POP @ Research Software workshop in London

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Research Software London workshop was held in London on February 2019, which attracted software engineers from universities in London and the South East of England. This event is held annually with the aim of encouraging academic software engineers to present their work, share best practices and to network. The keynote talk was presented by Prof. Sherwin of Imperial College who described the evolution of the Nektar++ finite element code, from when he was a PhD student to a professor, and the software engineering challenges he faced. For example, from distributing tar files to source controlling the code in Git.

My presentation was on the Fortran 2018 standard and its new features. I took the opportunity to introduce to the audience the POP project which attracted interest. The included Fortran coarray collectives, fault tolerance and the new C interoperability features. A similar talk was on Zacros, a kinetic Monte-Carlo code, which evolved from old Fortran to modern Fortran using object-oriented programming. The workshop also had presentations from other diverse disciplines such as bioinformatics, recognising dementia, epidemiology and metabolomics, using various technologies such as the cloud, Python packages and web tools. The event also included an interactive session on how to improve software engineering at universities and how to address the technical and political challenges.

The workshop also included group discussions on how to further promote the RSE discipline within universities: whether it should be promoted at the group level, departmental level, or even higher up. The other discussion was on how to make software more sustainable. Some were suggesting whether software needs to be always sustainable particularly if a research group are prototyping a new method? The debate about software in academic research obviously continues and software has made a wide positive impact and needs to be further supported. This workshop bought together experts from many research disciplines to foster wider collaboration and the sharing of best practices.

-- Wadud Miah (NAG)