Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Latest version published on 24 November, 2017.

CardiffBy Raniere Silva, Community Officer, Software Sustainability Institute.

The Collaborations Workshop (CW) is the Institute’s premier event series. It brings together key members of the research software community including researchers, developers, managers, legal staff, administrators, publishers, funders and more who work together to explore best practices and the future of research software. The Collaborations Workshop 2018 (CW18—#CollabW18) will take place in the City of Cardiff at The School of Mathematics, Cardiff University on 26th–28th March 2018.

Register on the CW18 Eventbrite page

CW18 will focus on culture change, productivity and sustainability. Advocates of better research software or open science often cite productivity and sustainability as some of the reasons for changing research practices. But…

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Latest version published on 8 December, 2017.

Python codeBy Mike Jackson, Software Architect

As part of my open call consultancy for LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), I was asked about the feasibility of developing a web service that accepted Python code from users and executed their code server-side within a Linux environment. In this blog post I give a brief overview of a number of approaches that could be taken to implement such a service, focusing on those that protect the web service, and its underlying server, from code that is, whether by accident or design, malicious.

First things first, developing a web service that accepts Python code from users and runs this server-side is, in itself, it is not technically challenging. Any developer could knock up a proof-of-concept quite rapidly. The challenges are how to ensure that the web service is able to successfully run a user’s code, and how to protect the web service from the user’s code.

The first challenge, how to ensure that the server is able to successfully run a user’s code, can be restated as how to ensure that users only submit code that can successfully run on the server. At its simplest, this can be handled by publishing information about the environment within which the server will run the user’s code (e.g. operating system version, Python interpreter and…

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Latest version published on 22 November, 2017.

fellows selection dayBy Raniere Silva, Community Officer, Software Sustainability Institute.

On 8th November we held the selection day for the shortlisted candidates to the Fellowship programme 2018. We ran the selection day online for the first time, and it went well for the 23 candidates who attended the event. The day was filled with interesting discussions and we hope to share some of these soon in the form of speed blogs.


In previous years each candidate has presented an introduction to their professional persona, what they do and what they would do as a Fellow. This year we shared each candidate's application video in advance with the other attendees of the selection day. In the first session of the day we invited candidates to bring a conversation subject to the group. In this one hour "ice breaking" discussion, candidates talked about training and inclusivity.

Discussion session

As in previous years, discussion sessions during the selection day gave us an insight into the group and interaction skills of candidates. Each candidate participated in two groups, ideally on different subjects with different reviewers observing. Each discussion group chose a chair to keep discussions on track, a scribe to write things down and a…

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Latest version published on 21 November, 2017.

Software CarpentryBy Eilis Hannon, University of Exeter.

On Tuesday, 26th September we held a two day Software Carpentry workshop at the University of Exeter. 37 staff and students attended including a number of PhD students in their first week. The course covered the Unix Shell, Python and Git, and gave Jeremy Metz and me the opportunity to teach our first Software Carpentry workshop, alongside Andrew Walker from University of Leeds who was there to steady the ship and provide experience. This was particularly helpful when it came to debugging and resolving common issues.

I was impressed by the sustained enthusiasm over the two days and how much of the content we got through. Many attendees commented that they appreciated the slightly shorter days (from 10am to 4pm) and regular breaks, as these enabled them to remain focused and digest the content delivered. They were also grateful for the additional support provided by the helpers David Richards, Paul O’Neill, Ben Evans…

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Latest version published on 15 November, 2017.

By Kenji Takeda, Microsoft Research.

Research Software Engineers drive advances in how research can be done more effectively using all manner of software, computing systems and infrastructure. As a community, RSEs drive positive change to progress the state-of-the-art to do better, faster, and more reproducible research. It’s clear that cloud computing is playing an increasingly important role in research, so Microsoft is privileged to be able to support the RSE community, and researchers across the world, to exploit cloud computing across all domains through our Azure for Research program.

We were delighted to see so many high-quality applications to the RSE Cloud Computing Awards call, and so have decided to give all applicants access to Microsoft Azure to pursue the wide-range of exciting activities proposed. We particularly congratulate the successful awardees from across the UK, who can now pursue their plans for training, workshops, community software development, and cutting-edge research using Microsoft Azure.

  • Martin Callaghan, The University of Leeds
  • Christian Cole, University of Dundee
  • Joseph Doyle, University of East London
  • Eilis Hannon, University of Exeter…
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