Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Latest version published on 20 November, 2017.

programming workshops for geographyBy Thomas Etherington, Senior Research Leader, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Institute Fellow.

As part of my Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship, and with support from the Royal Geographical Society, I recently organised an introductory programming workshop targeted specifically at geographers. In a previous blog, I outlined how I used a pre-workshop survey to try and design the content and structure of the workshop to be tailored towards the attendee’s needs as geographers. But I was still curious about just how effective a one-day introductory workshop can be in promoting the use of more sustainable software skills. Therefore, I asked for feedback from the workshop I organised, and have picked out what look like consistent themes across multiple participants that answer some questions I had around the value of such workshops.

Is there a need for introductory programming workshops?

“The reason I haven’t learned to program before is that I thought it was difficult and that required a considerable amount of time.”

“With no formal…

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Latest version published on 20 November, 2017.


Astronomy research softwareBy Thomas Robitaille, Software Sustainability Institute Fellow

I recently attended the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS), the largest yearly conference for European astronomy. This year, it featured a session on Developments and Practices in Astronomy Research Software that touched on many themes important to software sustainability.

With the rise of open source projects in Astronomy, this session was a great way to expose astronomers at a major conference to best practices in software development and update them on available free software and projects, including Astropy, TARDIS, Stingray and more. Talks included topics such as reproducible science, software best practices, when to make code public, transparency, credit, and citation of software, as well as a number of examples of best practices and lessons learned in specific projects. The session was extremely successful, with many talks ending up being standing-room only. On the second day, a hack day allowed attendees to work on related projects and…

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Latest version published on 20 November, 2017.

Launch webinarBy Raniere Silva, Community Officer

On 15th September 2017, we ran the Fellowship Programme 2018 Launch Webinar—an opportunity for those interested in our Fellowship Programme to ask their questions and have a immediate answer. This time, we had the opportunity to listen to Nikoleta Glynatsi, Gary Leeming, David Perez-Suarez, Iza A. Romanowska and Melody Sandells talking about their experience as Institute Fellows. Below you will find highlights of each one of the presentations.

Melody Sandells

She defined the Fellowship as nothing less than "life changing" and "the best thing she’s ever done". Melody encouraged people to apply even if the term "sustainable software" is a bit alien for them because this was her case before applying. As she said, after reading a few pages on the website you might discover that some of the things that you already care about fall  under the Institute’s "sustainable software" umbrella. Melody also described the…

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Latest version published on 20 November, 2017.

Instructor trainingBy Amy Beeston, University of Sheffield.

I attended the instructor training course in Manchester last week. During one of the coffee breaks, we were sharing stories of how we first met these teachings, and how as new learners we first tried to put our freshly-acquired Software Carpentry skills to use. Following that conversation, our instructor Aleksandra Nenadic invited me to write this blogpost to share my experiences.

I was introduced to the concept of Software Carpentry by Greg Wilson during the week-long Sound Software Autumn School in late 2010. Heavily pregnant, I sat on the back row during most of Greg’s classes — the row with the extra leg/body room — and listened to the very best of my ability to every single word he said.

As a group of learners, we came from varied disciplines but all shared the need to focus our programming skills on developing tools that accessed data in the audio domain. Many of us were self-taught programmers, and some of us had relatively little text-based coding experience as we were used to thinking and working in real-time signal processing…

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Latest version published on 26 September, 2017.

puzzleBy Yihui Xie. With an introduction by Raniere Silva, Software Sustainability Institute.

Here at the Institute, we talk a lot about best practices when developing software but we rarely talk about best practices for issue/bug reports. Probably one of the most important best practices to follow when reporting an issue/bug is to provide minimal example. Yihui Xie, author of various R packages, wrote the blog post "The Minimal Reproducible Example Paradox" on his blog, which is a reflection of the importance of users dedicate some time to develop a minimal example. With Yihui's permission, we’ve reproduced his post below.

You can access the original post at Yihui Xie's blog.

How many times have I reminded a user of posting a minimal, self-contained, and reproducible example (reprex)? Probably 500 times. How many times do I think I will still need to remind users of this? Perhaps 5000 times.

I think there is a paradox, and there isn’t a clever solution. The paradox is that we software developers know much more about our own software than average users (especially beginners), and we naturally anticipate a reprex, but users are in the dark, not knowing what information to…

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