Newsletter – March 2020
Welcome to the March newsletter from The Society of Research Software Engineering! Our monthly newsletter will announce new Society initiatives, gather RSE news, events, blogs, papers, anything interesting and relevant together in one place. If you would like to add an item or suggest a new section to the next newsletter, send it to Claire Wyatt, RSE Community Manager.
Each month, we’ll introduce you to three Trustees from the Society board and for March, we’re focusing on our Vice President Paul Richmond, James Graham, Web Co-Lead and Simon Hettrick, Treasurer.
Paul Richmond is Director of the Sheffield RSE group and was awarded one of the first EPSRC Early Career Research Software Engineering (RSE) Fellowships. The focus of this fellowship is in facilitating the use of accelerated architectures such as Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to accelerate scientific discovery. He is developing software techniques, a provision of skills and training material and building a community to help drive the use of accelerators into mainstream science and engineering.
As Vice President of the society he is looking forward to raising the profile of RSEs and the RSE role. He is particularly keen to share expertise in the formation and operation of RSE groups and is currently working on creating a catalogue of working and financial models to make available through the society as well as open source software to assist in group management to help future leaders build groups and make them and the teams in which they support sustainable.
James Graham joined the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) and the Research Software Group (RSG) at the University of Southampton in 2017 as a Research Software Engineer (RSE), after working on a project in computational chemistry with the SSI as part of their Open Call.
In his role as an RSE, as well as software development and infrastructure maintenance, he advises on software engineering and design to external projects and delivers training to new researchers. He also supports the Southampton Research Software Community, a community for researchers who develop software as part of their research, by running Code Surgeries and helping to launch new Special Interest Groups.
Ania and James are jointly responsible for maintaining and developing the web infrastructure of the Society. If anything is broken, or you have suggestions for improvements, please let them know at [email protected]
Professor Simon Hettrick is Deputy Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, and co-Director of the Southampton Research Software Group.
He works with stakeholders from across the research community to develop policies that support research software, the people who develop that software and the researchers who rely on it. Simon’s research focuses on the use of software in the research community with the aim of understanding practices and demographics. In this role, he conducted the first study of software reliance in academia.
Simon has been a passionate advocate for Research Software Engineers since the term was conceived. He orchestrated the campaign that gained recognition for this community, which grew from a handful of people in 2013, to a substantial international community numbering in the thousands. He was the founding chair of the UK’s Association of Research Software Engineers and is now a Trustee of the Society of Research Software Engineering and its Treasurer. He was treasurer of the RSE conference from 2016 to 2019.
Simon is one of the Directors of the Southampton Research Software Group based at the University of Southampton. The group makes research software engineering expertise available to researchers across the University, provides training in software engineering and encourages collaboration and the sharing of knowledge between researchers who rely on software.
He is a member of the UKRI expert group on e-Infrastructure, a member of the STFC Projects Peer Review Panel (large projects), and an Advisory Board member for the journal Patterns. He has a background in physics and patent law.
FAIR Software – Five recommendations for FAIR Software
The Society of Research Software Engineering is pleased to endorse the Five Recommendations for FAIR Software from the Netherlands eScience Center and DANS initiative.
RSE Leaders Meetings – going online?
We support meetings for RSE Leaders twice a year, with the possibility of raising this to four times a year soon. Both the private slack channel and the meetings are for leaders to share and discuss best practice confidentially. Seeing as we can’t meet in person for the next few months, shall we move this online?
Let Claire know if you’d like to see an RSE Leaders meeting online in the diary in the next few months or sooner? Also email Claire, if you’d like to be added to the mailing list and slack channel.
Membership to the Society
Sign up for membership! with direct debit being the current payment method. We are working with our membership platform providers to find a solution for other payment methods and we hope to have more information on that soon.
Currently the members benefits are:
- Support the work of the Society to further research software engineering
- Eligible to apply for any future opportunities for Society funding
- Opportunity for early registration to the Society annual conference
- Opportunity for early registration to any future Society’s professional and networking events
- Eligible to vote in Society decisions such as electing trustees or changing the constitution
- Eligible to stand for election as a trustee
- Eligible to be volunteer or be nominated for working groups or committees that the trustees may establish
RSE Vacancies – You can post an RSE role or a role supporting RSEs to the vacancy page on the Society website via a form.
