Software and research: the Institute's Blog

By Mike Croucher, SSI Fellow, Research Software Engineer and author of Walking Randomly.

William Stein, lead developer of the computer algebra system, Sage, and its cloud-based spin-off, SageMathCloud, recently announced that he was quitting academia to go and form a company. In his talk, William says "I can’t figure out how to create Sage in academia. The money isn’t there. The mathematical community doesn’t care enough. The only option left is for me to build a company."

His talk is linked below and his slides are also available.

“Every great open source math library is built on the ashes of someone’s academic career.”

William’s departure is not unique. Here’s a tweet from Wes Mckinney, creator of pandas, one of the essential data science tools for Python.

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We are looking for similar stories: good research software people who felt that they had to leave academia because there wasn’t enough support, recognition…

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By Devasena Inupakutika and Steve Crouch, Software Sustainability Institute, and Richard Bradshaw, University of Southampton.

As a part of their research, Jonathan Essex’s Research Group developed ProtoMS, a biomolecular simulation software that allows the simple development of methods for the calculation of relative protein/ligand binding free energies. The Software Sustainability Institute worked with them as part of an Open Call project to develop a test strategy and Python test suite, and to verify the operation of the ProtoMS software as an overall product. The great news is that the latest release now includes the test suite and has already found some interesting issues which have been resolved.

A firm and stable unit test suite is crucial for ongoing development in large projects. Writing unit tests adds value to a project while reducing the cost of code changes. With our aim to explore the software for its accessibility and usability and how to adopt a decentralised approach that can reduce strain on further development, we examined each unit of the ProtoMS Python code…

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By Steve Crouch, Research Software Group Lead.

This article was originally published on Jisc's Research Data Spring blog on 30 June 2016.

Sustainability is increasingly becoming recognised as a must-have goal in the development of research software. Earlier this year, I undertook a sustainability assessment of the projects that had reached the second phase of the Jisc's Research Data Spring. It is particularly heartening that Jisc has sustainability high on the agenda across its portfolio of software projects, and that the projects themselves are embracing this ideal with such enthusiasm.

The Institute’s Research Software Group has conducted over 60 consultancy activities with projects producing research software, and a part of that work often involves an assessment of the software's sustainability. Typically, this means taking an in-depth look at the software itself…

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By Larisa BlazicSenior Lecturer, Faculty of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster

The Libre Graphics Meeting (LGM) is a meeting about free and open source software for graphics such as raster graphics editor Gimp, vector graphics editor Inkscape, desktop publishing software Scribus, free sketching and painting program Krita, 3D creation Blender, among many other amazing projects. Held yearly since 2006 and hosted by a different institution each year, LGM attracts developers, artists, and professionals who use and help improve free and open source software graphics applications. Unlike many events devoted to free and libre open source software, LGM has always had a strong artistic focus, with designers and artists showcasing their work alongside the work of software developers. It is one of the best examples of community and cross-disciplinary engagement in the world of free software graphics.  

From 15th–18th April 2016, Westminster School of Media Arts & Design (WSMAD) at the University of Westminster (London) hosted the 11th edition of the Libre…

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Dagsthul Perspectives WorkshopBy Carole Goble, Manchester Principal Investigator at the Software Sustainability Institute, and Mike Croucher, Robert Haines, and Caroline Jay, Fellows at the Software Sustainability Institute.

How should we build the research software of the future? This was the question under consideration at the Dagstuhl Perspective’s Workshop ‘Engineering Academic Software’, co-organised by the Software Sustainability Institute’s Manchester PI Carole Goble. Experts in the area from across the world spent an intensive week presenting, discussing, debating and writing, to define current problems in the field and determine how we could address them.

The Institute was out in force, with fellows Mike Croucher, Robert Haines and Caroline Jay offering their thoughts on the present and future states of application…

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