You heard it here first! Professional opinions and insights from Hartree Centre staff and collaborators as they go about their day helping UK industry to benefit from the adoption and integration of advanced digital technologies.
Aiman Shaikh, one of our Research Software Engineers tells us more about the steps she has taken to tackle feelings of isolation during the pandemic by organising walks, playing badminton and exploring nature with friends and colleagues across the North West.
For people like me who live far away from families, the current situation of lockdown certainly started to take a negative effect. Since everything started back in March when we switched to working from home, I had a very limited social contact with colleagues and friends. After the peak of the virus, as soon as it was safe to do so, I planned to organise walks. Initially, in July, this was limited to local parks with only one or two other people, following social distancing. Gradually, I extended it to more colleagues who live by themselves, assuring them that we would be abiding by all recommended safety measures as I completely understand anxiety during this time. After organising various local parks walk, we ventured further to do a walk exploring West Kirby and a walk across Rhyl beach in Wales with a small group.
My first walking trip was to Delamere forest over the August
bank holiday. It was a very lovely sunny day, and I managed to gather Charlotte
Freeman, David Bray, Helen Newton and family, Judicael Grasset (SCD), Benjamin Breig
(Quantum Science Ltd at Daresbury) as well as my friend, Kanchan. It was a
success after planning a sequence of trails to walk on. The group was so happy
and it was great to see everyone and enjoy nature! Benjamin went on to plan a Snowdonia trip on
the following weekend and we did Y Garn via Devil’s Kitchen from the Ogwen
trail. We have spotted things like Amanita muscaria commonly known as the fly
agaric or fly amanita as well as a Royal Air Force Red Arrows flight!
Apart from walking and hiking, I have been actively
participating in playing Badminton at leisure clubs in Warrington. This was Judicael
s idea to start with but I have to say that I am really enjoying it and am now
inviting more people to join us. This all prompted me to participate in the
Virgin Go challenge and I’ll be organising more walks with colleagues in the
coming autumn months. If anybody would like to join us, please let me know and
I’ll add you to the email or WhatsApp group.
I know the situation at the moment is not great but activities like this have really helped me and others to get fresh air and feel active, forgetting our anxiety and worries for a while. I have many great plans for our future walks, of course following local rules and regulations and precautions. I am also planning to do some kind of virtual walk due to lockdown which I hope will involve local groups walking at different places but starting at the same time and sharing their experience at the end of the day.
In November 2019, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre and Scientific Computing Department exhibited at international conference Supercomputing 2019 (SC19) in Denver, USA. In this blog post, Research Software Engineer Tim Powell shares some thoughts and insights from the Hartree Centre team.
The variety of experiences one can have at Supercomputing is vast, and I think this is a good echo for the direction high performance computing (HPC) is going. The number of different disciplines that are adopting HPC and the different techniques available to acquire your computing power are growing more diverse. When discussing the themes of SC19 with a colleague (in the stationery room of all places) I accidentally summed it up quite well: “Supercomputing 2019 was tall and broad.”
So let’s look at each aspect of this assessment – first up: “tall”. The next phase of supercomputing is exa-scale. There was a significant number of talks, birds-of-a-feather, and panels discussing exa-scale computing, the applications, software, and hardware.
Our Chief Research Officer, Vassil Alexandrov, gives his account of Supercomputing 2019 and the current exa-scale landscape here:
“Supercomputing 2019 was a busy time for me, as always! In the discussions and talks I attended, I felt that this year’s content was of an even higher quality than previous years, and I noted that there were more precise presentations delivered by researchers.
One area which I paid particular attention to was the discussion around exa-scale. The US National Labs are making big moves with their Exa-Scale Computing Project. They are investing $1.8 billion in hardware and a similar amount for the development of software. The current US roadmap is to have their first machine, Frontier, in place in Q3 of 2021 costing an estimated $400 million. With another two machines to be delivered in 2022, each costing $600 million. All 3 machines are expected to be exa-scale and are rumoured to be a combination of AMD, Intel, Cray, and NVIDIA.