RSE Group Updates – Recently two groups published their fantastic and inspiring Research Software Group annual report. Read all about their RSE team and their projects:- From Mark Turner, Head of Research Software Engineering at Newcastle University and Andrew Edmondson, Group Leader at the University of Birmingham. If you have a group or individual update that you’d like to share, please send it through to Claire.
On the RSE Slack space, we have created a few new channels:
– #covid – to share trackers, research efforts and relevant articles.
– #introductions – Come introduce yourself and your work to the community.
– #remote-working – Join in the discussion about how best to work remotely.
Connect to the RSE Community by joining the RSE Slack https://society-rse.org/about/contact/
RSECon2020 in the UK
The Trustees of the Society of Research Software Engineering and the Conference Steering Group have taken the very difficult decision to cancel the annual RSE Conference for 2020. We know that this conference is a fantastic social, networking and skills training event for the RSE community worldwide so we’d like to reassure everyone that early planning has already begun for the RSE Conference in 2021. The full announcement is here.
deRSE20 – 2nd International Conference for Research Software Engineers in Germany
Due to the current SARS-CoV-2 virus/COVID-19 pandemic, the deRSE20 organisers have decided to cancel deRSE20 – 2nd International Conference for Research Software Engineers in Germany, planned to take place from 25-27 August in Jena, Germany. We have made this decision with a heavy heart, but – given the current situation – did not see any other way to eliminate any risks for attendees and organizers. See the full announcement here.
In the news…Covid-19 Efforts
UKRI open call for research and innovation ideas to address COVID-19
Last Friday, James Hetherington, Director of Digital Research Infrastructure at UK Research and Innovation, told the community that he has been appointed to the UKRI Covid-19 R&D Coordination Group. This group has been set up to help coordinate research and innovation proposal funding requests in UKRI. James’s role within the group is to help coordinate with the UK supercomputing, research software engineering and data science communities. They are committed to making sure we can be helpful while not getting in the way.
Today, the UKRI launched an open call for Research and Innovation ideas to address COVID-19. Proposals are invited for short term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. There is no closing date – proposals can be submitted at any time.
Urgent call for modellers to support epidemic modelling
The Royal Society issued an urgent call here for modellers. This urgent call to action is addressed to the scientific modelling community, and is a scheme to allow those with modelling skills (including data science) to contribute to current UK efforts in modelling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Data Research UK
Find out about the ways in which Health Data Research UK, as the national institute for health data science for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is championing the use of health data to respond to COVID-19.
RDA COVID-19 Working Group – Urgent Call for Expert Contributions
As an international, consensus-driven, community based organisation, the Research Data Alliance (RDA) has been asked to leverage on the global RDA data community to support the urgent Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As a response, RDA has set up a fast track Working Group titled the “RDA COVID-19 Working Group”. Read the full call here.
Covid Symptom Tracker
The app will be used to study the symptoms of COVID-19 and track the spread of this virus. This research is led by Prof. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and director of TwinsUK.
“The information you give us is essential to understand COVID-19. We take the trust you’ve granted us very seriously and have rigorous steps in place to ensure your information is secure. This is why public health and other authorities are working with us. We are also working hard to improve the app based on your feedback. This is a non-profit initiative so please bear with us.”
Take Part in a Social Study of Covid-19
The March Network, a UKRI-funded Mental Health research network, has launched a study into the psychological and social experiences of Covid-19 in the UK during this period of the pandemic. The study is open to all adults in the UK. Participation involves answering a 15-minute online survey now and then answering a shorter 10-minute follow-up survey once a week whilst social isolation measures are in place. Please take part, and share to your contacts. The survey can be accessed here.
The results from this are vital if we are to understand the effects of social isolation on individuals and will help to track trajectories of mental health and loneliness in the UK over the coming weeks, identify which groups are most at risk, and understand the effects of any potentially protective activities people could be engaging in.
They will be providing public data releases each week. You can sign up to receive these here. They are also liaising with key policy and healthcare bodies within the UK, and with teams in other countries to produce cross-national comparisons.
