Data Analysis

ResearchFishBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

Researchfish® allows researchers to record the impact of their research outside of the standard metric of how many papers I have written. These outcomes, as they are called, cover publications, but also collaborations, events, awards and other metrics including - and of most interest to me - software.

Researchfish® was established with the support of MRC and initially focused on collecting outcomes from medical research. It has since been adopted by a broad range of funders, including the UK’s seven Research Councils. I recently had an interesting talk with the EPSRC’s Louise Tillman about what these outcomes might say about research software in the UK and, thanks to her, a week later I found myself in possession of a spreadsheet containing the research outcomes related to software for EPSRC researchers.

Just having the outcomes is pretty exciting, but to make things more interesting, I decided that I would write the analysis code myself. I’m not a software developer, but it’s getting progressively more difficult to stay that way when I spend my life surrounded by Research Software Engineers. Hence this post not only reports an investigation into Researchfish…

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A word cloud of the software used in researchBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve had occasion to ask people about the software they use in their research. We’re about to start a long-running survey to collect this information properly, but I thought it might be fun to take a rough look at the data we’ve collected from a few different surveys.

It would be easy to survey people if there existed a super-list of all possible research software from which people could choose. But no such list exists. This raises the question of how many different types of software do we expect to see in research? Hundreds, thousands, more? The lack of this list is rather annoying, because it means we have to collect freeform text rather than ask people to choose from a drop-down list. Free-form text is the bane of anyone who collects survey data, because it takes so much effort to clean. It is truly amazing how many different ways people can find to say the same thing!

I collected together five of our surveys from 2014 to 2016, which relates to 1261 survey participants. From these, we collected 2958 different responses to the question “What software do you use in your research?”, but after a few hours of fairly laborious data cleaning (using Open Refine to make things easier) these were boiled…

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By Steve Crouch, Devasena Inupakutika, Alun Ashton, Mark Basham and Matthew Gerring

Scientific projects are often created as stand alone applications which use their own definitions for algorithms and visualisation tools. This makes it difficult to benefit from other people's work. The DAWN Science project allowed a large group of scientific developers and software engineers to  collaborate by developing a single, general purpose API to allow access and sharing of existing algorithms and visualisation tools. This significantly accelerates the development of new analysis tools. We reviewed the DAWN code and provided advice on how to improve the organisation of the software and sharing of the code. 

DAWN (Data Analysis WorkbeNch) is open-source scientific data analysis software for numerical data built on the Eclipse/RCP platform. It is developed by a collaboration of facilities and universities, some of whom are contributing code or development effort and others who use and test the software. The collaborative development is led by Diamond Light Source which is situated at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Campus near Oxford. Diamond is not restricted to a single…

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