Software and research: the Institute's Blog

key-concepts.pngBy Selina Aragon, Communications Officer, in conversation with Trung Dong Huynh, University of Southampton

This article is part of our series: Breaking Software Barriers, in which we investigate how our Research Software Group has helped projects improve their research software. If you would like help with your software, get in touch.

From concept to software

Provenance is traditionally the record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality. Although mostly used to track the origins of a work of art, the term is now used in an array of fields ranging from palaeontology to science. It refers to having knowledge of all the steps involved in producing a scientific result, such as a figure, from experiment design through acquisition of raw data, and all the subsequent steps of data selection, analysis and visualisation. Such information is necessary for reproduction of a given result, and can serve to establish precedence. This concept also applies to the digital world; that is, data also originates from a particular point, and provenance provides evidence of its point of origin or discovery by establishing its ownership, custody, and transformations.

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RSE ConferenceBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director, Software Sustainability Institute

In a previous post, I discussed the success of the RSE Conference, but I’m hardly an impartial observer. To make sure that the conference improves every year, we ran a post-conference survey so that people could let us know what they thought.

We received 87 responses from the 202 attendees at the conference. That’s a response rate of 47% which is a phenomenal rate for this kind of survey. It’s best practice to offer a prize for feedback because it helps even out the balance of responses by providing an incentive to those who feel ambivalent or negative about the event. However, one £50 Amazon voucher doesn’t account for such a significant response, which means that people felt passionately about the conference. At this stage of the analysis, you’ve just got to cross your fingers and hope that this is good passion, rather than bad!

We asked whether people would attend the conference again—95% would—and whether they’d recommend the conference to others—100% would. That’s fantastic feedback, especially when we see that the conference was rated on average at 4.3 out of 5.

The majority of our attendees came from a background in Physical Sciences (30%), Computer Sciences (18%)…

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MIW imageBy Shoaib Sufi, Community Lead, Software Sustainability Institute

The Measuring the Impact of Workshops (MIW) meeting took place on the 20th September in sunny Oxford at the dashing Oxford e-Research Centre. It was a day of eye-opening presentations, revealing case studies, short informative talks, nuanced discussions and friendly networking all enveloped in a promise of something more enduring. Read on to find out what on earth I am talking about!

MIW brought together people interested in evaluating the impact of their workshops in a better way, to collect data for funders, to improve future events and to show value to potential attendees. Our working definition of workshop was broad; it included those that involve exploring topics (e.g. discussion/consensus-forming oriented meetings), learning new skills (e.g. training workshops) and those with a focus on making things (e.g. hackathons).

After the obligatory welcome and introduction to the Software Sustainability Institute there was an excellent context-setting talk: ‘The Practice of Measuring’ by Beth Duckles, Research Assistant Professor at Portland State University. She covered the art of commensuration—how we turn concepts…

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Annotate imageBy Devasena Inupakutika and Steve Crouch, Software Sustainability Institute.

The ability to add annotations is recognised as a good practice to enable collaboration around digital content. In a multimedia context, annotations prove to be important for effective search and organisation of document collections. Web-based multimedia annotation tool, Synote (Synchronised Annotation), meets the user need for making multimedia web resources such as podcasts, video lectures, and so on. It is also easier to access, search, manage and exploit through technologies that support creation of synchronised notes, bookmarks, tags, images and text captions.  The Software Sustainability Institute is working with Yunjia Li, Synote developer (Research Fellow), and Mike Wald, Professor at the University of Southampton, to help them overcome the barriers to the commercialisation of their software by investigating their current development processes and infrastructure, and help them develop general practice guidelines for development and deployment, and writing automated web-user interface testing.

These days multimedia is…

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Fellows RSE conferenceBy Craig MacLachlan, Met Office; Mark Stillwell, Cisco Meraki; Caroline Jay, University of Manchester.

Software has been an important part of research for several decades, and ensuring that research software is of high quality is essential to ensuring the accuracy of scientific results. Unfortunately, many people who work on source code used on research projects have lost themselves in the gap between IT professional and researcher, lacking a distinct professional identity, at least until relatively recently. It was four years ago that the term Research Software Engineer was born at the Collaborations Workshop 2012. In this short time, many researchers have heard this term and experienced an epiphany: they found an identity.

Now they have more than an identity; they have a community. On Thursday 15 September and Friday 16 September 2016, the first ever Research Software Engineer Conference was held in Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry. More than two hundred people attended from across the globe. Not all of the attendees were Research Software Engineers; some came to learn about building communities for analogous roles…

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