Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Latest version published on 6 September, 2017.

pandas_in_space copy.jpgBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

This is a story about reproducibility. It’s about the first study I conducted at the Institute, the difficulties I’ve faced in reproducing analysis that was originally conducted in Excel, and it’s testament to the power of a tweet that’s haunted me for three years.

The good news is that the results from my original analysis still stand, although I found a mistake in a subdivision of a question when conducting the new analysis. This miscalculation was caused by a missing “a” in a sheet containing 3763 cells. This is as good a reason as any for moving to a more reproducible platform.

2014: a survey odyssey

Back In 2014, I surveyed a group of UK universities to see how their researchers used software. We believed that an inexorable link existed between software and research, but we had yet to prove it. I designed the study, but I never intended to perform the analysis. This was a job better suited to someone who could write code, and I could not. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan and I found myself in the disquieting situation of having an imminent deadline and no one available to do the coding. Under these circumstances, few people have the fortitude to take some time out to learn how to…

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Latest version published on 5 September, 2017.

Python in AstronomyBy Thomas Robitaille, Software Sustainability Institute 2017 Fellow

The Lorentz Center in Leiden hosted the Python in Astronomy 2017 workshop from 8th to 12th May 2017. This meeting followed a highly interactive format and featured talks, unconference sessions, and hands-on coding sprints.

Over the last decade, the Python programming language has grown in Astronomy research from an occasionally used language to one of the most popular everyday tools. In parallel, we have seen the rise of large collaborative open-source projects such as Astropy, SunPy and yt  (in contrast, previous development of software in Astronomy had been far more fragmented). These projects have adopted best practices for software development, including proper packaging, testing, and documentation, and an increasing number of researchers are interested in getting involved in existing open-source efforts or publishing their software in the open and adopting the same best practices. Given this interest, a few of us organised in 2015 the first workshop dedicated specifically to Python in Astronomy, with the aim to bring together existing developers, educators, and users interested in becoming…

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Latest version published on 25 September, 2017.

FellowsBy Raniere Silva, Community Officer, Software Sustainability Institute.

Apply now!

The Fellowship Programme run by the Software Sustainability Institute funds researchers in exchange for their expertise and advice. The main goals of the programme are to engage with individuals who are passionate about research software use and/or development. We help support them to better understand the challenges faced by their domains and help support them as ambassadors for better software practices in their areas of working and Institutions.

Being a Fellow also helps them develop skills and knowledge in their area of software sustainability, empowers them to speak about software sustainability issues and network with like-minded individuals from a wide variety of research areas.

Each Fellow is allocated £3,000 to spend over fifteen months, from 1st January 2018 until 31st March 2019. The funding is flexible to support activities that are beneficial to both the Fellows and the Institute: for instance, to fund travel to conferences, to setup and run workshops, to organise software sustainability sessions at domain conferences, or to host, organise or teach training events, such as Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry…

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Latest version published on 18 August, 2017.

Desert Island Hard DisksYou find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with all the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a reasonable network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the 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 Kevin Ashley, Director of the Digital Curation Centre.

When Simon first suggested this to me, it raised lots of questions, most of which I didn't ask him but agonised over. And then I realised that the only way to approach this was for me to state my assumptions, and I'll do so in a way that seems favourable since to do otherwise would be punishing myself unduly. To begin, this machine I have must be more than just bare metal since otherwise the challenge of making use of it and its network connection would be an order of magnitude higher than it would otherwise be. Since Desert Island Discs long ago decided that every island (or at least the ones for British castaways) would be provided with a copy of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, I'm assuming we're in an analogous position. My computer will have an operating system and the suite of utilities that I would expect to see…

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Latest version published on 17 August, 2017.

ToolsBy Shoaib Sufi, Community Lead

People are often interested not only in our events but also how we organise them.  For CW17, we used a number of platforms to make things happen. This is a brief description for more details and if you are interested in running your own, then please get in touch.

For registration, we used the Eventbrite system. This allowed us to control the questions we ask at registration, any access codes, a waiting list and emailing the attendees. It’s all free for free events so there’s a chance to test out its features.

For the pre-registration, collecting feedback, and planning stages, as well as, storing photos, we used Google Drive and associated apps.

To automate the creation of templates and indexes to support the speed blogging and the Collaborative ideas and Hackday ideas session, we wrote custom Google App Scripts to support the pipeline of template requests, templates, indexes and permission. Source code and instructions will be added here once available.

At the Collaborations Workshop 2017, we used a Slack and a specific Slack Team…

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