Introducing… James Hetherington
What’s your name?
What do you do at the Alan Turing Institute?
I am the Director of Research Engineering at the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. I lead the “Tools, Practices and Systems” theme within UK Research and Innovation’s strategic priority programme “AI for Science, Engineering, Health and Government”.
I lead the Turing’s group of Research Data Scientists and Research Software Engineers (RSEs), contributing to a huge range of data- and compute-intensive research. We build and use tools to analyse and present large datasets, and create complex models running on state of the art supercomputers.
What’s your role on the project?
In Living with Machines, I lead the Infrastructure, Integration and Interfaces lab. We research the design and construction of data models, software libraries, and online interfaces to facilitate digital humanities, connecting scales, managing uncertainty and linking models. I’m particularly determined that research infrastructures for digital history research are co-designed between computer scientists and historians in genuine collaboration.
What’s your background?
Prior to joining the Turing Institute, I was the founding head of UCL’s Research Software Engineering Group, the first such group in the UK. Fields addressed included ancient Mesopotamian history, graph theoretical approaches to modeling chemical catalysis, intensive care big data, compressive sensing for the Square Kilometer Array, the history of trans-oceanic journalistic exchanges, data centric engineering, brain blood flow simulations and DNA crime scene analysis statistics.
I was one of the founders of the Society of Research Software Engineering . As an interdisciplinary researcher, focusing on team-based research, defining new ways of being a research professional which challenge academic norms is a key part of my work. I’m proud that this model has grown from a small group in UCL to a major part of the computational research ecosystem.
Tell us something we mightn’t know about you…
Outside work, I like to play complicated games of all kinds. In one of them, I role-played “Ernie Grimthwaite”, a technician at the Royal Technomantic Society, a working-class hero defending 1920s London from interdimensional horrors.