Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Automated assembly line

By Mike Jackson, Software Sustainability Institute

Continuous integration frameworks build and test our software, so we don't have too (well, we do, but they do it too!) As part of my work on automated testing to boost recipy's confidence, I've had my first experience of AppVeyor, a continuous integration service for Windows, and it was good!

Growing up in Scotland, I endured an oft-repeated peak and trough of emotion when watching BBC television. A new drama or comedy would be trailed by an enthusiastic announcer, anticipation would rise at the forthcoming delights, only to be dashed upon the rocks of the announcer's concluding words "...except for viewers in Scotland". I've noticed a similar trait in the world of research software where phrases such as "...except for Windows" or "...except for Internet Explorer" occur frequently enough to be noticeable, along with their fellow "works on Linux/UNIX", leaving "Windows" unsaid. So, having used Travis CI, a deservedly-popular Linux-based open source continuous integration framework for projects hosted on GitHub, it was refreshing to see that there's a similar service for Windows, AppVeyor.

I'd first used Travis CI when…

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Gaia artist's impresion
Gaia artist's impression. Credits: ESA/ATG MEDIALAB;
Background Image: ESO/S. Brunier, June 2013

By Francesca De Angeli, in collaboration with Marco Riello, Gregory Holland, Patrick Burgess and Paul Osborne.

This article is part of our series: A day in the software life, in which researchers from all disciplines discuss the tools that make their research possible.

On 19 December 2013, at 09:12:19 UTC, a spacecraft containing the Gaia satellite was launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The Gaia satellite reached its stable operational orbit around L2 (approximately 1.5 million km from the Earth) about one month later. Since then, a continuous stream of data has been downloaded for further processing on ground. This data includes broad-band photometry and low-resolution spectra for all sources brighter than magnitude 20 and high-resolution spectra for sources brighter than magnitude 16.

The Gaia focal-plane assembly is the largest ever developed for a space application, with…

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Nasa picture of LondonBy Olivia Guest, Software Sustainability Institute Fellow

The Open Data Science Conference, ODSC, was held for the first time in London on October 8th and 9th. As far as I understand, it has its roots in the US and has only recently expanded to another continent. I’m not sure what I expected as I was still very much recovering from PyCon UK (yes, I’m a lightweight). However, I had noticed that quite a few talks were on packages I and/or colleagues use (e.g., TensorFlow, scikit-learn, etc.) so I was excited to see how and what they’re used for  by others.

The first talk was delivered by Gaël Varoquaux, a core developer of scikit-learn, joblib, and other Python packages. He touched on a number of important issues. Firstly, he defined what a data scientist is as  the combination of statistics and code, and,…

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Instructor TrainingBy Steve Crouch, Software Sustainability Institute, with Karin Lagesen, University of Oslo, and Laurent Gatto, University of Cambridge.

Last month, we held a Software and Data Carpentry Instructor Training workshop at the University of Cambridge, sponsored by the R Consortium. The demand for Carpentry events in the UK, and trained instructors to facilitate them, has always been very high, and I found this to be a very enjoyable event to increase the instructor pool in the UK.

The main organiser of the event was Laurent Gatto, a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow who has delivered numerous Carpentry courses since becoming a certified instructor in 2014. We also had the able helping hands of Paul Judge and Gabriella Rustici from the University of Cambridge Bioinformatics Training facility, who assisted greatly with the event and helped us make great use of the sophisticated presentation systems present in the training room.

The workshop was held on 19th and 20th of September, with myself and Karin Lagesen as instructors. We were delighted with the very high level of engagement from the 25 trainees - this was very much the kind of group we hope…

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Figure 1: Inspect your raw mass spectra and run tools from within the OpenMS visualisation tool TOPPView
Figure 1: Inspect your raw mass spectra and run tools
from within the OpenMS visualisation tool TOPPView

By Timo Sachsenberg and Oliver Kohlbacher, University of Tübingen

This article is part of our series A day in the software life, in which researchers from all disciplines discuss the tools that make their research possible.

High-throughput mass spectrometry has become a versatile technique to tackle a large range of questions in the life sciences. Being able to quantify diverse classes of biomolecules opens the way for improved disease diagnostics, elucidation of molecular structure and investigation of cellular pathways. In an interplay with other open-source software, OpenMS enables powerful workflows to transform biological data into meaningful knowledge.

In recent years, mass spectrometry has gained significant attention in the life sciences. The mass spectrometer determines the…

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