Software and research: the Institute's Blog

The UK's first Software Carpentry boot camp

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

By Mike Jackson, the Software Sustainability Institute.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, members of the Software Sustainability Institute joined over 40 scientists for a Software Carpentry boot camp at University College London. Software Carpentry aims to teach scientists how to quickly build the high-quality software they need, and so maximise the impact of their research. The format is a workshop, or boot camp, followed by 4-8 weeks of self-paced online instruction.

The Scientific Software Developer in academia

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

By Quanbin Sun, Research Student at the University of Salford.

On 21-22 March, the Collaboration Workshop 2012 took place at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford. The workshop mainly focused on software development in academic projects and attracted sixty researchers and developers. Thirty two topics were raised and discussed during the two day event and more than twenty lightning talks were presented.

Among these discussions and topics, I enjoyed the ones that were related to the collaboration between scientific researchers and software developers and a possible…

Ask Steve! - “Oi, does my code smell? I’ve been told it does, but I can’t smell nuffink’! How do I give it the Lynx effect?”

Latest version published on 30 September, 2016.

I first heard about “code smells” during a session I was chairing at Dev8D 2012 on “what makes good code good?”: Ian Bayley, from Oxford Unviersity, suggested “no ‘code smells’”. I’d never heard of this term so I turned to my trusty friend Google to see what was what. Although I hadn’t heard the term before, it turns out that I knew what code smells are… source code that just looks “odd” or doesn’t feel quite right, which are signs that suggests to a developer that refactoring might be in order.

Not only were many of the smells familiar but the “deodorants” were too. For example…

Ask Steve! - Self-assessing your own software: a very nifty resource

Latest version published on 30 September, 2016.

At the Software Sustainability Institute I’m often asked - unsurprisingly – to evaluate the sustainability of software. This typically leads to a report for the developers with observations and recommendations for improvement. Wouldn’t it be better if there was some way of evaluating your own software?

There is! Having a third-party assess the state of your software in some way, be it a colleague testing the install process and documentation to provide feedback, or having the Institute perform a full evaluation is always useful. However, developing the skill to impartially self…

The top five don'ts of software development

Latest version published on 26 September, 2016.

By Steve Crouch.

You're about to embark on the development of a new piece of software. Of course, there's a whole host of things you should do. But let's look at the flip side of the coin: what shouldn't you do?

1. Don't develop code that you can't maintain

It's all too easy to fall into bad habits, especially if you're up against a tight deadline. In the long run, good coding practices will save you a great deal of time and stress. It will also make growing the software a far more enjoyable process. After all, who likes fighting their way through an unclear…

Is the work of scientific software engineers recognised in academia?

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

By Ilian Todorov, Advanced Research Computing Group, STFC.

This article represents my personal point of view. It is related to Dirk Gorissen’s blog post “The researcher programmer, a new species?” and discussions from the “Scientific Software Development and Management” group page of LinkedIn, which started after the Software Sustainability Institute’s Collaborations Workshop 2012 (CW12). These discussions pertain to why the software engineer in academia needs recognition.

Software has become a technique of choice for many scientists. It is often considered to be free,…

Top tips for migrating to an open source repository

Latest version published on 26 September, 2016.

You've decided to make the leap and move your software to an open-source repository. You may be doing this for reasons of openness - to encourage a community of developers to evolve around your software - or economics - to outsource the maintenance of your source code repository, email lists, wiki, blog and other services to a third-party who offers these for free.

Before you plunge into this brave new world, we invite you to consider our five top tips for moving your software to an open-source repository, to ensure that your migration is a pleasurable one.

1. Get buy-in from…

The Ocean Sciences Meeting 2012 in Salt Lake City, USA.

Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

By Vanesa Magar, Agent and lecturer in Coastal Engineering, University of Plymouth.

Hectic and fascinating are the words that best describe the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2012. It's a week-long conference attended by more than 3000 participants, including biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematical modellers, oceanographers, engineers and educators. There was a large number of poster presentations, which I found to be a great opportunity to interact with people and hear what they had to say about my research. In this blog, I'll take a look at the software-…

Successful GitHub development

Latest version published on 25 September, 2017.

My office-mate, Mario Antonioletti, forwarded a blog post by Randall Degges on Successful GitHub development. The post proposes best practice in programming on GitHub-hosted open-source projects. Randall's recommendations overlap with those proposed by other open development advocates (e.g. OSS Watch and ourselves!), but these are always worth restating!

For maintainers, the emphasis is on providing official documentation, using separate stable and development code branches in the repository, publishing test runs and using an issue tracker. Contributors are, in turn,…

Top tips for using an open-source repository

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

By Mike Jackson.

You've taken the big step: your software is now hosted in an open-source repository. You can rest easy, right? Well... no. A repository is like a well-engineered machine, it requires care, attention and nurturing so it can continue to deliver the best performance. Treat it well and it will treat you well!

Here, we present our five top tips for using an open-source repository.