Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Grassroot mappingBy Karen Anderson, University of Exeter, and David Griffiths, FoAM Kernow

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.

Smartphones have emerged as powerful research tools for collecting scientific data because they are equipped with a broad suite of sensors (e.g. cameras, microphones, light sensors, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and GPS) and on-board microcomputers and are widely used globally. Many smartphones are designed to service the information requirements of multinational developers—they are location-aware—, and applications downloaded by users can transmit information back to providers. This capability can be exploited through the programmable nature of smartphones: sensors developed to supply  location-based services to providers can now be hacked using readily available computing resources. One such opportunity that remains untapped is the smartphone as a remote sensing imaging device that can be deployed in conjunction with rapidly developing lightweight drone technology.

We undertook a short project to explore the…

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Big DataBy Anna Leida, eScience Lab, University of Manchester

At the New Scientist Live festival of science and innovation, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Oxford, co-founder of the Open Data Institute gave a talk on the promise and peril of big data and artificial intelligence. Big Data is the popular scientific term to describe the ability of computers to access and successfully analyse large amounts of data from multiple sources. This ability is the foundation for intelligence, and is an activity our human brains do on a daily basis, but where we have so far been in universal solitude - at least as far as we know. So why would we not welcome a little company in the ivory tower of intelligence, even if it is only by artificial means?

During half an hour in a fully packed auditorium, Professor Shadbolt walked the audience through history. Starting with the prosaic description of HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey" 1970, via the invention of the "World Wide Web" in the 1980s, to machines now outsmarting humans in a series of data processing and analysis tasks, such as Deep Blue (chess), Watson (Q&A) and

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WORBy Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director at F1000

This blog was first published on the F1000Research blog on 15th November 2016

The first articles have gone live on Wellcome Open Research today; 15 of them in total, with more submissions in the pipeline. The breadth of articles received so far starts to show just how broad these outputs can and should be (not just traditional narrative research articles). It also shows benefits of using such a platform for researchers across career stages, from those just starting out to more experienced and tenured researchers. This is a fantastic start!

Wellcome Open Research uses the publishing model we have developed and run for almost four years on F1000Research, namely immediate publication with mandatory inclusion of the supporting data, followed by transparent invited peer review, complete with full versioning.

This platform fundamentally changes the relationship between the different parties involved in research to support collaboration, openness, and rapid access to findings and data. In this approach, the funder Wellcome is formally the ‘publisher’ i.e. the owner of the platform; F1000 is the contracted service provider who…

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GSOC blogBy Raniere Silva, Software Sustainability Institute, David Pérez-Suárez, University College London.

The Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a programme run by Google to sponsor the development of open source projects by university students between June and August (see our previous post Downloading Developers: The Google Summer of Code). After the summer, Google sponsors some GSoC mentors to meet in Sunnyvale, California, for a two-day summit where they can discuss what went well and what can be improved.

When we discovered that we would attend the summit (Raniere represented NumFOCUS and David represented Open Astronomy), we were happy to know in advance that a familiar face would be present. The summit kicked-off on a Friday.  Mentors arrived in their respective hotels with their many (figurative) hats—not all attendees make their living from their projects (we don't). The summit followed the unconference style and its schedule for the next two days started to take form the same Friday night. To propose a session, participants needed to write their…

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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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