Software and research: the Institute's Blog

With another hat on I've been reading the recent report from the European Commission's High-Level Expert Group on Scientific Data - "Riding the Wave: how Europe can gain from the rising tide of scientific data".  It captures the current state of research's digital landscape very well, offers a compelling vision of the value of scientific digital data twenty years hence, and recommends a number of key policy steps for the EU to consider.

I recommend it.  It's a good read - not perhaps in the same way that Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey novels are a good read - but it does underline the increasingly digital nature of research across all disciplines, and the increasing importance of efficient and effective software tooling to manage the bits.  More grist to our collective mill!

In 2010 a crack developer was asked to join the Software Sustainability Institute. This man promptly set up as the Institute’s software architect. Today, still wanted by a number of projects, Steve survives as a developer of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can email him, maybe you can Ask Steve!

Whenever we have a software problem at the Software Sustainability Institute, we simply ask Steve. He’s our in-house software architect and all-round guru of code. Then we got to thinking: it’s selfish to keep such a valuable resource  to ourselves, we should make Steve’s knowledge available to everyone. And that’s when the idea for this blog was born.

So what is Ask Steve? The idea is that you can email Ask Steve with all your software troubles and queries. Each week or so, Steve will work on a problem and post his answer to the blog. You can comment, try out the solution or simply get back with another question. Although he’s a crack developer of fortune, Steve is but one man, so he can’t promise to answer all the questions he receives. Instead Steve will sort through the questions and answer ones that trouble the most people.

Got a software problem? Ask Steve at asksteve@software.ac.uk.

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Nothing says AHM in quite the same way as the call to arms "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" shouted at top volume by Malcolm Atkinson - UK e-Science envoy, SSI co-Investigator and part-time town crier. Malcolm is clearly aware that there are few things that can clear a room faster than a shouting Scotsman. So here we are: the ninth UK e-Science All Hands Meeting and the first public outing for the Software Sustainability Institute. What does Cardiff hold for us this year?

It's certainly a fantastic venue. Cardiff City Hall is an Edwardian masterpiece heavily adorned with marble and sculpture. Let's hope we can live up to these grand surroundings. And there’s no doubt that we're in Wales: it hasn't stopped raining since we arrived.

Things kicked off this morning with a plenary from Professor Dan Atkins. Dan chaired the UK e-Science review last year, and it was the results of this review that formed the basis for his presentation. A lot of the core funding for the UK e-Science programme came to an end last year, so one of the major questions on everyone's mind is: what next? Dan faced this question head on and made a number of suggestions for the future of UK e-Science.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting suggestions is that academics need to work together to make the most of resources we have. This means more (or at least some) sharing of not only resources, but expertise too. Making key expertise available to the research community is one of the roles of the Software Sustainability Institute, so there's definitely room for us to…

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KeepUpToDate.jpgAt least in one way, I stand out from everyone else at the institute: I've got the longest job title. I'm the institute's dissemination and outreach coordinator. In short, this means that it's my job to make sure that people know what we're working on, who we're working with and what we've learned by working with them. We're going to be generating a lot of news, so we're working hard to make sure that it's easy to follow our work. For that reason, I thought that my first blog post should be a round up of the different ways that you can keep up to date with what's happening at the Software Sustainability Institute.

Short updates on what's happening at the institute and in the wider world of software and research will be sent out as news items. For a quick look at these, just take a look at our homepage. Iif you want to make sure that you don't miss any of them then sign up to our news feed. News from the news feed will also be available through our Software Saved Twitter channel (we also use the hastag #SoftwareSaved).

This blog won't be limited to posts from me, it will see various people from the institute, and from various different fields of expertise, expounding on favourite topics, talking about their latest project or describing their latest conference visit.

Any events that we organise, or events that we think people will be…

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