Europe are also heading towards exa-scale computing – eight centres across Europe are going to host large peta-scale and pre-exa-scale machines in their program to developing exa-scale capabilities, with machines expecting to reach 150-200 peta-flops. Japan is about to install their Post-K supercomputer which is based on ARM processors and it is likely to be a very efficient machine. The expectation is for it to be operational early 2020 so I am excited to see what the results will be when it is up and running. China is also a player but that is behind closed doors at the moment. It will be interesting to see what they reveal.
Throughout SC19, it was clear that the software challenges are going to be harder than the hardware challenges. My opinion is that we are still a few years off from having true exa-scale machines.”
Now, let’s talk about how SC19 was “broad”.
More so this year, than in previous years, have the different applications of HPC become so obvious. Multitudes of National Laboratories and Research Institutes from around the globe were seen displaying use cases on their stands in the exhibition hall, and there was a large variety of different topics discussed in talks and panels. There was, quite literally, something for everyone – assuming you have an interest or involvement in computation that is!
I think this is largely due to the growth in access to data, and new techniques such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) requiring disciplines that traditionally don’t use HPC to access more computing resource. Additionally, with the massively growing offering of cloud computing resource, the barrier to entry has been significantly reduced and it is easier than ever to provision a cluster-in-the-cloud.
So tall is more powerful computing, and broad is more computing applications. This all accumulates in a bigger impact of High Performance Computing, which again was echoed at SC19 with a series of talks in the 1st HPC Impact Showcase.
My personal highlight this year at SC19 was participating in the Building the Future panel at the 6th SC Workshop on Best Practices for HPC Training and Education. The all-day workshop focused around common challenges for enhancing HPC training and education, and allowed the global community to share experiences and resources to address them. The Building the Future panel focused the discussion around how we as trainers and educators can best prepare for the future of HPC and the training and education needs it will bring. The key take-away from my talk was that there is a diverse future of applications for HPC and we need to help facilitate the power of HPC to non-HPC experts who are only just finding uses for it.
On the following day I was fortunate enough to attend the Early Careers Program, aimed at people in the first few years of their career in HPC and delivering a variety of activities, talks, and panels. It was great to see STFC represented by Catherine Jones and Alison Kennedy. As a Research Software Engineer (RSE) I particularly enjoyed panels and talks involving RSE and members from the RSE Societies around the globe. It’s great to see that managing research software properly is being put on the international stage at conferences as big as SC! I also noted that in a series of talks on cloud computing, a lot of time was given over to discussing the advantages (rarely the disadvantages) of tailor-made HPC in the cloud.
As a team, we had great fun facilitating a very popular build-your-own Lego supercomputer activity, in the form of our very own Scafell Pike! Needless to say, our limited supplies disappeared quicker and quicker each morning as the word spread. Our HPiC Raspberry Pi cluster was also present, boasting some new and updated demos developed by our recent summer placement students James and Lizzie!
I also spoke to some of my colleagues to get their own perspectives on SC19. Aiman Shaikh, Research Software Engineer, discussed her first time at the conference:
“I really enjoyed being part of the Women in HPC workshop, and attending technical talks around containers in HPC and LLVM compilers. The networking events held by different vendors was also a great opportunity to meet people. There was so much going on everywhere that it was difficult to keep pace with everything!
HPC and Cloud Operations at CERN was a very interesting talk by Maria Girone, who talked about technologies used at CERN, software and architecture issues and how they are investigating machine learning (ML) for object detection and reconstruction.
The Women in HPC workshop was really good, especially the keynote from Bev Crair, Lenovo, on “the butterfly effect of inclusive leadership”. Bev said that diverse teams lift performance by inviting in creativity, which I completely agree with. Another inspiring and motivating talk by Hai Ah Nam from Los Alamas National Lab talked about surviving difficult events and minimising their impact to your career. Hai explained that we cannot stop unforeseen events in life but we can focus on how to tackle them. The Women in HPC networking events, often joined by many diverse groups of people, provided a great chance to network with attendees from all different backgrounds.
The journey of exploration did not ended after SC as afterwards I went to the Rockies with some colleagues, which was fun-filled few days walking and with so little light pollution we could see the Milky Way at night!”
