Imperial College Research Software Community Newsletter - February 2023

This marks the 50th edition of the Imperial RS Community Newsletter! It has been over 4 years advertising exciting events, promoting the fantastic software developed at Imperial, highlighting the people that make this possible and providing the whole RS community at Imperial with tools, tips and resources that they can use. We hope the Newsletter has been useful for most of you, one way or another. Maybe it has helped you to take a decision on your career path. Maybe it has helped you to discover a tool that solves exactly the problem you were struggling to solve. It might simply have kept you entertained with blogs and news while having a coffee.

We have navigated through the hard times of COVID together, when online contact was the only thing left. PhDs have been started and ended during all this time. We have seen some collaborators and friends leaving, but also others filling the gap. We have grown and evolved as a community. So, let’s not stop now and go for another 50 editions together!

Dates for your diary

Research Computing at Imperial

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 Dr David Hempston, Research Computing Support Analyst in the Platforms Team of the Research Computing Service, ICT:

I am a Research Computing Support Analyst in the RCS platforms team, within which I help to keep the RCS services running while also looking for improvements for future developments. On a day-to-day front I look after the PBSPro scheduler, hardware issues and report faults, and (along with Dugan Witherick) I look after the GPFS filesystem you might know as the RDS. Along with these day-to-day duties I am also building the new PBSPro scheduler, a replacement to our current OS deployment stack, and I’m part of the team deploying the new HPC cluster that replaces cx2.

Before coming to Imperial College I was at the University of Southampton where I completed both my undergraduate degree in Physics and my PhD in Levitated optomechanics. After my PhD I was looking for a role that would allow me to support research but would get me out of the lab. Having had experience with larger data sets (~4 TB each) during my PhD, joining the HPC team at Southampton was a natural transition. I enjoyed my time at Southampton and learnt a lot but in 2021 I took the jump to working in London and moved to ICL.

One of the best things about my work is I get to create systems that researchers use to change the world. ICL has one of the largest university owned HPC and research computing estates in the UK. This can sometimes feel like wrestling a behemoth but it is very rewarding when you look at the research output it is able to create. My hope is that the upgrades we are putting in this year will allow the output to increase even more.

Research Software of the Month

Our Research Software of the Month for February 2023 is Open Visualisation Environment (OVE):

Open Visualisation Environment (OVE) is an open-source software stack, designed to be used in large scale visualisation environments, such as the Data Observatory at the Data Science Institute of Imperial College London.

OVE provides an opportunity for academics and industry to visualise data in a way that uncovers new insights, and promotes the communication of complex data sets in an immersive environment.

OVE uses web technology for visualising data in the browser across multiple displays, including the 64 screens of the Data Observatory. You can find examples of where OVE has been used for visual analytics, presentations or for collaborative group work by viewing this list of case studies.

OVE is modular with its main functionalities split into separate components. OVE Core, controls sections and the applications running within them; OVE Apps, provides a set of useful applications for common tasks such as displaying webpages, images or videos and drawing graphs; OVE Services provides core functionality microservices within OVE; and the OVE Asset Manager provides a backend that manages files in an object store, a user interface for this manager, a collection of workers to asynchronously process uploaded files.

The tool is released under a MIT License and also provides user interfaces and software development kits that can be used to explore its possibilities and design and develop new projects.

RSE Bytes


Blog posts, tools & more

Some reminders…

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 Software Engineering support

If you need support with your code, seek no more! The Central RSE Team, within the Reseach Computing Service is here to help. Have a look at the variety of ways the team can work with you:

HPC documentation and tips

All the documentation, tutorials and howtos for using Imperial’s HPC are available in the HPC Wiki pages. See also 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.