Research Software Engineers

14963879736_f7c42086ea_z.jpgBy Mark Woodbridge, Research Software Engineering Team Lead

This is the first in a series of blog posts by the Research Software Engineering team at Imperial College London describing activities funded by their RSE Cloud Computing Award. The team is exploring the use of selected Microsoft Azure services to accelerate the delivery of RSE projects via a cloud-first approach. This post was originally published at the Imperial London College Research Software Engineering team blog. 

A great way to explore an unfamiliar cloud platform is to deploy a familiar tool and compare the process with that used for an on-premise installation. In this case we’ll set up an open source continuous delivery system (Drone) to carry out automated testing of a simple Python project hosted on GitHub. Drone is not as capable or flexible as alternatives like Jenkins (which we’ll consider in a subsequent post) but it’s a lot simpler and a suitable example…

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6375359117_dc18c1a762_z.jpgBy Sam Cox, University of Leicester, Richard Adams, Cranfield University, Eike Müller, Met Office.

The role of software in research and who writes it

From an institutional level down to teams and even individuals, research today is heavily reliant upon software and particularly upon bespoke computer code which solves specific scientific problems.. This creates a huge demand for software creation and maintenance. Traditionally, this has been the responsibility of post-docs and postgraduates. But while they play a crucial role in the success of the research group, the indirect nature of the translation of their work into papers (particularly the maintenance and update work to keep on keep the software fit-for-purpose under changing scientific requirements) can leave the individual researchers at a disadvantage—they have less time for the more traditional work of running experiments and writing papers. This in turn has an effect upon their career progression, which hinges on clear metrics for success.

As a result, one major issue is how to identify what ‘…

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By Edward Smith, Imperial College London.

The Research Software Engineer (RSE) 2017 conference started with an excellent keynote talk by Chris Woods, emphasising a number of issues. This set the tone for the conference, outlining the aspiration of developing the RSE community and changing perceptions. There seems to be clear progress in this area and a number of challenges still to face. One issue that came up was the misalignment of aspiration in the university selection processes for RSE fellowships candidates compared to those in the national RSE community. For me, the most interesting point was Chris’ emphasis on letting people use the technologies they feel most comfortable with, when working as an RSE. This was a theme from the conference that continued with no less than four talks by software engineers working at or with the MET office. Weather prediction is unique in that it is scientific software with a direct and constant validation, often by angry people without umbrellas. It is also an area where code and hardware reliability is crucial. They have an entire standby supercomputer in case the main one goes down and an extensive testing framework. In this context, it is therefore interesting that the MET RSEs are working on rewriting the entire HPC…

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We would like to invite everyone working on research software in the Netherlands to complete the RSE survey and spread the word.

The Netherlands Research Software Engineer community (NL-RSE) was started to gain insight into the various communities of RSEs in the Netherlands and increase the interaction between them. The RSE surveys in the UK in 2016 and 2017 [1, 2] have allowed to gain valuable insights and spread the word about the RSE movement. That is why the Netherlands eScience CenterePLAN (Platform of eScience/Data Research Centres in the Netherlands), NL-RSE, and the UK RSE Association are organising this survey for 2017 in the Netherlands.

The study is conducted by the University of Southampton on behalf of the Software Sustainability Institute and complies with University of Southampton ethics guidelines (reference no.: ERGO/FPSE/30610). The investigators are Simon Hettrick and Olivier Philippe. Contacts in the Netherlands are Ben van Werkhoven and Tom Bakker from the Netherlands eScience Center.

[1]: See RSE State of the Nation Report 2017, page 21.

[2]: See UK-…

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The Software Sustainability Institute and zaf-RSE invite anyone coding in and for academia in South Africa to complete this survey on research software. 

As of now there is not much knowledge about the community of those in research and science who develop software. This survey aims to gain valuable insights into this community in order to support research funders and other institutions to develop strategies and funding programs as well as policies.

Last and this years’ UK surveys [1, 2] allowed to gain valuable insights. We would like to build on the momentum gained in the UK RSE community and help to create a voice for the South African RSE community. Similar surveys will be conducted in Canada, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, the USA and again in the UK. For reasons of comparability, this survey was closely coordinated with the others. We thank Prof Ilani Loubser from the North-West University's Space Physics programme for working with the NWU eResearch Initiative to provide South African context to the survey.

This survey gives South African researchers and scientist the opportunity to make their point of view and experiences be heard, and thus be part of the development of this community. It would be also very helpful if you could spread the word to others who develop software in the South African research landscape, or anyone who employs software experts in the South African academic landscape.

There are ca. 65 questions in this survey. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes to complete. Please note that this research is not compulsory and even if you decide to participate you can withdraw at any…

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By Kenji Takeda, Microsoft Research.

Research Software Engineers drive advances in how research can be done more effectively using all manner of software, computing systems and infrastructure. As a community, RSEs drive positive change to progress the state-of-the-art to do better, faster, and more reproducible research. It’s clear that cloud computing is playing an increasingly important role in research, so Microsoft is privileged to be able to support the RSE community, and researchers across the world, to exploit cloud computing across all domains through our Azure for Research program.