SC19 was a new experience for Research Software Engineer
Drew Silcock too:
“Attending SC19 for the first time really exposed me to the wider scientific computing community. I gained an understanding of the various technologies used by the scientists and engineers and for what purposes they were used. Many are scaling their applications with standard MPI+ OpenMP stacks, but I attended several interesting workshops and talks about alternative technologies and approaches. Of particular interest to me are all topics relating to the development and programming languages and compilers, so I very much enjoyed hearing from people working on and with the LLVM compiler toolchain, additions to the C++ standard and the development of domain-specific languages for scientific computing.
In terms of trends, it’s exciting to see how many people are starting and continuing to use Python for scientific computing. Cloud services are also becoming increasingly relevant, especially for new companies without on premise capabilities. As machine learning models get bigger and bigger, there is more effort being put into bridging the gaps between the HPC and ML communities to ensure that they can benefit each other.”
Jony Castagna, a NVIDA Deep Learning Ambassador with 10 years experience in HPC and several years experience in Deep Learning, shared his thoughts:
“We’re seeing fast-growing applications of Deep Learning for science. Three different approaches have been identified: support/accelerate current algorithms like via AI precondition or matrix solver through Neural Networks (NN); solve partial differential equation using NN but enforcing physical information (via Physical Informed Neural Networks, PINN); fully replacing physical equations with NN trained using numerical simulation data. In particular this latest approach seems most attractive as it seems to show the capability of NN in learning the physics from data and extrapolate further at higher speed. For example, in the work of Kadupitiya, Fox and Jadhao, a simple NN has been used to predict the contact density of ions in Nanoconfinement using trained data from a Molecular Dynamic (MD) simulation. A strong match between prediction and MD simulation has been presented.
An increasing use of C++17 standard library has emerged for performance portability. Many paradigms, like Kokkos, RAJA, HPX, etc. have been presented as possible solution for targeting different architectures. However, NVIDIA doesn’t look to be standardising the heterogeneous programming, they expect the hardware to become more homogeneous between CPU and GPU. We’d like to test NN with DL_MESO to see how well they perform in reproducing coarse grain simulation. We have also applied for an ECAM2 project to port DL_MESO on C++17 and use Kokkos for performance portability. This will allow us to compare performance with the current CUDA version and understand how well Kokkos can perform.”
High Performance Software Engineer James Clark concluded:
“On Sunday I presented at the Atos Quantum Workshop. This was a showcase of how the Hartree Centre is using our Quantum Learning Machine, such as our joint training and access programme with Atos and our ongoing project work with Rolls-Royce.
I also talked about our future plans to develop quantum software that can take advantage of both quantum computing and HPC.
One of the most interesting developments in HPC this year was how far ARM CPUs have come. Riken and Fujitsu’s Fugaku is one of the major success stories, with the first deployment of the new SVE (Scalable Vector Extensions) instructions. Fujitsu announced that Cray will be bringing their ARM CPUs to the rest of the world. NVidia also announced that their GPGPUs will be supported on ARM platforms, with a number of ARM CPUs listed as supported on release. I am looking forward to the increased competition in the hardware space turns out, especially with AMD’s Rome CPUs and Intel’s Xe GPUs. The future of HPC looks to be very interesting and it’s an exciting time to be involved.”
Fresh from the Open Data Institute (ODI) Summit 2019 and bursting with questions, Holly Halford, Science and Business Engagement Manager for the STFC Hartree Centre, explores the use of personal data for online marketing and asks: how do we stop ourselves getting stuck in the data loop?
So, your friend is getting married. You post a few harmless pictures on Instagram, throwing in a few #wedding tags for good measure. The next day, you’re scrolling through your social media feeds and perusing news sites only to find that every sponsored post, every inch of ad space is now trying to sell you wedding dresses. Wedding venues. Wedding fayres. Decorative wedding trees. Things you didn’t even know existed – all useless to you and, presumably, the advertiser – but the ads are still there, taking up precious mindshare.
But you asked for this – you were the one who carelessly
hashtagged your way into the echo chamber… right?
From targeted advertising to political persuasion, whether
to help or hinder us, our personal data is being used on a daily basis to
effect changes in our behaviour. From the extra purchase you didn’t really need
to make, to the life milestones you are forced to start thinking about because
your data fits a certain demographic.
