As I learned the other day, Perimeter Institute is now looking for a person who works at exactly this intersection. The job description reads as follows:
The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) is looking for a Scientific IT specialist -- a creative individual with experience in both scientific research and information technology (IT). This is a new, hybrid, research/IT position within the Institute, dedicated to helping PI’s scientific staff make effective use of IT resources. It has two clear missions. First, to directly assist researchers in using known, available IT tools to do their research. Second, to uncover or develop cutting-edge IT resources, introduce and test them with PI researchers, and then share the things we create and discover with the worldwide scientific community.
By "tools", we mean almost anything. Coding techniques are an obvious example. Collaboration and communication technologies are another: tools for peer-to-peer interactions (such as skype), virtual whiteboards, video conferencing tools, platforms for running virtual conferences (that can do justice to talks in the mathematical sciences), and novel ways of presenting research results such as archives for recorded seminars, blogs, and wikis. Further examples include tools for helping researchers organize information (e.g., specialized search engines and filtering schemes), and end-user software that facilitates bread-and-butter scientific activities like writing papers collaboratively, preparing presentations, and organizing references.
We are seeking a person who brings an independent and ambitious vision that will help define this vision. The job is as yet quite malleable in its scope and duties! We're looking for someone who is inspired by the possibility that new IT tools can improve or perhaps even revolutionize the way that physics research is done, and someone who can take full advantage of a mandate to create and implement that vision.
Some Duties and Responsibilities:
- Act as a knowledge broker among Researchers. That is, find and test new programs and practices, advertise them, and be prepared to train others in their use.
- Participate in the creation of a high quality “standard" Researcher IT environment (desktop hardware, software set-up), built from a mix of open source software and popular commercial packages.
- Help with High Performance Computing demands.
- Maintain expert level knowledge in the use of the main packages used by Researchers, including Mathematica, Maple, LaTex, etc.
For the official job ad, go here.
[Via Rob Spekkens]. The deadline for applications is Friday, July 2, 2010. The Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam meanwhile offers an almost identically sounding position. I've been told PI was first, but their posting is not dated.
I very much like this development. My requirements on IT staff these days are however very modest. I am happy when the printer spits out my paper without chewing up some pages or leaving them blank. My biggest wish would be not a virtual whiteboard but an actual whiteboard with a plugin to my computer so I could use the board for equations and figures during a skype call. The equations are usually cumbersome but still doable, in the worst case by typing them in LaTex into the chat interface. But diagrams are a disaster. Drawing with a mouse yields no sensible results and the drawing pads that I've tried weren't too convincing either, even neglecting the problem on how to incorporate them into the call. On occasion I've thus drawn on a paper and held it into the camera. This however only works for figures with few details and necessitates plenty of additional explanations.
What is the software or hardware you dream of for your research life?