We were delighted to see so many high-quality applications to the RSE Cloud Computing Awards call, and so have decided to give all applicants access to Microsoft Azure to pursue the wide-range of exciting activities proposed. We particularly congratulate the successful awardees from across the UK, who can now pursue their plans for training, workshops, community software development, and cutting-edge research using Microsoft Azure.

  • Martin Callaghan, The University of Leeds
  • Christian Cole, University of Dundee
  • Joseph Doyle, University of East London
  • Eilis Hannon, University of Exeter…
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The RSE Cloud Computing Awards program was created to build a community that bridges researchers, university stakeholders, regional teams, and national services, to better understand how Microsoft Azure can enable better, faster, and more reproducible research.

Martin Callaghan

MartinI’m a Research Computing Consultant at the University of Leeds where I provide High Performance Computing (HPC), Programming and Software Development consultancy across a diverse research community, including the Arts and Social Sciences. This role is part RSE, part trainer, part consultant and part outreach. Although my role mainly involves HPC, there are many research projects where it hasn’t been a particularly good fit and Cloud has the potential to help us develop more appropriate solutions.

Before joining the University of Leeds, I worked as an Engineer designing machine tool control systems, a teacher and run my own training and consultancy business.

I’ve been a co-applicant and lead instructor on four successful grant awards to run bespoke three-day Software Carpentry workshops to support PhD students and early career researchers to improve their programming skills.

I also manage a comprehensive HPC and Research Computing training programme designed to be a ‘zero to hero’ structured introduction to HPC, Cloud and research…

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As part of our on-going effort to collect information about RSEs in different countries, the SSI and de-RSE have created a specific version of the UK RSE survey for Germany (more information can be found here). 

Participants are needed for this survey on research software and people writing scientific software for Germany. If you are coding in and for academia in Germany then complete the survey and help us spread the word. You can also access a german version of the survey.

As of now there is not much knowledge about the community of those in research and science who develop software. This survey aims to gain valuable insights into this community in order to support research funders and other institutions to develop strategies and funding programs as well as policies.

Last and this years’ UK surveys [1, 2] allowed to gain valuable insights. To continue our success with this campaign, we need to track how the community evolves at other places. Simultaneously, similar surveys will be conducted in Canada, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, the USA and South Africa. For reasons of comparability, this survey was closely coordinated with the others.

This survey gives German researchers and scientists the opportunity for their point of view and experiences to be heard and thus be part of the development of this community. It would be also very helpful if you could spread the word to others who develop…

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We are pleased to announce the awardees from the final round of the EPSRC USA-UK Research Software Engineer Travel fund applications. This funding aims to encourage greater collaboration between the UK and USA-based Research Software Engineer communities to help with: investigating emerging hardware and the impact on software; building collaboration around a particular science area; developing common community codes; and building links between computational / computer science and mathematics.

We have now closed applications for this funding.

Awardees

Alys Brett

Alys Brett, on behalf of the UK RSE association’s RSE Leaders group, has been awarded money to enable USA RSE group leaders to travel to take part in the two-day International RSE leaders meeting in London at the Alan Turing Institute in early 2018. Alys Brett is Head of Software Development Group at the UK Atomic Energy Authority and will be organising the meeting and site visits to UK RSE groups along with other applicants from the RSE Leaders group including Robert Haines (Manchester), James Hetherington (UCL), Simon Hettrick (Southampton), Mark Turner (Newcastle), Chris Woods (Bristol) and Claire Wyatt (RSE Community Coordinator).

Filippo Spiga

The University of Cambridge group led by Filippo Spiga, in collaboration with Jeffrey Salmond and Krishna Kumar, has been awarded money from the EPSRC RSE Travel fund to facilitate the visit of Christian Trott and H. Carter Edwards, main developers and contributors of Kokkos C++. Both software sustainability and performance portability are…

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By Kenji Takeda, Microsoft Research.

It is a privilege to announce the Research Software Engineering Cloud Computing Awards at the RSE 2017 conference! It is clear that cloud computing is helping researchers worldwide, across all disciplines, and it is a key enabler for AI and machine learning at scale. With these awards, Microsoft wants to empower RSEs to explore, educate and extend cloud computing for researchers. The goal is to create a community bridging researchers, university stakeholders, regional teams, and national services, to better understand how Microsoft Azure can enable better, faster and more reproducible research in everyday use.

We are looking for people who are passionate about exploring how cloud computing can be used in research, sharing their experiences with cloud computing, and advocating best practice in their research domain, institution, and/or community. The awards are flexible and will support training, workshops, cloud computing prototype designs and research solutions, and publication of open-source code and frameworks for Microsoft Azure. We are particularly interested in RSEs using AI, machine learning, and data science in their projects.

Each award provides £2000 GBP for education, outreach, and implementation of research solutions using the Microsoft Cloud. This is complemented by 12 months of Microsoft Azure credits at $250 USD per month, for one year. Awardees will be able to use the title RSE Cloud Computing Fellow.

Apply…

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