(Aug 2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1255-x
30. Universities UK: Patterns and trends in UK higher education 2018 (Sep
2018), [Online] Available at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/
data-and-analysis/Documents/patterns-and- trends-in-uk- higher-education-2018.
31. Van Der Zee, K., Atsma, N., Brodbeck, F.: The inﬂuence of social identity and per-
sonality on outcomes of cultural diversity in teams. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psy-
chology 35(3), 283–303 (May 2004). https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022104264123