Mike Croucher

Research Software Engineers, BBSRCBy Mike Croucher, Research Software Engineer at University of Sheffield and Software Sustainability Institute Fellow

Reposted with the author's permission. This article was originally published in Walking Randomly

The job title ‘Research Software Engineer’ (RSE) wasn’t really a thing until 2012 when the term was invented in a Software Sustainability Institute collaborations workshop. Of course, there were lots of people doing Research Software Engineering before then but we had around 200 different job titles, varying degrees of support and career options tended to look pretty bleak.  A lot has happened since then including the 2016 EPSRC RSE Fellowsthe first international RSE conference and a host of University-RSE groups popping up all over the country.

In my talk, Is your Research Software Correct?, I tell the audience ‘If you need help, refer to your local RSE team. All good Universities have a central RSE team and if yours does not…..I refer you back to the word ‘good'' It always…

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By Mike Croucher, SSI Fellow, Research Software Engineer and author of Walking Randomly.

William Stein, lead developer of the computer algebra system, Sage, and its cloud-based spin-off, SageMathCloud, recently announced that he was quitting academia to go and form a company. In his talk, William says "I can’t figure out how to create Sage in academia. The money isn’t there. The mathematical community doesn’t care enough. The only option left is for me to build a company."

His talk is linked below and his slides are also available.

“Every great open source math library is built on the ashes of someone’s academic career.”

William’s departure is not unique. Here’s a tweet from Wes Mckinney, creator of pandas, one of the essential data science tools for Python.

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We are looking for similar stories: good research software people who felt that they had to leave academia because there wasn’t enough support, recognition…

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Dagsthul Perspectives WorkshopBy Carole Goble, Manchester Principal Investigator at the Software Sustainability Institute, and Mike Croucher, Robert Haines, and Caroline Jay, Fellows at the Software Sustainability Institute.

How should we build the research software of the future? This was the question under consideration at the Dagstuhl Perspective’s Workshop ‘Engineering Academic Software’, co-organised by the Software Sustainability Institute’s Manchester PI Carole Goble. Experts in the area from across the world spent an intensive week presenting, discussing, debating and writing, to define current problems in the field and determine how we could address them.

The Institute was out in force, with fellows Mike Croucher, Robert Haines and Caroline Jay offering their thoughts on the present and future states of application…

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Pipettes on shelf by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier. https://flic.kr/p/2hc97tBy Laurence Billingham, British Geological Survey, Steven Lamerton, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Nick Rees, Square Kilometre Array Organisation, Mike Croucher, University of Sheffield, Richard Domander, Royal Veterinary College, and Carl Wilson, Open Preservation Foundation.

A speed blog from the Collaborations Workshop 2016 (CW16).

Researchers, we need to talk about software.

The research community has a problem, some still see talking about it as taboo. Hiding from the problem and hoping it goes away will not make it go away. We are going to have to deal with it sometime, we can only put off dealing with it, and do so by borrowing time from our future selves.

This post assumes little prior exposure to good software development practice and is quite detailed. However, the take home message can be summarised in the one paragraph.

If you have code that seems like a big ball of spaghetti: improve it. First, put in version control, then test it with a known good input and output. Isolate some functionality you do understand, explain what needs to happen to another person, turn that explanation into code tests. Write an isolated function to do that thing well, passing all the…

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By Mike Croucher, Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute. This article was originally posted on his blog www.walkingrandomly.com

You’ve written a computer program in your favourite language as part of your research and are getting some great-looking results.

The results could change everything! Perhaps they’ll influence world-economicsincrease understanding of multidrug resistanceimprove health and well-being for the population of entire countries or help with the analysis of brain MRI scans

Thanks to you and your research, the world will be a better place. Life is wonderful; this is why you went into research. 

It’s just a shame that you’re completely wrong but don’t yet know it.

What went wrong?

If you click on any of the studies linked to above, you’ll find a common theme – problems with software. These days it’s close to impossible to do science without either using or developing specialist software. Using research software can be difficult, complex…

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Research Software Engineer at University of Sheffield. Author of www.walkingrandomly.com

Interests

Science, engineering and mathematical software, high performance computing, programming in many languages. Helping researchers do more with less.

Research

I am an EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow working at The University of Sheffield who specialises in assisting 'long tail' researchers to produce better quality software. "Long Tail Science" - attributed to Jim Downing of the Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics - refers to the large number of small research units who perform a huge amount of research.
 
Technological development in software is more like a cliff-face than a ladder – there are many routes to the top, to a solution. Further, the cliff face is dynamic – constantly and quickly changing as new technologies emerge and decline. Determining which technologies to deploy and how best to deploy them is in itself a specialist domain, with many features of traditional research.
 
Researchers need empowerment and training to give them confidence with the available equipment and the challenges they face. This role, akin to that of an Alpine guide, involves support, guidance, and load carrying. When optimally performed it results in a researcher who knows what challenges they can attack alone, and where they need appropriate support. Guides can help decide whether to…
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