New research, conducted by the ODI and YouGov and published to coincide with the recent ODI Summit 2019, concluded that nearly 9 in 10 people (87%) feel it is important that organisations they interact with use data about them ethically – but ethical means different things in different contexts to different people. In discussion at the conference, Prof. Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee highlighted that research shows people are reasonably accepting of personal data being used for targeted advertising, but less amenable to it being used for political advertising. Tim proposed a possible reasoning for this, positioning himself as in favour of targeted commercial advertising – at least towards himself – as it generally helps to find the things you want faster, and also helps companies to make the sales that keep them in business. A “win-win” for both consumer and economy, then.
He suggested that political advertising is different in nature because it may make people act in a way that isn’t truly in their own personal best interest due to a manipulation or misrepresentation of information. It’s of course, possible to argue that the same can be true of misleading commercial advertising but the potential impacts are almost always limited to being purely financial – spending money you didn’t need to, getting into debt etc – and these ramifications are not significantly different to the pitfalls of marketing via any other route. Traditional print media, billboards or television advertising have all probably promised you a better life at some point, if you just buy that car, that smartphone or that deodorant.
Tim has a point – targeted advertising can be useful and makes some logical sense, especially if we have actively searched for related terms or shown our interest in a certain product or service by interacting with content related to it. Despite how 1984 it can feel sometimes, I’m actually personally much more comfortable with data-driven advertising based around our active behaviors as opposed to the other option – the demographic based approach, which I feel has the potential to be far more insidious.
There’s a beauty product advert in my Facebook feed. If I click on the “why am I seeing this” feature, I am quickly informed that Company X “is trying to reach females aged 25 to 54”. Whilst the transparency is a welcome change, it doesn’t fill me with hope that a significant proportion of the media thrust upon us each day is tailored based on nothing more than gender or other divisive demographics. I often wonder how many men have beauty product adverts showing up in their feeds compared to say… cars, watches, sporting equipment? (I unscientifically and anecdotally tested this theory on a colleague recently, a man in a similar age bracket to myself. He reported an unusually high capacity of DIY ads.)
The data bias is there, entrenched in historic trends that have potentially damaging consequences in the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and more – if your demographic fits the initial (and undoubtedly biased) statistical trend, do we now, via data-driven marketing, perpetuate it for all eternity?
But how do we address the very fundamentals of marketing and communications without perpetuating stereotypes and pushing conformity to social norms? As a marketing and communications professional, I confess that the commonly used concept of developing “personas” to describe your target audience and help articulate your message more clearly to them has never sat well with me, because those personas by nature are based on stereotypes and assumptions. Knowing your audience is an absolutely crucial pillar of marketing, but if you only everacknowledge an existing or expected audience, how do you access new markets and prevent alienating potential customers outside of that bracket? Not to mention the ethical concerns this approach flags up. We need to take a more creative approach to get messages heard without excluding anyone. It may not be the easiest route but I’m certain that it is possible, more ethical and when executed successfully, more effective.
So, what can we, as consumers, do to prevent trapping ourselves with our own hashtags and search terms? The current options seem fairly lacking. Perhaps we can turn to AI-driven discovery of “things you might enjoy”. Features like this can be found on most common media platforms, with varying degrees of success. But as the algorithms get more accurate, the tighter the loop closes. As Tim purported, the intention is to be helpful and save us time – if only to provide a good user experience that keeps you invested in using the platform, of course – but everything it suggests will be based on existing tastes and activity. If you’re predisposed to playing Irish folk music, good luck getting Spotify to suggest you might have an undiscovered a passion for post-progressive rock.
This presents a bigger problem when considering the landscape of opinions, causes and politics. The idea of social media curating our own personal echo chambers and arenas of confirmation bias is not a new one. It’s true that we can subscribe to contrasting interest groups, a tactic some journalists have been using – but how many of us have the patience to subject ourselves to a cacophony of largely irrelevant content, if it’s not a professional requirement? A more pressing question is: if we don’t interact positively (or at all) with that “alternate” content, does another algorithm begin to de-prioritise it until we no longer see it anyway and we’re back where we started?
