INTERSECT Project Summary


INnovative Training Enabled by a Research Software Engineering Community of Trainers (INTERSECT)

The breadth and sophistication of software skills required to develop modern research software projects are increasing at an unprecedented pace. Undergraduate and graduate education is often insufficient at preparing graduate students for the task of developing high-performing, sustainable research software. The best, most cohesive software-related training efforts are targeted at novice users. Researchers often try to “run before they can walk” 1, and as such, members of the research software community have focused significant effort on providing an on-ramp to programming and research computing. Software Carpentry (, for example, excels at introducing basic programming and computing skills to researchers. However, beyond this introductory level, training becomes more patchwork and piecemeal with institutions and organizations across the United States attempting to address the need on their own. A recent survey of U.S. postdoctoral researchers found that 95% of respondents use research software 2. Of those that use research software 66% stated they could not continue their research without it. Despite this reliance, over half (54%) of the respondents who were using this software had received no training.

Results of Survey of US National Postdoctoral Association Regarding Software Use and Training in Research. Results exclude the 5% of respondents who reported they did not use research software

There exists a need to train researchers at later stages of their career in more advanced topics to not only make them more productive, but to make the software they create more sustainable. Or, to continue the analogy, once they know how to walk, they need to learn how to run.

Therefore, to address this knowledge and skill gap, we are introducing INnovative Training Enabled by a Research Software Engineering Community of Trainers (INTERSECT), which will bring software development and engineering training to intermediate and advanced developers of research software. INTERSECT will provide expert-led training courses and workshops focused on building a pipeline of computational researchers trained in best practices for research software development. This training will enable these computational researchers to produce better software while simultaneously preparing a subset with the skill set required to enter in the increasingly valued role of a Research Software Engineer. INTERSECT will leverage the instructors best suited for providing this intermediate and advanced training, professional Research Software Engineers.

To achieve this goal, INTERSECT will bring together RSE instructors from multiple institutions within the U.S. to maximally exploit the capabilities, knowledge, expertise of a growing RSE community. INTERSECT will sponsor a newly-created multi-day bootcamp targeting intermediate and advanced students from U.S. institutions. The project will curate the material used in the INTERSECT workshops and training sessions while working with existing frameworks to provide an open-source platform that will allow for continued engagement with the training material and help coordinate the effort across the RSE-trainer community.
In addition, INTERSECT will sponsor annual RSE-trainer workshops, focused on the curation and communal generation of training material. These workshops will connect RSE practitioner-instructors from across the country to not only leverage the knowledge of multiple institutions but also to build and strengthen the community of this group of software professionals.

  1. G Wilson. Software carpentry: lessons learned. F1000Research, 3(62), 2016. 

  2. U. Nangia and D.S. Katz. Track 1 Paper: Surveying the US National Postdoctoral Association Regarding Software Use and Training in Research. In Workshop on Sustainable Software for Science: Practice and Experiences (WSSSPE5.1), 2017.