Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Latest version published on 26 January, 2018.

8897696003_c549d5e58e_z.jpgBy Gillian Law.

Physicist and new RSE fellow Phil Hasnip specialises in software to predict materials properties, and in making that software accessible to all researchers.

Hasnip believes that most physics problems end up being materials problems. “You want a better battery? You need a better battery material. A better turbine? You need a stronger material for the blades. Wherever you look, materials are key.” says Hasnip. Running experiments on these potential new materials is expensive and difficult, so using computational methods to either predict what a material might do, or to explain what is going in on experiments, is incredibly useful.

Having completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge followed by several post doc positions, Hasnip is now at the University of York where he is developing tools including the CASTEP program which uses quantum mechanics to compute the properties of materials and chemicals.

There is a constant tension in research between taking the time to improve the tools used and getting research results, Hasnip says, and he hopes to use his fellowship as an opportunity to focus on improving the tools available and making them more accessible to all researchers, rather than just those with computational skills. “Many of the tools being used aren’t really high enough quality. They’ve been developed by researchers who are good scientists…

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Latest version published on 22 January, 2018.

8523276256_b32bcc2df2_z.jpgBy Gillian Law

Research software ought to be easier to use, says newly appointed 2018 RSE Fellow Jeremy Cohen.

A computer scientist by background, Cohen has spent the bulk of his career to date in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, supporting scientists in their research. “I’ve worked in a lot of domains, offering applied computing research to support scientists in various areas” he says. This has included using high-performance computing platforms and cloud-computing infrastructure.

“Of course, in general scientists tend to have some computing knowledge, but they often have very much a domain-focused view,” Cohen says. He aims to make their codes easier to access and use. Even if the scientist could do it themselves, they may end up doing it in a more complicated or inefficient way if they’re learning as they go along, “so I aim to make life simpler and let them focus on the science, not the computing.” Good code can also help scientists to make their modelling and simulation work more accessible to their broader team. “There’s often a lot of post processing needed on a model or simulation and so what I’m trying to do is bridge the gaps, or glue together different processes, and simplify complex things. Again, we’re working with people who are very experienced and they can do this work themselves, but we can help them to do it much more effectively.” That opens up the code to…

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Latest version published on 18 January, 2018.

gleeming1.pngBy Gary Leeming, University of Manchester.

The European Federation for Medical Informatics (EFMI) is the leading European organisation for medical informatics in Europe, representing 32 countries. Each year the Special Topic Conference (STC) is an opportunity to look in more detail at a specific area of research. Held in Tel Aviv, the 2017 conference's topic was "The practice of patient centered care: empowering and engaging patients in the digital era".

In their own words: "This conference will provide a platform for researchers, data scientists, practitioners, decision makers and entrepreneurs to discuss ways for sustainable and inclusive digital health innovations aimed at patient's/consumer's engagement and empowerment." Welcome Letter | STC 2017

In line with this objective the conference, held on a single day, was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about engaging patients in their own care and participating in research, and to present the work we have been doing here in Manchester with our own Public Experience Group (PEG).

The keynote presentation by Dr Kira Radinsky, chief scientist at eBay and a visiting professor…

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Latest version published on 16 January, 2018.

60-years-of-Computing_badge-artwork.pngBy Blair Archibald, Software Sustainability Institute Fellow

How do you bring research domains together?

This is a difficult question to answer, fields have their own focuses, terminology and idiosyncrasies; what appeals to a researcher in one field may not appeal to a researcher in another. However, with over 92% of researchers suggesting they make use of computational science in their research is it possible that computational techniques could be used to help bridge domains? This post documents my experiences in organising an event aimed specifically at trying to exploit this idea within a single University environment.

60 Years of Computing at Glasgow

Although we have been computing for many decades, Computing Science and the use of electronic computing machines is relatively recent. This year, the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow has been celebrating 60 years of Computing at the University of Glasgow. In 1957 they became the first University in Scotland to order a computing machine, an English Electrics DEUCE machine.

As part of these celebrations, myself and a group of fellow Ph.D. students,…

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Latest version published on 15 January, 2018.

26215728419_e6bd12a04a_z.jpgBy Raniere Silva, Software Sustainability Institute, Yo Yehudi, InterMine, Cambridge University, David Pérez-Suárez, University College London.

The Mozilla Festival, or MozFest for short, is “an annual gathering of passionate thinkers and inventors from around the world who meet to learn from each other and help forge the future of the web" as described in the Mozilla Wiki. It started in 2010 in Barcelona but has been hosted in London since its second edition, in 2011. The event is a multi-massive-parallel session of debates and workshops. We attended the gathering to share ideas with Mozilla Open Leaders and other attendees interested in open science. Keep reading to find our top six highlights of MozFest 2017.

Open science public park

Some unconferences only have a open agenda, but others reinvent the whole space where it is happening. MozFest is in the second group, as you can see from the photo montage below. The photo in the right shows Naomi Penfold's activity, called…

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