Is the answer in a change of algorithms, then? The tactic of ignoring trends and demographics seems to be entirely at odds with the notion of creating better, more accurate AI algorithms and data-driven technologies. Whether we like it or not, they are meant to do exactly that – generate accurate predictions based on statistically evidenced trends and demographics. I feel quite strongly that a great deal more creative thought is required to ensure that ethical practices and regulations are instigated in line with the pace of technological advancement, and prevent data-driven marketing from driving us round in circles for the foreseeable future.
Afterword: I wrote the majority of this blog post before the launch of the Contract for the Web recently announced by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It presents an encouraging and much needed first step towards safeguarding all the opportunities the internet presents and championing fairness, safety and empowerment. Now, let’s act on it.
Claire Ward and Jeremy Campbell from the Institute of Collaborative Working (ICW) set the scene for the day with their “Delivering more through collaboration” presentation highlighting how embedding collaborative working in to organisations assists in building long term, sustainable relationships which help to deliver projects. They mentioned the House of Commons and UK Home Office had particularly been enthusiastic in their adoption of collaborative working while also discussing reasons that collaboration can fail. Often this is due to perception of collaborative working, some see it as a selling technique or don’t understand the requirements leading to individuals acting in silos and not demonstrating the appropriate skills or behaviours.
session was led by Ben Cross who shared lessons learned from delivering the
£1.5billion A4 road programme – collaboration was key to this, not only between
three main contractors but also between a myriad of subcontractors to ensure
project success. Actions taken throughout the project to encourage a culture of
Common procurement, reducing
stoppages and securing better pricing for materials and machinery
Open book reporting for all
Board members for collaboration,
procurement and stakeholder management
A commitment to recruit or develop
excellent project leaders throughout
vision connecting teams to a purpose and ensuring sufficient resources and
training were embedded throughout the actions above, ultimately helping the
team to deliver the project to cost, with minimum traffic disruption and a low
Next up was
something a little more practical, led by John Doyle to demonstrate working
towards shared objectives with shared benefits. The exercise saw us work in
teams of six to design and build part-sections of paper bridges to transport a
table tennis ball over three metres but using only A4 paper, sellotape and
scissors! Our team enjoyed this and were successful in putting our project
management expertise to the test by quickly identifying and filling the
necessary roles, working well as a team and overcoming last minute obstacles
while still achieving a win-win situation with both client and supplier
Jonathan Canioni from Warwick Business School offered an academic perspective to the conference discussions, quoting several successful examples of collaboration including ‘Food for the Soul’ – a programme between an established chef, the Catholic church, local markets and supermarkets in Naples to provide food to those living in poverty. Discussions continued to examples where collaboration had failed – a private banking app that misunderstood the relationship between bank and customer – when even best intentions and aligned incentives can be administered ineffectively. Key learning points from Jonathan’s talk were that collaboration and coordination are bound together in a number of ways, therefore, although coordination is not quite as valuable as collaboration, it is a necessary step on the way and worth striving for if collaboration is unattainable.
“Hartree Centre places tremendous value on and recognises the benefit of collaborative work and we embed this in many ways. From multi-partner grant funded consortia, to individual collaborative research projects with SMEs or larger national organisations, to our most recent 5 year collaborative Innovation Return on Research programme which partners with IBM Research and UK plc. The workshop was a great opportunity to step away from the day to day and reflect on how we achieve our collaborations and opportunities for us to improve on these in the future. The presentations throughout the day gave great insight, especially on how to define collaboration behaviours up front and as Neil highlights, the criticality of great leadership in supporting this. I really enjoyed the practical exercise as well, although I think our session was slightly more chaotic than Neil’s! However the same is often true in real life, and it is how chaos and uncertainty is managed that is also key to success.”
Claire Trinder, Head of Programmes
“For me, this was an interesting day full of sharing experiences and offering new perspectives. I found Ben Cross’ presentation particularly worthwhile as it offered learning points that are directly applicable to complex projects with multiple suppliers while also highlighting the wide benefits of great leadership. I would have appreciated hearing a contractor’s view of collaboration to ensure a balanced view of the reality of collaborating to deliver projects.”
