Software and research: the Institute's Blog
By Laura Hobbs & Allen Pope, UK Polar Network
On the 17th September 2013, the UK Polar Network hosted a Software and Polar Research workshop at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. The workshop was sponsored by the Institue. Preceding the UK Arctic Sciences 2013 conference, this one day event was designed to introduce new software to early career Polar Scientists whilst also discussing how software that is already used can be developed to increase its possibilities and facilitate better science.
The workshop started with some “Lightning Presentations” from each of the 16 participants. The talks focused on to the software that each of us use, and the types of the data that we use it to interpret. The software introduced was varied, from Microsoft Excel to custom designed software such as Avoplot (to run in Python).
Posted by AleksandraPawlik on Monday 4 November 2013.
By Jacob Vanderplas, University of Washington.
The following post is reproduced by kind permission from the Python Perambulations blog.
Regardless of what you might think of the ubiquity of the Big Data meme, it's clear that the growing size of datasets is changing the way we approach the world around us. This is true in fields from industry to government to media to academia and virtually everywhere in between. Our increasing abilities to gather, process, visualise, and learn from large datasets is helping to push the boundaries of our knowledge.
But where scientific research is concerned, this recently accelerated shift to data-centric science has a dark side, which boils down to this: the skills required to be a successful scientific researcher are increasingly indistinguishable from the skills required to be successful in industry. While academia, with typical inertia, gradually shifts to accommodate this, the rest of the world has already begun to embrace and reward these skills to a much greater degree. The unfortunate result is that some of the most promising upcoming researchers are finding no place for themselves in the academic community, while the for-profit world of industry stands by with deep pockets and open arms.
Posted by Simon Hettrick on Friday 1 November 2013.
By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.
Over the last few years, HESA's study of graduate careers has awarded computer science with the unwelcome honour of the lowest employment rate of all graduates. Last year, about 14% of computer scientists were unemployed six months after graduation. So what's wrong with computer scientists?
We will soon be attending a strategy meeting on the future of UK computer science degrees, and we want to represent your thoughts on this problem. If you have any ideas or arguments, please comment below, info [at] software [dot] ac [dot] uk (email us) or tweet with the hashtag #wwwcs.
Posted by Simon Hettrick on Thursday 31 October 2013.
By Duncan Lock.
You have a software project and some users - perhaps even a contributor or two. How do you grow this into a sustainable, thriving user community? Here are some top tips to help you on your journey.
1. Get the word out
The more people who know about your work, the more who can get involved. This starts with content. Start a project blog and write about what you are doing and why it would be useful for your users. Write around your topic and be helpful to your audience. Tell your story, and their stories, and show how useful your software is.
Knowing your audience is crucial to writing. Either choose a real person you know, or imagine a specific person and speak to them through your writing. Argue with them, convince them, explain to them. Choosing a specific audience is not only much easier than writing for everyone, it is also much more direct and powerful. Above all, your writing should be teaching your audience something that they will find useful. If you can't do that, tell them something fascinating. If you can't do that, keep trying.
Posted by alexanderhay on Tuesday 29 October 2013.
By Neil Chue Hong, Director.
On 26 October, I headed to the amazing Ravensbourne media and design campus in North Greenwich with Aleksandra Pawlik for MozFest13. MozFest is a huge unconference held by the Mozilla Foundation that brings together thinkers, makers, learners, and designers. This year, following the creation of the Mozilla Science Lab (whose first project is Software Carpentry) we ran our popular What Makes Good Code Good session in the MozFest Science track.
Posted by NeilChueHong on Monday 28 October 2013.
By Ian Cottam, IT Services Research Lead, The University of Manchester.
The next post in my series on heroes of software engineering focuses on Brian Kernighan. First of all an apology to my hero: I’ve been mispronouncing Dr Kernighan’s name for the last 35 years. In checking some facts for this blog piece I now realize the g is silent. Did you know that?
I suspect most readers will think my title refers to The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie: one of the world’s most popular books on programming and a programming language. Some people refer to this book as simply K&R, whilst others reserve that for the version of the C language that existed before ANSI standardised it. However, Kernighan’s only contribution to C, as a language and an implementation, is writing most of that book. (Ritchie wrote the chapter on system calls and the reference manual part.) The definition of C and the first C compiler were entirely Ritchie’s work.
Posted by Simon Hettrick on Friday 25 October 2013.
This article is part of our series: a day in the software life, in which we will be asking researchers from all disciplines to discuss the tools that make their research possible.
Although 80% of blindness is avoidable, diagnosing it can be very expensive. Peek is an app that helps community health workers to perform a comprehensive eye examination with only an Android phone and minimal training.
The project is based in Kenya, and so we - Stewart Jordan, Mario Giardini, Iain Livingstone and I - are faced with a wide range of challenges.
Posted by alexanderhay on Wednesday 23 October 2013.
By Steve Crouch, Consultancy Leader.
Our Open Call is our regular competition that provides developer effort and expertise - for free - to UK-based researchers.
The deadline for the latest Open Call is close: you must complete your application by close of business on 31 October 2013.
You can ask for our help improving your research software, your development practices, or your community of users and contributors (or all three!). Or if you have an interesting idea for new software that you would like to get off the ground, please apply to the competition.
In the last month, one of our Open Call projects, ForestGrowth-SRC, has helped the Centre for Biological Sciences gain a ten-times increase in calculation speed. This is important work, because biomass has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Posted by SteveCrouch on Tuesday 22 October 2013.
By Simon Hettrick.
Our policy team has been looking into research computing. This is specialist support for researchers who use software as a fundamental part of their research (leaders in this field are groups like the UCL Research Computing team, the EPCC and the Oxford eResearch Centre.). The theory we would like to test is that the greater the status of research computing at an organisation, the better the software produced by that organisation.
Our research into the composition of universities led us to the Higher Education Information Database for Institutions (better known by its acronym heidi). which is a web-based information system that allows users in higher education institutions to access, extract and manipulate data about higher education. If you are interested in this data, and your organisation has subscribed to heidi, then you may well be able to request a free login.
Posted by Simon Hettrick on Friday 18 October 2013.
By Steve Crouch.
In August instructed at the SeIUCCR Summer School in the shiny new training facilities at the Hartree Centre in Daresbury. Targeted at UK doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in the engineering and physical sciences, the school teaches researchers about tools and techniques for e-Infrastructure, software development and data management to support and improve their science.
My session covered sustainable software development, which I've presented in one form or another at the school for the last two years. This time, I asked the participants what they thought made good code good, splitting them into groups to discuss the issue.
Posted by SteveCrouch on Wednesday 16 October 2013.