Category: Events

1st Research Software Winter Seminars and Roundtable

On Thursday 12th of December the Research Computing Service joined the College’s Research Software Community in celebrating the 1st Research Software Winter Seminars and Roundtable, the final event of another great year of building research software at Imperial. The event had two goals: first, to celebrate the research software-related achievements of the RS Community during 2019, and second, to plan the activities and goals for the year that is about to start.

The seminar session featured nine exciting talks, ranging from a review of the activities of the Community during 2019 and the training opportunities in computing and data science skills, to technical talks on the use of complex analysis pipelines for RNA sequencing and the extension of open source software with custom features.

This is the full list of talks, including several relevant links:

After the talks, there was a roundtable discussion chaired by Diego Alonso, with a panel including Elsa Angelini, Jeremy Cohen, Phoebe Pearce and Mark Woodbridge, to help answer some questions about what the audience would like to see from the Community next year, how we can communicate with each other better and who can get involved to make those things happen. There were many excellent contributions from the audience, who were also very engaged and eager to see the community grow and take an active role on it.

Among the activities that were discussed – and that gained volunteers to help make them a reality – were the creation of a Slack workspace as an instantaneous, bidirectional communication channel within the community (already up and running; sign-up now!) and the recruitment of RSE Champions in the different communities (PhD students, postdocs, etc) to promote Community events and bring more people aboard or to assist with the organisation of departmental events.

The event concluded with informal drinks and nibbles in the ICT Kitchen – including mulled wine! – where the enthusiastic attendees and speakers mingled together and shared experiences and plans for the future.

There are plenty of things going on and 2020 is due to see a very bright RS Community at Imperial!

NL-RSE19

On 20 November 2019 Mark Woodbridge and Jeremy Cohen represented Imperial College at NL-RSE19, the first annual conference of the Netherlands Research Software Engineer community.

NL-RSE19 poster session

Their presentation, Strength in Numbers: Growing RSE Capacity at Imperial College London (10.5281/zenodo.3548308) described the expanding groups involved in RSE at Imperial, their respective activities, and how examples of these are fostering collaboration and awareness across the College. They also took the opportunity to display a poster first shown at UKRSE19 that highlights key aspects of these initiatives. The talk and poster generated much interest and resulted in productive discussions with members of the NL-RSE community in relation to building inclusive communities, long-term support for research software, personal development opportunities for RSEs, and how best to support the broad range of research typically carried out in larger institutions.

NL-RSE19 poster session

Many thanks to the organisers (in particular Niels Drost and Ben van Werkhoven of the Netherlands eScience Center) for the opportunity to engage with the vibrant and rapidly growing RSE community in the Netherlands.

Hacktoberfest 2019

On Thursday 10th October a Research Software Engineering (RSE) themed Hacktoberfest event was hosted by Imperial College’s Research Computing Service, Research Software community and ICT. Signups from Imperial spanned all four faculties and the event also produced external interest with registrations from UCL and the V&A.

The evening opened with a short introduction to Hacktoberfest from Jeremy Cohen of the Imperial Research Software community. Chris Cave-Ayland from the RCS followed with a crash course on the steps to follow when making a contribution to an open source project on GitHub. The last opening talk was given by Vasily Sartakov from the Large-Scale Data and Systems Group (LSDS). Titled “Open Source Opportunities”, Vasily’s talk showed how open source has become the dominant paradigm for software development.

The opening talks were followed by lightning talks from the research projects participating in the Hackathon. In total, six software projects attended from five different groups:

Pizza-fuelled hacking then commenced! Participants either chose one of the presented projects to work with, or an alternative project that they were interested in contributing to. Thanks to having direct access to project developers, attendees were able to get up to speed quickly and start working on pull requests for submission. Participating in Hacktoberfest was found to be very valuable for the research projects involved with a total of eight new contributions made so far.

Hacktoberfest

Many thanks to all the speakers and participants who took part, and to Imperial College ICT for supporting this event. We hope to see many of you claiming your Hacktoberfest t-shirt by the end of October!

RSEConUK 2019

September 2019 saw the 4th Conference of Research Software Engineering (RSEConUK 2019) take place in Birmingham, UK. From the 17th-19th September over 350 RSEs, software engineers, researchers and people with a wide range of related roles came to the University of Birmingham to participate in the largest Research Software Engineering conference yet.

RSE19 conference photograph
RSE19 conference photograph courtesy @RSEConUK

While the majority of the attendees were from the UK and Europe, the conference attracted people from around the world.

The conference has been growing each year and this time there was a packed schedule including two keynotes, a series of parallel sessions with talks and panels, a day of workshops and some additional special sessions such as RSE Worldwide.

Imperial was well represented with 11 members of the College attending the conference at various times during the week and getting involved by volunteering, giving talks, joining panels, running workshops and presenting posters:

It was fantastic to see so much participation from Imperial and representatives from many different departments across the College. This provides a great example of how Research Software Engineering at Imperial is such a vital element of the College’s research output and we look forward to seeing an even greater presence from Imperial at next year’s conference.

Research Software London Software Carpentry

On the 9th and 10th July 2019 the Research Software London community ran its first regional Software Carpentry workshop. The event was jointly organised by Imperial, UCL and Queen Mary with Queen Mary hosting the workshop at their Mile End Campus. Several Imperial software carpentry volunteers and members of the Imperial research software community were involved in organising and running the event along with organisers, instructors and helpers from UCL and Queen Mary. The workshop covered a standard Software Carpentry syllabus with the attendees being taught the basics of the Unix shell and git on the first day of the workshop with an introduction to Python on the second day.

The majority of attendees were from Queen Mary, UCL and Imperial but spaces were also made available to the wider RSLondon community. This provided a great opportunity for newcomers to the research software field from institutions that don’t currently run carpentry workshops to attend and learn some core computing and software development skills. More than 30 people registered for the workshop and we received significant positive feedback as well as helpful suggestions on possible enhancements for future workshops.

