Roles for eResearch

Nicholas May1, Sheila Mukerjee2, Samara Neilson3

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia,

2La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia,

3Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Australia,


The position descriptions of roles within the eResearch industry are not consistent and are not standardized. As an example, AeRO [1] has collected over a hundred different role titles for position descriptions within the industry. This makes the recruitment of staff and career progression within the industry much harder. However, efforts are underway, as discussed at a recent AeRO Forum [2], to determine the scope of these positions and to describe the skills associated with common roles. The first step in any movement towards standardizing position descriptions, is to set some boundaries and identify some common eResearch roles.

In this ‘Birds of a Feather’ session, participants will collaborate to perform a simple role modelling process, in which they will classify and transform existing position titles into a more manageable collection. An appropriate framework, which will be presented at the start of the session, will provide a basis for participants to classify the roles. This may be based on the overlapping domains that eResearch spans (such as: Research, Information Technology, and Innovation) or the skill categories of SFIA [3]. The role modelling process, shown in Table 1., has been adapted from an existing ‘user role modelling’ process, as described by Cohn [4]. The steps of the process that will be performed in the session include: Discovery, Organization, and Consolidation.

Participants can submit their role titles, in advance of this session, via the following URL:

The resulting set of titles will subsequently be assigned appropriate skills and levels of responsibility using an appropriate framework, such as SFIA, as has already been done for various ICT roles [5].

Step Time (Mins) Goals
Introduction 15 Present the modelling process and classification framework.
Discovery 15 A visual representation of the framework is outlined on a whiteboard or wall.

Starting list of titles is shared amongst the participants.

Everyone writes role titles on sticky notes.

Notes are posted on the framework.

No discussion of the role names is allowed in this step.

Organization 15 Move the notes around the board to represent their relationships.

If roles overlap then overlap the notes, the degree of overlap represents the degree to which the roles overlap.

Consolidation 15 If notes overlap entirely,

·         remove a note, or

·         replace both with a consolidated name.

If notes overlap partially,

·         remove a note if the difference is not significant, or

·         replace one with a title that corresponds to the difference.

Remove any notes for roles that are not significant.

Rearrange the notes to show the important relationships and hierarchies between roles.

    Inputs: List of Role Titles, Classification Framework.

Outputs: Transformed and condensed set of Role Titles.

Table 1. Session Format.


  1. Australian eResearch Organisations (AeRO),, accessed 6 June 2018.
  2. C3DIS, AeRO Forum – eResearch Workshop,, accessed 6 June 2018.
  3. SFIA Foundation, The Skills Framework for the Information Age – SFIA, Available at:, accessed 6 June 2018.
  4. Cohn, M., User Stories Applied, Addison-Wesley, 2004, ISBN: 0-321-20568-5.
  5. ACS, Common ICT Job Profiles and Indicators of Skills Mobility, ICT Skills White Paper, 30 December, 2013,
    Available at:, accessed 6 June 2018.


Nicholas May is a software developer in the Research Capability unit at RMIT University. He has over twenty-nine years of varied experience within the software engineering profession, across industries and domains, and holds the Certified Professional status with the Australian Computer Society. His current role includes the responsibility for promoting research data management across the research lifecycle at RMIT University.

Samara is a computer scientist and technologist working in the Research Analytics Services team at Swinburne University. In addition to being a representative of FAVeR, she is also on the Melbourne Committee for Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), Australia’s longest running hackathon for social good, and a member of Girl Geek Academy, supporting women in STEMM.

Caroline Gauld is the Deputy Director, Research Information Management (RIM) at Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group. The Research Information Management team supports research data management, knowledge management and records management across DST Group and works in collaboration with other technology specialists to support DST Group researchers to manage and preserve their research outputs and data.

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