The Academic Data Science Alliance – Invitation to participate
The Academic Data Science Alliance is working with partners to pull together data sets and data science resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiated by conversations with Columbia, NYU, UC Berkeley, and UWashington, universities in three regions of the U.S. hit hard by the coronavirus, we invite the data science community to contribute to this living list of resources on the ADSA COVID-19 website. Please send additions, corrections, comments, and suggestions to us using this feedback form.Over time, ADSA hopes to provide additional services that can effectively match data science expertise with health and medical science questions and needs.We welcome collaborations on this ADSA COVID-19 initiative. Please feel free to forward this email to colleagues and invite them to join our mailing list by sending requests to [email protected]
ReSA’s mission is to bring research software communities together to collaborate on the advancement of research software. Its vision is to have research software recognised and valued as a fundamental and vital component of research worldwide. Given our mission, there are multiple reasons that it’s important for us to understand the landscape of communities that are involved with software, in aspects such as preservation, citation, career paths, productivity, and sustainability. Read more about their tasforce here.
Hidden REF is a year-long competition to highlight the research staff that publications overlook. The way in which the (usual) REF exercise is conducted overlooks many of the people who are vital to the success of research. The Hidden REF will celebrate all research outputs and recognise everyone who contributes to their creation. Anyone who works in a UK research institution can submit to the hidden REF. Read more detail here in this Research Professional news article and get involved via their website.
UK HPC RSE Network
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 21st April at 2pm BST. More info here.
2020 GPU Hackathon
Following the success of our 2019 event, the University of Sheffield and NVIDIA are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a 2020 GPU Hackathon as part of the NVIDIA international GPU Hackathon Series. This event will take place July 27th – 31st, 2020 most likely as an online event unless government restrictions around COVID-19 are significantly altered. Prior GPU experience is not required, as those selected will be paired with experienced mentors who will teach them how to leverage accelerated computing in their own applications or further optimize their codes.
General-purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPGPUs) potentially offer exceptionally high memory bandwidth and performance for a wide range of applications. A challenge in utilizing such accelerators has been learning how to program them. The hackathon is intended to help overcome this challenge for new GPU programmers and also to help existing GPU programmers to further optimize their applications – a great opportunity for graduate students and postdocs. Any and all GPU programming paradigms are welcome.
There will be intensive mentoring during this 5-day hands-on workshop, with the goal that the teams leave with applications running on GPUs, or at least with a clear roadmap of how to get there. Each team will be assigned mentors from universities, national laboratories, supercomputing centers, industry partners, and NVIDIA who have extensive experience in programming GPUs.
Given the current COVID-19 situation and the current ambition to accelerate infectious disease and infrastructure modelling it would be great to attract applications from teams who are keen to work with GPU experts to improve performance and scalability of models in this area.
The call for hacking projects is officially open. Early applications are welcome. The project leader should submit through the Hackathon Program Website. If you are interested in being a mentor then please contact Paul Richmond. More details on the event are on the official website.
eLife Innovation Sprint 2020
Join the two-day eLife Innovation Sprint on the 2nd and 3rd September to design open technology solutions that redefine the ways we do and share research.
The annual HPC Autumn Academy
The Centre for Scientific Computing at the University of Cambridge hope to hold the annual HPC Autumn Academy at the Department for Materials Science, from 7th-18th September 2020. Booking for this course is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although we hope the course will still go ahead as planned. Lectures will given on C++, Fortran, Performance Programming, OpenMP, MPI, and various other topics suitable for Master’s/Ph.D. students, early-career researchers, and early-career industrial software developers who need High-Performance Computing skills as part of their course or work.
Past Events Resources
The N8CIR are releasing the videos from their events held in 2019. Keep an eye on this link as they release them. Currently, you can see James Hetherington and Mike Croucher speaking along with talks about working with the cloud.
Research Software Engineer Podcast Builds IT Community
Welcome to RSE Stories! Here Vanessa Sochat, an RSE for Stanford Research Computing, shares stories from research software engineers to better understand the many phenotypes and facets that can define an RSE. As initiatives to empower RSEs take off in both the United States and the UK, whether you are a scientist, a programmer, or something else, your story is interesting and unique, and we want to hear about it! Sign up here for an interview. It’s important that we can share our stories, because we’re all a little different. Interviewing comes down to joining a call on Zoom – it’s easy, low key – the interviewee don’t have to prepare anything, or really worry about “messing up” because Vanessa edits out the umms and what not. Everyone gets to preview their episode after she’s done editing, and nothing is released that the interviewee doesn’t completely like.
Covid-19 Side Effects
Dr Shikta Das shares her first podcast with us on disseminating correct science. The podcast with Dr David Neasham (an Imperial Epidemiologist) talks about why modeling of this COVID-19 data is so important. How do we epidemiologists build the model? What does it show and how do we predict it? We also address some of the common questions based on research about immunity and seasonality and the next steps to end this pandemic.
