Imperial College Research Software Community Newsletter - November 2021

November is a festive month. It started with Diwali, will end with Hanukkah and if you drop by central London it will be impossible for you to ignore that Christmas is around the corner. It is also a month when the Sun sets at 4 pm and light is weak and cold, when trees lose their last few leaves after colder and colder gusts of wind, and when staying at home early with a nice book or sharing some happy moments with family becomes more appealing than going outside for a pint. Or maybe not. There is time for everything.

November is also the month when all students are fully settled and ready to start new adventures besides studying, when all staff become busy bees trying to wrap up things before the Christmas break… and when the Imperial RS Community lunchtime seminars have been reborn, hopefully initiating a regular series of events during the following months. Lots of plans and so little time to put them into practice! In case you don’t know what to do, keep reading.

In this month’s newsletter:

Dates for your diary

Research Computing at Imperial

Continuing our series highlighting key members of the College community helping to provide, manage and support research computing and research software services, this month we have an introduction from the newest member of the RSE Team - for now - Dan Davies, Senior Research Software Engineer at Imperial’s RSE team based within the Research Computing Service:

I joined the central RSE team just three months ago after a PhD and a couple of postdoc positions in computational chemistry and materials science. Having been involved in various coding projects throughout my career, the move to Imperial was motivated by a desire to focus on the aspect of research - solving problems by writing software - that I find the most enjoyable and fulfilling.

I get a real sense of satisfaction when a bit of code I’ve contributed to does something useful, especially if it’s doing something useful for someone other than me! To that end, having the chance to help tackle such a wide range of interesting research challenges here at Imperial is really exciting and the three short months I’ve been here so far have flown by. I’ve been able to diversify my skills, working on projects involving web apps and graphical user interfaces, which I would never have had the chance to focus on in a more traditional postdoc role.

Modern research always involves software in one way or another, so the recent increase in recognition for the importance of RSEs, both nationally and internationally, is making it a very exciting time to be one. I’m looking forward to working with more people - from undergraduate through to professor, technical staff and everyone else - over the next months and years at Imperial as we in the central RSE team broaden our engagement.

Research Software of the Month

Our Research Software of the Month for November is MUSE (ModUlar energy system Simulation Environment).

MUSE is a novel technology-rich, whole-systems model of the energy sector. The model is capable of differentiating between regions, between technologies (from the gas boilers consuming energy to nuclear plants producing energy) and between investors with different behaviours and preferences. MUSE is one of the 5 global integrated assessment models used in the PARIS REINFORCE project, an H2020 project started in June 2019 where 18 partners are involved to innovate the dialogue between modellers and stakeholders in the design of future policies consistent with the Paris Agreement.

The model tackles a large track of the world economy in a detailed fashion. It combines vastly different concepts, e.g. the preference of green-minded investors and development minded investors versus the characteristics of a nuclear plant and that of a kettle. It combines data across multiple dimensions, e.g. a regional axis with a year axis, or a seasonal axis with a commodity axis. It aims to be modular, so that users drive their own research by tailoring, modifying, or even overriding any part of the model.

Managing this modelling complexity so that it does not overwhelm users and developers requires modern and professional approaches to software design and development. MUSE is one of the first projects in which the RSE Team became involved, still contributing to make it more performant and reliable.

MUSE will be open sourced within the next few months, but you can already visualise some of the simulated scenarios and access the documentation of the tool.

RSE Bytes


Blog posts, tools & more

Some reminders…

RS Community coffee…

…continues weekly via Teams - normally on Friday afternoons at 3pm but check our Slack workspace for exact times and connection details.

RS Community Slack

The Imperial Research Software Community Slack workspace is a place for general community discussion as well as featuring channels for individuals interested in particular tools or topics. If you’re an OpenFOAM user, why not join the #OpenFOAM channel where regular code review sessions are announced (amongst other CFD-related discussions…). Users of the Nextflow workflow tool can find other Imperial Nextflow users in #nextflow. You can find other R developers in #r-users and there is the #DeepLearners channel for our new AI/ML group. Take a look at the other available channels by clicking the “+” next to “Channels” in the Slack app and selecting “Browse channels”. If you want to start your own group around a tool, programming language or topic not currently represented, feel free to create a new channel and advertise it in #general.

Research Computing Tips

See the Research Computing Service’s Research Computing Tips series for a variety of helpful tips for using RCS resources and related tools and services.

Research Software Directory

Imperial’s Research Software Directory provides details of a range of research software and tools developed by groups and individuals at the College. If you’d like to see your software included in the directory, you can open a pull request in the GitHub Repository or get in touch with the Research Software Community Committee.

Get in Touch, Get Involved!

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!

If you’re reading this on the web and would like to receive the next newsletter directly to your inbox then please subscribe to our Research Software Community Mailing List.

This issue of the Research Software Community Newsletter was edited by Diego Alonso Álvarez. All previous newsletters are available in our online archive.