Research

If we want research to benefit from reliable software, we need to create a home in academia for Research Software Engineers (RSEs). In the long term, this means the creation of an RSE career path, but that involves a rather heavyweight shift in the way that universities deal with staff. Fortunately, there’s also a short-term solution: create more “research software groups”. This week, leaders of these groups met to discuss how they can work together, and how they can support the formation of new research software groups across the UK.

By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

No one knows how much software is used in research. Look around any lab and you’ll see software – both standard and bespoke – being used by all disciplines and seniorities of researchers. Software is clearly fundamental to research, but we can’t prove this without evidence. And this lack of evidence is the reason why we ran a survey of researchers at 15 Russell Group universities to find out about their software use and background.

Headline figures 92% of academics use research software 69% say that their research would not be practical…
No one knows how much software is used in research. Look around any lab and you’ll see software – both standard and bespoke – being used by all disciplines and seniorities of researchers. Software is clearly fundamental to research, but we can’t prove this without evidence. And this lack of evidence is the reason why we ran a survey of researchers at 15 Russell Group universities to find out about their software use and background.
Over the last few months, we’ve been working on improving our understanding of the size of the research software community. In previous posts, I’ve discussed our plans for this research. Although we've not yet finished our analysis, we thought that it would be interesting to release some early results. First of all, how much money do the Research Councils invest into research that relies on software? The answer: at least a third of the entire RCUK budget - or £840 million in 2013.

By Mike Jackson, Software Architect.

Working with researchers is something the Institute has been doing for many years now. So we thought it was about time to put together our top tips for software developers working with researchers, to help foster productive, and enjoyable, collaborations.

1. Remember they are not software developers

You may know the difference between centralised and distributed revision control, classes and objects, pass-by-value and pass-by-reference, upcasting and downcasting, coupling and cohesion, processes and threads, or a stack overflow…

One of the biggest problems facing researchers is the best way to share their research to as broad an audience as possible. In fact, it’s this important part of research impact, or how academic research makes a contribution to wider society, that is used as one of the yardsticks to judge the success of a research project.

The Software Sustainability Institute has been addressing this problem through its blog, which regularly features articles by researchers from across the disciplines, all of whom have used software to enhance and develop their work. The question, however…

By Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

This article originally appeared in Research Fortnight.

With few exceptions, every significant advance in research over at least the past 30 years would have been impossible without computer software. Research software—used to produce results rather than for, say, word processing or web searches—has spread far beyond traditionally computational fields such as particle physics and bioinformatics to achieve near ubiquity in all disciplines. In my role at the Software Sustainability Institute, I have worked with everyone from fusion…

If you agree that software is fundamental to research, we invite you to sign our petition.

Everyone who signs this petition will add weight to our lobbying of research stakeholders, and will help us prove the fundamental role of software in research.

For more information, read the petition - and don't forget to let your friends and colleagues know!

University College London now has a vacancy for a new member to join its Research Software Development Team.

Working as a research software developer (Ref: 1429197), the successful applicant will help code the scientific applications UCL needs to continue with its world class research, from simple data analysis scripts to supercomputer-based complex simulations.

Other duties will include making sure UCL's research software meets high standards of sustainability and helping researchers from across the disciplines with their software needs.

A new collection of visualisation tools for representing biological information is now available thanks to TGAC, EMBL-EBI and F1000Research.

TGAC’s BioJS collection, published today by the journal F1000Research, comprises 14 open-access articles detailing the functionality, design, implementation and potential applications for a suite of open-source, JavaScript software components contributed by developers all over the world. The collection marks a significant step towards improving the way scientists can visualise biological data.

Data visualisations help…

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