- Blog post from James Grant in Bath ‘Learning about remote teaching‘
- Blog post from our colleagues at Imperial College – Mark Woodbridge, Jeremy Cohen and Tony Yang ‘Remote Working for Researchers and Developers’ on the Society website.
- ‘Reflections on our first online programming workshop‘ a blog post from Matt Williams, Bristol.
- ‘Teaching online on short notice‘ a recorded webinar and blog post from Greg Wilson, Data Scientist and Professional Educator, co-founder of Software Carpentry.
RSE Case Studies from the N8CIR group – These case studies offer an insight in to how RSEs work with researchers to overcome challenges and accelerate discovery.
Imperial College Newsletter – The Imperial College RSE Team have been producing a newsletter for a while now to their institute community. They include a ‘Research Software of the month’, links to blog posts and dates for your diary.
Open Access to ACM Digital Library During Coronavirus Pandemic – For the next three months, there will be no fees assessed for accessing or downloading work published by ACM.
- Community Organizations: Changing the Culture in Which Research Software Is Developed and Sustained
- Mapping the Research Software Sustainability Space
- What Makes Research Software Sustainable? An Interview Study with Research Software Engineers
- Data Without Software Are Just Numbers
‘In the spotlight…’
In this section each month, we put the spotlight on an RSE or RSE Group so that you can get to know your colleagues before meeting in-person. This month, we’re introducing the Newcastle University RSE Group, embedded in Newcastle Data. Mark Turner heads up the team as ‘Head of Research Software Engineering’.
The RSE team sits within the research arm of Newcastle Data and primarily focuses its time on supporting research but also plays its part fulfilling the other two core functions: teaching the next generation of researchers and data scientists and engaging with industry and the public sector. The team operates on an internal consultancy model, charging its staff onto research grants. The first year (2019) of the team’s existence has been one of rapid growth. In the 12 months since it’s inception, it has grown from 2 to 11 team members. That growth has been driven by an increasing demand for their skills across the entire university and it’s external partners.
Read Mark’s RSE report 2019 for a more indepth look.
The RSE campaign is growing around the worldwide and new groups are being created all the time. In this section, we introduce these groups and raise awareness of their success. The Society supports new groups and collaborates with representatives from these groups on various initiatives (papers, international workshops). (In alphabetial order).
Back in October 2019, the AU/NZ RSE Group held their first mini-conference for Australasia in Brisbane. Read about that here.
CANARIE have launched a call to fund software development teams at Canadian Higher-education Institutions to directly support researchers. Following the success of a pilot and similar efforts deployed in European countries, CANARIE’s Local Research Software Support call will fund teams of three dedicated, full-time research software developers at a target of six participating institutions. Further info here.
As mentioned above, due to the current SARS-CoV-2 virus/COVID-19 pandemic, the deRSE20 organisers have decided to cancel deRSE20 – 2nd International Conference for Research Software Engineers in Germany, planned to take place from 25-27 August in Jena, Germany. “We have made this decision with a heavy heart, but – given the current situation – did not see any other way to eliminate any risks for attendees and organizers.” See the full announcement here.
The Netherlands RSE Group (NL RSE) had their first conference in November 2019. From that conference, here is the presentation ‘Five Recommendations for Fair Software‘ and a recap on the ‘Fair Software‘ Session
The NL-RSE meets on regular basis, every two months on average. Netherlands eScience Center, DTL and SURF frequently organise NL-RSE meetups to encourage collaboration and communication between Research Software Engineers in the Netherlands.
The Nordic RSE Group plans to hold their first Nordic-RSE conference in the week October 19-23, 2020.
Initiatives in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are bringing together the community of people writing and contributing to research software at the national and international level. In the US this encompasses universities, laboratories, knowledge institutes, companies and other enterprises. Read about the US RSE group in their newsletter here.
Github repo of the month!
Nominate significant code for this feature – either yours or somebody else’s you read and found useful or cool. Send it to Claire Wyatt, RSE Community Manager.
If you know of any funding opportunities that would be of interest to the community, please send them to Claire Wyatt, RSE Community Manager for the next newsletter.
Again, if you know of any webinars past or future that would be of interest to the community, please send them to Claire for the next newsletter.
Collect your gold star here if you’ve read all the way to the end!