Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Fellows RSE conferenceBy Craig MacLachlan, Met Office; Mark Stillwell, Cisco Meraki; Caroline Jay, University of Manchester.

Software has been an important part of research for several decades, and ensuring that research software is of high quality is essential to ensuring the accuracy of scientific results. Unfortunately, many people who work on source code used on research projects have lost themselves in the gap between IT professional and researcher, lacking a distinct professional identity, at least until relatively recently. It was four years ago that the term Research Software Engineer was born at the Collaborations Workshop 2012. In this short time, many researchers have heard this term and experienced an epiphany: they found an identity.

Now they have more than an identity; they have a community. On Thursday 15 September and Friday 16 September 2016, the first ever Research Software Engineer Conference was held in Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry. More than two hundred people attended from across the globe. Not all of the attendees were Research Software Engineers; some came to learn about building communities for analogous roles…

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Pyconimage.pngby Olivia Guest, University of Oxford.

I signed up to go to PyCon UK 2016 because their website has a Nyan cat on it. OK, seriously. Firstly, I knew a few people going from other events (Software Sustainability Institute Fellows 2016 Selection Day, Collaborations Workshop 2016, PyData London 2016, Research Data Visualisation Workshop)—I knew I was going to have a nice time socially with (at least) Vincent Knight and Raniere Silva! Secondly, I am strictly speaking between jobs (although science waits for no-one), so I thought an extra long conference might be apropos. And finally, I really wanted to see An Introduction to Deep Learning with TensorFlow by Peter Goldsborough because I use this framework in

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Collage fellows By Shoaib Sufi, Community Lead, Software Sustainability Institute

Our Fellowship Programme 2017 offers £3000 funding for conference visits, running workshops, and other domain or institutional events. If you would like your work supported and you are keen on improving and promoting best practice in research software, then the Fellowship Programme is for you. The Programme allows individuals to gain credibility for the promotion of best practice, network with like-minded people, and learn new skills.

Apply to become a Software Sustainability Fellow and join a network of over 70 Fellows that represent the physical sciences, medicine, biological sciences, mathematics, computer science, social science, creative arts and historical studies, research software engineering, and more.

Our Fellows have a standing in the community, a passion for promoting better computational practice and a social personality to make it all happen. If you’re a researcher who understands the value of software in research, an advocate for the adoption of software skills, or someone who codes to help support research, then this is the right programme for you.

As well as attending conferences and workshops, Fellows run training events for their…

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dorchard2_0.pngBy Dominic Orchard, Research Associate, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge and Institute Fellow.

The need for more rigorous software verification in science is well known. The presence of software errors can seriously undermine results leading to paper retractions, bad policy decisions, and even catastrophic technological failures.  Often the responsibility is placed on the programmer, but simply trying to be more careful is not enough. There is a wealth of research in computer science aimed at automating testing and verification, yet little of this has crossed over into practice in the sciences. In April 2016, we held a meeting in Cambridge on Testing and Verification for Computational Science to bridge the gap between computer scientists and natural scientists concerned with software correctness.

Before computer science became a discipline, computing existed mainly as a service to science, providing fast and accurate calculation. As computer science developed, it pulled in philosophy, logic, mathematics, semantics, and engineering but has largely moved away from its roots in science. This has lead to a gulf between computer science and the natural and physical sciences. While there have been many advances in program verification, little of this is applied to address the correctness of scientific software. This meeting was organised…

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By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

I’m a lazy writer, so when it comes to summarising last week’s RSE Conference, I will defer instead to the genius of Adrian Jackson’s tweet:

With all the excitement about RSEs over the last couple of years, we knew it was the right time to run a conference to bring them together. We’ve had workshops and AGMs, but this was going to be bigger, better and way more intense. The thing that impressed me most was the buzz. We attracted a lot of new people, but they were interacting like old friends. We worked hard to have an inclusive event, but I think this is also representative of people feeling a part of the community. As one of the emails we received said:

“This might have been my 30th conference but it was the first where I felt thematically 100% at home and understood”.

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