Software Carpentry lesson
Image courtesy of David Pérez-Suárez

Building on the success of this event, RSLondon are planning to run further such workshops and are looking at other areas covered by The Carpentries for future sessions, in addition to Software Carpentry. If you have contacts at other institutions in London and the South East region who you think would be interested in hosting or attending an RSLondon Carpentry workshop later in 2019, get in touch with Jeremy Cohen

Imperial College RSE Team members Chris Cave-Ayland (instructor) and Mayeul d’Avezac (helper) assisted at this workshop.

deRSE19

The first German national RSE conference took place in Potsdam on 4th-6th June 2019 with 187 attendees. deRSE19 was a really vibrant, welcoming and well-organised event in a great location and had a diverse agenda, encouraging participants from across Europe to share experiences of software engineering in research.

deRSE19 group photo
deRSE19 aerial group photo (CC-BY Antonia Cozacu, Jan Philipp Dietrich, de-RSE e.V.)

In terms of presentations Imperial College was the best-represented institution from outside Germany, with the following speakers:

  • Jeremy Cohen (EPSRC RSE Fellow, Department of Computing) who presented a talk on building research software communities and a poster about RSLondon.
  • Alex Hill (Senior Web Application Developer, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology) who spoke about the challenges of conducting constructive code reviews, particularly in a research setting.
  • Mark Woodbridge (RSE Team Lead, Research Computing Service) who gave a talk on RSE 2.0, reflecting on progress in Research Software Engineering and how it may develop in the near future.

Many thanks to all the event organisers and sponsors for giving us the opportunity to present.

Also during the conference a keynote on RSE collaboration was delivered by Alys Brett, chair of the newly established Society of Research Software Engineering and head of the Software Engineering Group at the UKAEA. UK RSEs also attended deRSE19 from the Software Sustainability Institute, the University of Westminster, and the University of Southampton. We look forward to reuniting with them, as well as colleagues from Germany and beyond at UKRSE19 in September!

Research Software in Physics event

The first Imperial College Research Software in Physics event took place on Friday 17th of May. This event, organised by the Imperial Research Software Community and supported by the College’s ICT department, aimed to help researchers to meet others writing or using research software (RS) in Physics and learn about resources available to help them do so. It gathered around 25 people from all seniority levels and several departments, who shared for over two hours their experiences and opinions on different aspects surrounding the development and use of software for research.

Diego Alonso Álvarez

The event was opened by Diego Alonso Álvarez, a member of the Research Software Engineering team in the Research Computing Service and ex-member of the Physics Department, and Jeremy Cohen, coordinator of the Imperial Research Software Community. Between them they gave an overview of the value of research software (RS), the services available at Imperial to promote software sustainability and good coding practices, and the broader landscape of the RS community in the London area and the UK.

Pat Scott, a lecturer from the Astrophysics group, gave the first of the invited talks, focused on GAMBIT, “a global fitting code for generic Beyond the Standard Model theories” but with potential utility in any other research discipline. Pat highlighted that coding is not an add-on in physics any more but an integral part of it. He also pointed out that while it is important to have good coding practices, increase your user base and publish papers on your code, in the end, in the broader community, you will be judged by your contributions to physics, not software.

The second talk was given by Kelvin Choi, PhD student from the Space & Atmospheric Physics Group, broadly speaking about the challenges involved when working with climate data and models. Among other topics, Kelvin discussed the need to wrap legacy code in more modern languages in order to maintain the traceability and the comparability of the results to those carried out in the 1980s. He also described the need for a pipeline transforming the raw TB of data coming from the satellites to the end results, gluing together different software – often written in different languages – and combining different data formats.

These speakers were followed by 7 lightning talks given by researchers in the department and the Imperial RSE team, including:

  • specific applications of GAMBIT (Janina Renk) and its combination with other tools like TensorFlow to efficiently explore a large parameter space (Benjamin Farmer);
  • the description of custom advanced software for the modelling of the formation of planet-forming discs (Marija Jankovic) or the performance of novel solar cells (Philip Calado);
  • the challenges of dealing with legacy code and data related to the Cassini mission (Gregory Hunt);
  • some of the activities of the RSE team, improving the accessibility of the data from the Cassini mission (Christopher Cave-Ayland) or using the xarray Python package to improve the quality and readability of existing code (Mayeul d’Avezac).

All the talks were very engaging and in several cases sparked discussion points that were adopted for the final part of the event. In the discussion session, the audience was divided into groups around different topics ranging from code peer review and code review practices in the software engineering industry, testing practices and reproducibility or software development models and methodologies within the research community. Dedicated blog posts on the contents on these discussions will follow in due course.

Many thanks to Pat Scott, all the speakers, and everyone who attended the event.

RSLondonSouthEast 2019

Research Software London‘s first annual workshop took place at the Royal Society on February 8, 2019, bringing together a regional community of research software users and developers from over 20 institutions. It featured a diverse schedule of talks and discussions about software engineering, community building and both domain-specific and general-purpose tools of relevance to research.

There were four talks from Imperial researchers, including the keynote from Professor Spencer Sherwin, Director of Research Computing. The College’s Research Computing Service was also represented by Dr Diego Alonso Álvarez, who presented an introduction to xarray and described the RSE team’s work on integrating it into the MUSE energy systems model.

Please see Diego’s slides for more information. Other talks and media from the event are available via #rslondonse19.

Thanks to RSLondon, the programme committee and its chair Dr Jeremy Cohen for organising an informative and stimulating day, and to the EPSRC for supporting the event. We’re looking forward to participating in future meetings and helping further strengthen the regional RSE community.