December is almost here, but I admit that I’m not feeling the festive mood yet. Maybe it is because of the football World Cup, that I have always connected to summertime (good luck to all and may the best team win!), or because there is no ice rink in Exhibition Road (but The Urban Nature Project is amazing, so no regrets!). Maybe I just need to drink a hot beverage and have a look at this year’s Advent of Code, and everything will be back to normality. And you can find the link about the Advent of Code (and possible use of AI to predict football outcomes) in this month’s newsletter together with many more news, tools and software-related events. Enjoy!
Last minute reminder for the STFC’s Computing Insight UK (CIUK) 2022 conference that will take place on the 1st and 2nd December at Manchester Central. The theme is “Sustainable HPC” and you can find the details and how to register on the conference website.
FOSDEM 2003 is a two-day event to promote the widespread use of free and open source software. It will take place in Brussels, Belgium on the 4th and 5th February 2023. There are many tracks to consider but one seems particularly relevant to RSEs: Open Research Tools and Technologies. The deadline for the submission of proposal is 4th December 2022.
The Research Software Engineering in Data & AI Workshop will be held 15-17 February 2023 at the University of Warwick, UK. Applications and call for abstracts are now open: the deadline is 12th December 2022. Full details.
How do data and software engineering teams differ between academia and industry? How can they collaborate together? An upcoming online event in the Turing-Roche knowledge share series will try to answer these and other related questions: Data and software engineering, 12th December at 15:00 (UTC).
As we highlighted last month, the Francis Crick Institute is hosting 2022’s edition of the Somatic Evolution and Tumour Microenvironment (SETM) Symposium on the 12th December 2022. You can find out more about the Symposium on the Eventbrite page.
The next session in the Byte-sized RSE series will cover Python testing and take place on Tuesday 13th December 2022 at 13:00 via Zoom. Register here and also take a look at the new byte-sized RSE webpage for links to the podcasts from previous sessions.
Comics are a powerful medium. But can they invite under-represented groups into open source software? Mars Lee, technical illustrator, will discuss comics and software in the talk Drawing the Future: Making Scientific Python More Accessible with Comics. The event is part of the US-RSE DEI Speaker series. Register to attend online on the 14th December 2022 at 20:00 (UTC).
A conference on the more mundane aspects of data and machine learning? Yes, if you are interested in “the stuff that matters but doesn’t get the spotlight” consider attending the 100% online NormConf. The date is 15th December 2022 and registrations are still open.
If you have a research problem that requires use of GPU computing and need help with it, don’t forget to apply for the UK National Open Hackathon partnered with EPSRC, NVIDIA, and OpenACC.org. The deadline is 16th January 2023, with the hackathon starting on 27th February 2023.
This month, in our series highlighting key members of the College community helping to provide, manage and support research computing and research software services, we hear from Thibault Lestang, Senior Research Software Engineer in the Aeronautics department:
I joined the Department of Aeronautics about 10 months ago (February 2022) as a Senior Research Software Engineer. Before that I was a RSE in the Oxford Research Software Engineering group for about three years, where I worked on a variety of software projects across Oxford.
I hold a PhD in Physics from École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France. Although my trajectory into Research Software Engineering wasn’t clear from the beginning, it is not surprising in hindsight. After playing with programming as a teenager, I rediscovered computing as a physics undergraduate, and realised that programming could be a very important component of working as a researcher. I believed, for a time, that Computational Physics would be my calling, only to realise throughout my PhD that I was in fact thinking about something different called “Research Software Engineering”. Coming across the UK RSE association (nowadays SocRSE), I decided to build experience as an RSE straight away instead of pursuing a conventional academic path. It was no easy feat in France at the time, and I made the choice to move to the UK – in the midst of Brexit – to become a part of the Research Software Engineering community there.
I’m actually the first “official” RSE in Aeronautics, initially hired to focus on free/libre Computational Fluid Dynamics software such as Xcompact3D, Nektar++ and PyFR. Being the only RSE in the department is often challenging: there is a lot of ground to cover and deciding what to focus on is rarely straightforward. I found that I’m able to impact more than one project at once by providing guidance at an organisational level, rather than going straight down to technical aspects. Because software projects in the department grew organically from specific and different research needs, they often do not (yet) take advantage of infrastructure and processes such as development workflows, automated testing, packaging or code reviews. There are many RSE-months to be spent there. At the departmental level, part of my role is to contribute to a Research Software Engineering strategy for Aeronautics, which will hopefully result in increased RSE capacity over the years to come. I am always on the lookout for advice and discussions from/with fellow RSEs. Feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll be happy to chat over coffee!
This month’s software is not software as you might expect - it is a learning resource. The ReCoDE pilot (Research Computing and Data Science Exemplars) contains exemplars of complete (and digestible) software projects accompanied by plentiful annotation to facilitate learning. Studying the code, the rationale behind design decisions, and the use of good practice throughout aids the transition between classroom learning and hands-on work on research projects - a situation that many doctoral students face at the start of their degree. Apart from doctoral students, anyone who is switching to a new field or learning a new tool may benefit.
ReCoDE was funded by Imperial’s Learning and Teaching Innovation Fund and is a collaboration between doctoral students, StudentShapers, Research Computing and Data Science team (RCDS) at the Graduate School, and Research Software Engineers from the Research Computing Service and Department of Computing. Further funding permitting, the coordinators are looking to add to the list of existing ReCoDE exemplars to represent a wider range of domains and ensure there is a project relevant to most scientific fields. That said, exemplars are designed so that you should be able to study any exemplar regardless of your primary field of expertise: the main emphasis is on the computing aspects.
For now, feel free to learn about:
According to tradition, Advent of Code 2023 will start on the 1st December at midnight EST (UTC-5)! If you plan to participate, why not share your progress, questions, doubts, successes with the rest of the Imperial Research Software Community on Slack? Also, look out for a link to our private Imperial shared Advent of Code leaderboard which will be posted on Slack in the next couple of days.
We are looking for 2 motivated and curious Senior Research Software Engineers to join the central RSE Team at Imperial College London. If you’re interested in developing software for research, from web apps to efficient tools to run in an HPC, from OSS to custom tools to launch start-ups, get in touch!
The Netherlands eScience Center have launched their updated Research Software Directory, a structured and easy to navigate showcase of research software. If you missed the recent launch event, you can now watch it directly from the event page.
We have previously highlighted that the next SSI Collaborations Workshop (CW23) will take place on the 2nd-4th May 2023 as a hybrid event. The location has not been announced yet, but if you are interested, you can sign up for updates on the workshop website.
Another reminder that JupyterCon 2023 will take place in Paris, France on 10th-12th May 2023. You can sign up to receive updates on the event at https://www.jupytercon.com/ and look out for the call for proposals.
It is important to highlight that in the newly published PLOS article Ten simple rules for funding scientific open source software, rule number 5 is: “Promote research software engineering as an academic career.” What seemed in the past a naive idea is now getting more and more traction, and its value is slowly recognised by funders and institutions. And this is also due to the relentless advocacy that each of us do every day. You should pat yourself on the back.
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 AI/ML-related questions and discussion. 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.
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! email@example.com.
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This issue of the Research Software Community Newsletter was edited by Stefano Galvan. All previous newsletters are available in our online archive.