Imperial College Research Software Community Newsletter - October 2020

Hello again, and welcome to our October newsletter, coming to you this month from the Faculty of Medicine.

So Hallowe’en is almost upon us, and this year we don’t need to look far for horror stories to provide the thrills of the season. Where even to begin? How about the recent loss of thousands of patients from the government’s Covid “database” which won’t have come as a surprise to RSEs wearily debugging yet another Excel import. What can we say except that solid research software skills have never looked so relevant, or necessary. “If there were health and safety rules for software, Excel would be up there with radium cigarettes and arsenic gobstoppers”. (Although, hoping for a similar frisson of superiority from this article on Matlab and its impact on public health, I was sadly disappointed.)

Last call!

Upcoming events

Research Software News

Reading Matters

Stuff to try

Research Software of the Month

October’s research software of the month comes from a recent Imperial PhD, Kai Arulkumaran:

FGLab is a computational science dashboard, designed to make prototyping experiments easier. Experiment details and results are sent to a database, which allows analytics to be performed after their completion. The server is FGLab, and the clients are FGMachines.

FGLab suits a different kind of workflow to Jupyter notebooks/CodaLab worksheets. The latter are ideal for presenting a single working experiment along with data, live code, explanatory text and visualisations. On the other hand, FGLab decouples code from the dashboard, with the results of a series of experiments with different hyperparameters being stored in a database. Prototyping experiments often involves small code changes that are not worth committing - these can qualitatively be captured in the notes interface that accompanies each experiment, much like with a physical lab notebook.

See further details on FGLab.

Each month we highlight a piece of research software that is being used or developed at Imperial. If you have a suggestion of some software that you’d like to see us feature, please email

Some reminders…

RS Community coffee continues weekly via Zoom - normally on Friday afternoons at 3pm but check our Slack workspace for exact times and connection details.

Check the latest installment of the Research Computing Service’s Research Computing Tips.

Get in Touch, Get Involved!

That’s all for this month. Thanks to everyone who provided content for this edition.

Drop us a line with anything you’d like included in the newsletter, ideas about how it could be improved… or even offer to guest-edit a future edition!

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This issue of the Research Software Community Newsletter was edited by Jazz Mack Smith. All previous newsletters are available in our online archive.