Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Biodiversity is the spice of life

Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

By Kathryn Rose, a Software Sustainability Institute Agent.

Despite being associated with the icy landmass of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean hosts an abundance of marine life. Whilst most people might associate this wildlife with whales, seals and penguins, what many do not realise is that the majority of this great biodiversity is actually located on the sea floor (over 8,500 known species so far). In light of this, the International Polar Year saw the launch of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, an international initiative established to investigate and record the…

Open Street Map and Participatory Mapping

Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

By Kristy Revell, a Software Sustainability Institute Agent.

When OpenStreetMap (OSM) was born in 2004, it was created as "an initiative to create and provide free geographic data, such as street maps, to anyone". Since then, OSM has grown rapidly and been developed by more than 400,000 volunteers.

I first became aware of OSM during a workshop in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Vast amounts of data are collected on this community by the community, facilitated by the Map Kibera project. This project made me ponder the role of OSM in collecting and…

Save scientific legacy code!

Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

By Aleksandra Pawlik, one of the institute's Agents.

The maintenance of scientific legacy code gives many scientists (and software engineers) a major headache. Supporting users, adding new functionality and fixing bugs causes problems to accumulate, until it seems easier to abandon the software and develop it again from scratch. Freezing the legacy code for (possibly) a few years of rewriting, means that new contributions have to wait until the rewritten software is released. Is there a solution that enables continuity of legacy software development, yet makes it possible to…

Should Big Brother get better vision?

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

Heather Packer, one of our Agents, asks whether current facial recognition software could help identify  criminals.

The recent London riots and the BBC's Crime Watch special, which focused on video footage of the rioters so the public could help identify them, led me to think about whether there was a feasible automated solution using facial recognition software.

There are many problems that prevent a face recognition algorithm from successfully identifying a person from a digital image. The occlusion of facial features such as the nose or eyes from images, different…

SSI at the SeIUCCR Summer School

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

The SeIUCCR project is a network of Community Champions who advocate the use of e-Infrastructures in their research. A collaboration between the Software Sustainability Institute and the National Grid Service, the project held a Summer School in September to show researchers how to make use of national e-resources and manage their software and data.

The workshop was aimed at UK doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in the Engineering and Physical Sciences, and with over 100 applicants the competition for the 30 placements was tough.

A host of talks and tutorials gave…

Prediction of a better future for head-injured patients

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

Predictive algorithms could improve the survival rate of patients who have suffered head injuries. Laura Moss, one of our Agents, describes the Avert-IT project.

The use of sophisticated machine learning algorithms is set to transform the treatment of critically ill head-injured patients. The Avert-IT project is an EU-funded collaboration which will construct an early warning alarm system to notify clinicians of impending low blood pressure (hypotension) in patients with head injuries. The HypoPredict system is based on a predictive model developed using patient data collected…

Beyond weather - MetUM and the art of weather forecasting

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

Vanesa Magar, one of our Agents, describes the Met Office's weather simulation software.

In the global web-enabled communications era, most of us don't think twice before consulting the weather forecast to plan our daily or future activities. We take this service for granted and never ask questions. Who produces the forecasts and how are they done? How accurate are they? The Met Office is the United Kingdom's national weather service. It was established in 1854 under Robert FitzRoy, a pioneering meteorologist, as a service for mariners. In 1859 its first gale warning service was…

What will climate change do to our wheat?

Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

Are scientists breeding wheat to cope with the wrong conditions in the future? Elisa Loza Reyes, one of our Agents, tells us more.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research are using mathematical and computational tools to investigate the effects that the future climate may have on the development and yield of the most important crop in Europe: wheat. In a recent study, daily weather data was generated for various European locations, including Denmark, the UK, Hungary and Italy, and over two periods: 1960-1990 (the baseline) and 2046-2065 (the future). The predictions…

It's good to share

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

We continue with the blog posts from our new Agents. Simon Choppin, a sports engineering researcher from Sheffield Hallam, looks into the benefits of sharing code.

Many software users are also software writers. Whether a simple spreadsheet macro or a million lines of code, custom programs are essential tools for researchers of all disciplines. These silent workhorses gather and process our data, they solve problems and help to create ideas. To many of us they're an indispensable aspect of our working lives.

For some, creating custom software is relatively…

I didn't want to be a project manager...

Latest version published on 3 October, 2016.

...but somebody made me do it!

Sound familiar? Fear not! While effective project management is becoming ever-more important in delivering useful results from increasingly large and complex research software projects, it's not as scary as it might seem.

Project management has its own professional standards and methodologies - think PRINCE2 or PMP - but in its essentials it's really just common sense. While I'm a big fan of the PRINCE2 methodology for development projects, I've also learned over the years that coupling development with the research dimension common…