In this post, we hear from two of our 2019 Summer Placement students as they share their experiences of working at the Hartree Centre. Read on to find out more about the projects they got involved with during their time as part of our Research Software Engineering team.
“I applied to the Hartree Centre having heard about STFC’s excellent culture and people from a friend who had worked with them previously. After completing the placement, I have been left excited to finish university in the hope to return to the Hartree Centre and its excellent RSE team in the future. The skills and knowledge I have gained working with HPiC have been innumerable and will all be incredibly valuable assets for me to use during the final two years of my computer science degree. I am thankful for the opportunity given to me by the Hartree Centre and the help and support given by all its staff.”
James Beck, 2nd year Computer Science student, University of Sheffield
“I decided to work at the Hartree Centre this summer because as a physicist, I am very aware of the crucial role that computing, and in particular HPC, plays in multiple areas of current research and I wanted to learn more about how it works and how it can be used. Whilst I had done some programming with python in the first two years of my degree course, I am not from a computer science background, so this placement was definitely a steep learning curve for me. I was amazed by the amount of help and support my colleagues were able to offer me, and I have learnt so much from this experience. Now I am going back for the final year of my BSc and I am keen to find ways to apply my new skills to the rest of my degree and my career, in particular for my BSc project, which I hope to undertake using applications of HPC in space physics.”
Elizabeth Porter, 2nd year Physics student, Imperial College London
One of our first tasks was to learn how to use MPI (message passing interface). Neither of us previously had any background in HPC nor parallel computing so this would be essential knowledge for coding on HPiC. MPI is used as a standard to enable communication between processes. If you had multiple people working on one task at the same time, they would have to communicate progress or information to one another, parallel code is the same. MPI is important for any work that features parallel computing and is a big part of any code run on the HPC systems and platforms at the Hartree Centre. To get the basic introduction to MPI, we worked through an online course making sure to implement our new knowledge in practice with the course exercises. These exercises ranged from calculating pi, message “ping-pong” and traffic modelling. We both enjoyed learning MPI and now feel confident using it in future projects or throughout our studies.
Our first coded project was to design and build a (GUI)
Graphical User Interface to allow people to easily select demos they may want
to run on HPiC. At the start of our placement demos were run with a command
line input in the terminal. These were still in the early stages of development
and we were looking to develop their usability and interface. It was important
that the GUI looked professional and was easy to understand, to achieve this we
used large pictures which gave a demo preview, making them stand out against a
black background. This was a great first project as we learnt to work together
using Git and had a chance to retrain our Python programming muscles. The GUI
came out great – we’ve also documented it so that it can be extended by future
HPiC Demo developers.
Testing our learning
The next challenge was a test of everything we had learnt so far.
We were tasked with designing and testing a demo based on a NLP (Natural
Language Processing) project completed by the Hartree Centre Data Science team.
The goal of this project had been to provide annotations on structural
biochemistry texts. Specifically, surrounding protein chain components at the amino
acid residue level – this is at a “higher resolution” than what is normally carried
out. This project would help future researchers to find papers or research
related to their work instead of having to trawl through lots of existing
buried research. The demo combined our new knowledge of MPI and the creation of
a Python GUI and we went on to suggest that a big part of the demo could be a
real time screen showing the distribution of the papers over the 19 Raspberry Pi’s
that would processing them. This was difficult task and led me (James) to have
to learn Python threads and PyQt5 which is knowledge I’m sure will be useful
going into my third year. The user can then look at the relationships between
the papers highlighting the essence of the project which is to help people find
papers that are linked to one another easily.
Creating a game
In the last few weeks of the summer, I (Lizzie) started work on a demo for a recent project with Weather Logistics – an SME aiming to provide field-level seasonal weather forecasts for growers. The Hartree Centre team had recently worked with Weather Logistics to refactor and parallelise their code base, saving them over two months of compute time in producing 24 years’ worth of historical weather data. My task was to create an interactive demo based on this project, as an example of one application of supercomputing and to demonstrate the Hartree Centre’s capabilities for processing large quantities of data. After brainstorming ideas for a few days, we settled on creating a lettuce farm game, in which the user would select a 5×5 km field location anywhere in the UK. The player would then be shown graphical data for the weather conditions over a three-year time period, and given a score based on how well lettuces would have grown in this location over the time period based on weather data alone. This seemed a good choice because it would show the quantity of data available graphically and demonstrate how the data can be used to help lettuce farmers in a simple and engaging way. To create the demo I used PyQt5, Python bindings for the Qt User Interface framework. Having not used PyQt5 before, and not being very experienced in creating User Interfaces (UIs) either, getting to grips with it in just a couple of weeks was a challenge, but it was fun to create a game like this from scratch and I am now confident in my abilities to create simple UIs in future.
