Software and research: the Institute's Blog

DIHDYou find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Mark Plumbley, Professor of Signal Processing at the University of Surrey, and Chair of the Institute's advisory board.

What software do I need if I'm stuck on a Desert Island? Let's see...

Out-of-office with chatbot (based on deep learning, of course). I don't want to be concerned that people will notice I'm away. So instead of an out of office responder that simply replies "I'm away and I will delete your message on my return", my out-of-office-bot would reply in the style that the recurrent neural network had learned from my other messages. Nobody will notice the difference, so I can relax properly knowing that nobody will send out a search party.

Evernote, customized for my GTD/TSW variant. Indispensable. I would finally have time for all those Next Actions accumulated in 5-SomedayMaybe. With the necessary saved searches and shortcuts set up to keep me organised, I'll never be stuck knowing what to do next. Hmm, it seems that most…

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Species modelling run outputBy Thomas Etherington, Senior Research Leader, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Institute Fellow.

Species distribution models are a computational technique commonly used to map the likely geographic occurrence of organisms.  For example, here at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, we use species distribution models to help conserve plants. This conservation occurs in situ by protecting areas that models show are more likely to contain plants of interest, and also conserving plants ex situ by targeting expeditions to areas more likely to have plants from which seeds can be collected for storage in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.

Due to their importance in conservation, species distribution models should, like any scientific computational method, be done in an open manner so that the findings can be replicated and confirmed. Unfortunately, my experience in reading and reviewing scientific papers suggests that many scientists are still using GUI software rather than using a coding approach that enables such replication. I suspect this is probably due to a lack of computational training amongst species distribution modellers, and hence this could be something I could aim to rectify this year as part of my…

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Leeds CityBy Shoaib Sufi, Community Lead.

The Collaborations Workshop 2017 (CW17—#CollabW17) will take place at the Leeds University Business School, from 27-29 March 2017. You can book your place here.

So what makes this event so unique and useful? Is it the breadth of people from research software? is it the IoT and Open Data theme? Is it the unconference inspired format? Is it the knowledge sharing? Is it the networking? Is it the mix of collaborations and competition? Is it the social programme? It’s all of these things and more!

To get a feel for how CW17 will unfold, take a look at the agenda (subject to some tweaks as we get nearer to the event). From lightning talks and discussions on the first day to more collaborative events and Q&A session on the second day through to the Hackday, all of our CW17 activities are designed to inform, inspire and empower those who attend.

Previous CW attendees have said:

“Lively event, mix of un-conference and workshop, open minded people, new ideas and tons of impulses to think further, networking opportunities not in a…

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View of the 260 tonne water tank that will house the LZ experiment
View of the 260 tonne water tank that will house the LZ
experiment, located 1 mile underground in Davis Cavern of
the Sanford Underground Research Facility, South Dakota.
Credit: Carlos Faham, Berkeley Lab.

By Mike Jackson, Software Sustainability Institute

85% of the mass of the Universe is made up of dark matter. Despite indirect evidence of the existence of dark matter, going all the way back to the early 20th century, there has, so far, been no direct measurement of dark matter interacting with a detector here on Earth. Not yet at least, for the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) project are building the largest and most sensitive dark matter detector of its type ever constructed. I will be providing consultancy to LZ’s researchers at University College London on migrating LZ’s data storage and analysis software from Microsoft Excel to a database-centred solution.

The LUX-ZEPLIN project is a consortium of 230 scientists in 37 institutions in the U.S., U.K., Portugal, Russia, and Korea and is joint-funded by the US Department of Energy and the UK Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC). LZ are building their dark matter detector a mile underground in the…

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RSE conferenceBy Catherine Jones, Diversity Chair.

Why did the RSE Conference have a diversity chair? What was the impact? What can we do better next time? These are the three questions I hope this blog will answer.

Different backgrounds and experiences enhance a team and help to avoid group think. Diversity has many different aspects, but the main two that the RSE conference focussed on were gender and ethnicity. It was an aspiration that the conference organisers, speakers and attendees reflected the makeup of the RSE community. Having someone responsible for diversity ensured that it was consciously considered during planning. As part of this commitment to diversity, the RSE Conference had a diversity statement  and code of conduct.

Who organised it?

What was the makeup of the committee? This was remarkedly gender balanced for the domain, the chart belows shows the gender split. Sadly it wasn’t very ethnically diverse.

Gender on committee

Who contributed?

Of the registered attendees 72% were male, 16% were female and 12% preferred not to say or didn’t answer. So that for those who identified their gender 18% were female. Looking at ethnicity: 76%…

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