Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Cartooning the First World War

By Rhianydd Biebrach, Project Officer for Cartooning the First World War at Cardiff University.

This article is part of our series: a day in the software life, in which we ask researchers from all disciplines to discuss the tools that make their research possible.

Cartoons are probably not the most obvious source material for the history of the First World War, but in the approximately 1,350 political cartoons drawn by Joseph Morewood Staniforth that appeared in The Western Mail and the News of the World throughout the conflict, we have a fascinating record of how those events were consumed daily at the nation’s breakfast tables.

This chronicle of the war is replete with clever caricatures of individuals such as Herbert Henry Asquith, David Lloyd George and the Kaiser, as well as Britannia, John Bull, and Staniforth’s own invention, the stout and matronly Dame Wales, in her traditional Welsh costume.

Want help solving your IP problems?

By Shoaib Sufi, Community Leader.

Issues around IP are the cause of some of the most contentious and persistent problems that affect researchers. Who owns IP? How do you license it? Can you share information with collaborators? Who can help you understand IP issues at your university? The Institute’s Intellectual Property (IP), copyright, licensing and commercialisation workshop (IPCLC) will be held on 11 December 2014 in Oxford at the Oxford e-Research Centre from 10.00 to 17.00. It’s free to attend.

A good understanding of IP, Copyright, Licensing and Commercialisation is an invaluable tool for anyone embarking on a research career. It can help you prepare your work so that the majority of IP-related problems are solved before they arise, and if you do run into problems, a grounding in IP can help you resolve problems before they become serious.

The first Science Paper hackathon: how did it go?

By Derek Groen, Research Associate at University College London.

This September, Joanna Lewis and I organised a Paper Hackathon event in Flore, Northamptonshire, with support from both the Software Sustainability Institute and 2020 Science.

Our highly ambitious goal was to write a scientific draft paper over the course of two and a half days within a highly informal setting. Did we manage to accomplish that? In many of the projects we did!

What’s behind the Green Door? Making homes more energy efficient

By Elaine Massung, Research Assistant, and Dan Schien, Research Associate, at the University of Bristol,

This article is part of our series: a day in the software life, in which we ask researchers from all disciplines to discuss the tools that make their research possible.

The threat of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions has gained the attention of many scientists and programmers working in the field of sustainability and human-computer interaction (HCI).

One area in particular that has received close scrutiny is domestic energy reduction, where smart meters and ambient displays have been developed to increase awareness of energy waste, and sensors are deployed to automatically control a home’s energy expenditure. Yet missing from these developments is the fabric of the building itself.

Meeting 26 of the elite: Fellows 2015 selection day

By Shoaib Sufi, Community Manager.

On 10 November, we met 26 researchers who had been shortlisted for the Institute’s Fellowships 2015.

Crock-shock – using CT data to explore extinct crocodyliforms

3D models of the aquatic crocodyliform Pelagosaurus typus. By Felipe Montefeltro, postdoctoral researcher at São Paulo State University, Brazil.

This article is part of our series: a day in the software life, in which we ask researchers from all disciplines to discuss the tools that make their research possible.

The application of computer-based technologies was once largely constrained by the high price of both hardware and software. In the past decade, the price of both has fallen to a much more affordable level. Now, computer-based methods are available for a greater number of palaeontologists.

This is particularly true of X-ray computed tomography (CT) which has profoundly changed how we study fossils. I study the internal structure of fossil crocodile skulls based on CT data and use it to search for clues as to how they lived.

Software Carpentry face-to-face Instructors Training at TGAC

By Aleksandra Pawlik, Training Leader.

The second Software Carpentry face-to-face Instructors Training took place on 22-23 October in Norwich at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC). The course was taught by Greg Wilson, the founder of Software Carpentry and Bill Mills, the Mozilla Science Lab Community Manager. Over the next two days, 39 people learnt how to be better teachers.

The face-to-face Instructors Training is a much more intense and compact version of the course which Greg has been running online since 2012. Over the course of 48 hours, including the discussions over dinner at the end of Day One, we covered a number of topics about approaches, methods and challenges in teaching. Just like during the Software Carpentry workshops, the Instructors Training was very much hands-on.

Collaborative Lesson Development: teaching data on the web at MozFest 2014

By Aleksandra Pawlik, Training Leader.

After 2013's success of running the session on "What makes good code..." the Institute helped in running another session at this year's Mozilla Festival. The focus of the session was on "designing open lessons on Teaching Data on the Web by filling in gaps between current workshop offerings, and building domain-specific content."

The session was originally proposed by Data Carpentry with Karthik Ram (ROpenSci) as the main facilitator. Karthik was supported by Robert Davey (The Genome Analysis Centre), Milena Marin (School of Data), Billy Meinke (Creative Commons) and myself. The objectives of the sessions were not only to create and improve the existing Data Carpentry materials for teaching data on the web but also to familiarize the participants with the process of collaborative work on these materials.

Improved code for ARCHER hits the target

Shoot that poison arrow to my hearrrrr-rrrrt...By Gillian Law, TechLiterate, talking with Prashant Valluri, University of Edinburgh.

This article is part of our series: Breaking Software Barriers, in which Gillian Law investigates how our Research Software Group has helped projects improve their research software. If you would like help with your software, let us know.

There's a difference between writing code and writing good code, says Prashant Valluri, Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Materials and Processes, laughing as he describes how much he learned while working with the Software Sustainability Institute.

Valluri's team has developed code called TPLS (Two-Phase Level Set), for mathematically modelling complex fluid flows. The code aims to provide much more effective computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis for academia and industry, by providing efficient multi-phase models, better numerical resolution and efficient parallelisation.

Researchers both rely on software - and overlook it

By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

This article originally appeared in Research Fortnight.

With few exceptions, every significant advance in research over at least the past 30 years would have been impossible without computer software. Research software—used to produce results rather than for, say, word processing or web searches—has spread far beyond traditionally computational fields such as particle physics and bioinformatics to achieve near ubiquity in all disciplines. In my role at the Software Sustainability Institute, I have worked with everyone from fusion physicists to choreographers.

The institute, which helps researchers with software and promotes a better understanding thereof, is conducting a survey of researchers selected at random from 15 Russell Group universities. Early indications from about 400 respondents are that almost 90 per cent rely on research software. About 70 per cent report that their research would be impossible without it, and almost 60 per cent develop their own software.