Research Applications Specialist - IT Services

United Kingdom
£30,942 - £42,792
Oct 31, 2019
Nov 13, 2019
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
Position Details

IT Services

Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK

Full time starting salary is normally in the range of £30,492 to £40,322. With potential progression once in post to £42,792

Grade 7

Full time

2 year fixed term contract

Closing date: 13th November 2019

Job Summary

The Research Computing Applications Specialists play a central role in ARC's Research Software Group, focused on building and providing core support for the rich and diverse range of advanced applications in BEAR for the University of Birmingham's research community.

The Birmingham Environment for Academic Research (BEAR) delivers a broad range of computing services to enable world-class research. Focused on the application layer, the post holder will contribute to initiatives in all areas of service innovation and delivery (including HPC, HTC, data analytics, image rendering, AI and visualisation) enabling researchers to fully exploit the compute power of BEAR. The services support research across the entire spectrum of academic endeavour at Birmingham from Music to Medicine, Computer Science to Theology, Physics to English, Economics to Climatology.

IT services at the University use complex, large-scale architectures based on Unix, Linux, Openstack and enterprise class storage infrastructures. These need to be configured and maintained to the highest standards of reliability, performance and quality. Business continuity and high service levels are demanded for mission-critical corporate services and for those supporting the core activities of research, teaching and learning.

The needs of researchers at a broad-based institution like Birmingham are necessarily hugely varied, often novel and frequently complex as are the systems and solutions required. Supporting researchers' needs and being responsive to them are fundamental to this post.

BEAR has grown to provide a broad set of capabilities to cater for a wide range of disciplines and the ever evolving computing needs of our creative and ambitious research community. Our installed base of research applications may well be the richest in the sector and are available on BEAR Cloud VMs and for batch processing in BlueBEAR (our HPC system). Individuals working in the Advanced Research Computing need to be resourceful, innovative and attuned to the research process.

Main Duties

The post holder is responsible for:

• Deployment, maintenance and support of research software on the BEAR platforms, including specialist HPC applications, Open Source codes and commercial software

• Maintenance of the tools required to manage, license, maintain and deploy the software efficiently.

• Responding to application related Service Desk tickets and troubleshooting incidents and problems, in collaboration with both researchers and with infrastructure colleagues.

• Supporting training and outreach activity to enable exploitation of these applications

• Maintenance of the associated user and technical documentation

• Associated Licence administration with a plan for the coming 2 years, including managing within the allocated budget.

• In conjunction with the Research Software Group, develop and maintain the tools and skills to automate or otherwise improve the processes around the management and maintenance of our rich and diverse set of research applications.

• Providing advice for the team and researchers on related licence queries and ensuring BEAR usage adheres to the licensing models of installed applications and components.

• As part of the BEAR Triage Team, taking responsibility on duty days for triaging all Team tickets effectively as well as provisioning resources and other associated tasks to enable resolution of all issues and requests in a timely way.

• Writing, sourcing and maintaining appropriate and accessible documentation to support BEAR services.

• Liaising with suppliers in relation to the software requirements of supported research groups and their inter-operation with BEAR.

• Providing central expertise on research software which may be called upon by other departments or research groups within the University.

• Where possible, assisting with wider Research Software Group goals and tasks as required.

• Supporting and promoting the BEAR services, managed by the Advanced Research Computing Team and assisting researchers and research groups to utilize the service effectively.

• Undertaking other duties as may be required from time to time in furtherance of the work of IT Services

Person Specification

• Formal education to degree level or equivalent.

• Experience in a relevant/related computing role is essential and must include compiling and supporting a range of complex software on Linux (ideally in an HPC environment).

• Experience of working with compiler tool chains and software library dependencies

• Proven scripting skills in an appropriate language, such as Bash or Python Experience and demonstrable competence using Linux and associated software applications.

• Demonstrated ability to solve complex problems

• Experience with managing licences would be an advantage

• Familiarity with software curation, revision control systems and development environments

• Experience of producing accessible (meaning accessible to someone with little knowledge of your discipline), technical documentation (or similar)

• Proven ability to work as part of a team

• Proven ability to build constructive relationships with customers (or similar)

• A self-motivated learner with a track record of continually updating skills.

• Excellent communication skills, both written and oral.

• Knowledge of Higher Education, Research and its environment is desirable.

• Familiarity with ITIL would be advantageous


• No reports.

• The role is a specialised and technical one, enabling the exploitation of advanced computing in research. This is complex and diverse. The post holder will work under the direction of a Group Leader with more advanced skills in the same area (amongst other things)

• Customers are all University research groups and their collaborators (nationally and internationally). Success will enable delivery of major research outputs and the winning of further research income. The post holder is not expected to generate income directly.

• Works as part of a team that is essential to the effective exploitation of the multi-million pound BEAR infrastructure.

• Will maintain the diverse portfolio of research applications in BEAR and related licences. Note that Birmingham provides more applications (with dependencies) centrally than any other RUGIT institution (currently in excess of 800). This is demanding on the individual and the Team.

Planning and organising

The individual will receive day to day guidance but is expected to be able to carry out 80% of the role under their own initiative and in co-operation with other Research Application Specialists, following an extended induction period. This includes scheduling their own time effectively and prioritising standard tasks. The Group leader will review priorities with the individual and expect to give instructions in around 20% of cases.

Some work will be delegated by the Group Leader in response to user tickets in the Service Desk, some will be delegated directly as a result of collaborations with PIs but balance is likely to be repeat updates/renewals. Note that many of these will be complex tasks with inadequate documentation/direction so will need solving or adaptations before implementation.

The role holder will be expected to work out and then maintain a plan that balances the regular cycle of updates with their other tasks and agree a pattern of working with the Group Leader. On top of this, there will be urgent tasks assigned and the post holder will be expected to remain responsive to the needs of users, with the support of the Group Leader.

Problem solving and decision making

i) without reference to others

• Testing and implementation of new software or new versions (to meet the needs of the client research groups). Consultation may be required for the most complex cases or where potential conflicts exist.

• Ongoing maintenance and support of research applications, including taking short-term remedial actions in the event of failures and other performance problems and instigating full and effective communications with customers

• trouble-shooting Service Desk incidents, taking remedial action or collaborating with infrastructure specialists for system level issues.

ii) after consulting others

• Appropriate security strategies to be applied to a specific implementation (consult Group Leader).

• Appropriate/optimal licensing in the light of the local needs, wider usage and opportunities for cost effective purchasing.

• Updating software management tools

• Issuing major updates to user documentation (after peer review)

iii) or that would be referred to someone else

• issues which are the responsibility of other IT Services' sections, including desktop and admin computing matters.

• Identity and access management policy and service provision - refer to Network Team

• Security standards (refer to Group Leader)

• Security incidents (refer to Group Leader)

We value diversity at The University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community

Informal enquiries regarding this vacancy can be made to Carol Sandys -

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