The Road to an RCD HR Job Framework

2018 CI Professionalization Workshop

A series of RCN meetings from 2016-2017 grappled  with the notion of Cyberinfrastructure Practitioners and their progression from a community of practice to a profession.  As well, a survey of survey of cyberinfrastructure professionals from over 150 universities, colleges, and government labs, professional development was identified as the top priority.  Thus the Professionalization Working Group of CaRCC was formed to further this work. The group planned a two day workshop to bring together a diverse set of individuals to focus on two goals:

  1. Validate that four distinct tracks within this profession were becoming realized and included Systems-facing, Researcher-facing, Software/Data-facing, and Leadership/Stakeholder-facing tracks. 
  2. Define distinct job elements (roles and responsibilities), desired education, experience, and skills, and identify professional development and career opportunities for each track. 

The CI Professionalization Workshop was held in Washington DC, March 13-14, 2018 and included 38 people from many different backgrounds and institutions.  The major outcome of the workshop was the creation of an initial draft of a “Research Computing and Data Professionals Job Elements and Career Guide”.  Other common themes from this workshop included the following, which continue to be important aspects of other working groups in CaRCC.

Co-Creation (partnering with researchers):  Research computing and data professionals are co-creating methods and software models; Collaborative process, very different from delivery of traditional IT and software services

Career Paths are incomplete in most organizations; creating challenges for recruiting, developing and retaining these professionals.

Digital:  The exponential growth of digital technologies underlies work; accelerating change in the work due to changes in hardware, software, systems, and the nature of the data itself.

Status:  Work of research computing & data professionals generally held in high regard by faculty with whom they work; important status and power differences between these professionals and principle investigators that are part of a larger “two-tier” culture in most university settings. 

Terminology:  Work centered on “cyberinfrastructure for research” and touches on many related domains, including “data science” and “high performance computing.” This work is distinct from, but connected to the work of “information technology” professionals.

2019 HR Job Framework

From presenting the Research Computing and Data Professionals Job Elements and Career Guide, common feedback included: 

  1. A real struggle of hiring managers in working with HR under current job codes and standard IT or Research position not fully representing the breadth, diversity, and complexity of the RCD roles and responsibility 
  2. A desire for job description templates  
  3. A pressing need to have higher level individual contributor roles equivalent to the manager grades 
  4. The evolving nature of the RCD roles is changing at a rate faster than most university HR reclassification processes.  

Out of this need came the Spring 2019 working group activity to create an HR Job Family Framework.  This framework would be the first national effort to provide a template that RCD Hiring Managers could use in discussion with their respective Administrative and HR Leadership.    This seminal work completed over virtual meetings from April 8th – May 13th, 2018 and included the following:

  • Scott Yockel (lead)- Harvard, University Research Computing Officer
  • Melissa Lucius and Nicole Breen – Harvard, IT HR 
  • Erik Deumens – U Florida, Director of Research Computing Anna Thrombly – U Florida, IT HR 
  • Eric Adams – Purdue, Program Manager, Education & Outreach Brian Balderston – SDSC, Manager of Research Data Infrastructure 
  • Wayne Gilmore – Boston U, Director of Research Computing Janae Baker – Rutgers, Program Coordinator 
  • Thomas Cheatham – U of Utah, Professor, Director of Research Computing

The final draft was then provided to the 38 participants from the 2018 CI Professionalization Workshop for comments and validation.   The end result is a framework that represents a job series for each of the “facings” that were validated in the 2018 CI Professionalization Workshop.  This framework is flexible enough that it can be used as a template for any institution, whether large or small, public or private, degree granting or purely research.  The user of this framework will have the flexibility to create their specific RCD Job Family, whether it sits in the IT or Research job function or whether the number of levels matches.  The importance is that there is a real understanding from HR at the uniqueness of this family of positions in contrast to purely Enterprise IT or Research positions. As well it is important that HR maintains the consistency in the language of increasing responsibility from entry to expert levels and maintains the minimum requirements.


  1. CI Job Family Matrix and Guide

If you have any questions or comments on these documents please send email to Scott Yockel