Sharing our work
On the 4 September 2019, towards the end of our placement, we had the opportunity to attend INTERACT 2019, an STFC public engagement symposium hosted at UCLan. In the morning we were able to attend workshop sessions discussing various aspects of public engagement and outreach, including how we can combat stereotypes of scientists and encourage more young people to pursue STEM subjects to higher education. Then over lunch, we ran a stall showcasing HPiC and its demos (including the new Weather Logistics demo, which was received really well) to the other delegates present. It was fantastic to be able to present our work and to get productive feedback on our demos, while also taking the opportunity to hone our presentation skills. In the afternoon we explored some of the other stalls that had been on display which covered a wide range of engagement activities in STEM, from Harry Potter-themed experiments to space and light shows in the Explorer Dome. The whole day was a great chance to engage with a wide range of people interested and/or working in outreach within STEM and to find out what research and activities other people are doing to further public engagement, as well as to show off 8 weeks of work on HPiC.
Thanks for the experience, we’ll hopefully see you all again
Since the term was first coined in 2012 , Research Software Engineering has experienced a rapid growth, first in the UK and then overseas. Today there are at least 20 RSE groups at Universities and Research Institutes across the UK alone, alongside thousands of self-identifying RSEs, numerous national RSE associations, and since earlier this year, a registered Society of Research Software Engineering* to promote the role of RSEs in supporting research.
The core proposition of RSEs is “Better Software, Better Research” – by improving the quality of software developed by researchers, we enable higher quality research. Software quality is a broad topic, but the most common benefits of academic RSEs are:
improved reliability – fewer software errors leading to incorrect results
better performance – enabling more accurate and/or bigger science
reproducibility – increasing confidence in scientific results.
Since early 2018 the Hartree Centre has been building up an RSE capability of its own, but for slightly different reasons. Rather than being measured on research output, Hartree Centre’s mission is to create economic impact through the application of HPC, data analytics and AI. Most often this means taking existing research software, and applying it to solve industrial challenges. One of the key challenges we have is crossing the “valley of death” from a proof-of-concept, where we demonstrate that a given tool, algorithm or method can in principle be used to solve a problem, to actual industry adoption of this approach. While reliability and performance are still important here, often the key issues for a company adopting new software are usability, portability and security.
In practice, while our RSE team shares many skills in common with academic RSEs – such as employing best practices for use of version control, code review and automated testing – we specialise in areas like building simple User Interfaces for complex software, automating workflows involving HPC and deploying web applications securely to the cloud ready for industry use.
Our team has grown to 14 staff, comprising a range of roles from Degree Apprentices, RSEs with specialisms in HPC, AI and data analytics, to Full Stack Developers and a Software Architect.
Just like academic RSEs, we’re at our best when working in collaboration, whether that’s with the other technology teams across the Hartree Centre, commercial clients, or our technology partners like IBM Research.
Some of the projects we’ve been working on recently include:
Aiman Shaikh, one of our Research Software Engineers recently attended Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019 – one of the largest gatherings of female technologists in Europe – held at ExCeL London. In this blog post, Aiman tells us more about her motivations for attending the two day event aiming to make an impact on the gender gap and boost careers of attendees.
My main motivation for attending the conference was the
opportunity to be among 6,000 attendees who were all like me: eager to connect,
learn and take action on gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Women
of Silicon Roundabout 2019 brought together a programme of inspirational
keynotes, panel discussions, networking opportunities, technical classes, and
career development workshops – it was the first and only conference I have
attended where female technical speakers took centre stage.
For me, the chance to hear from inspirational leaders – many of whom were women – about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, blockchain and cloud computing. This coupled with the strong messages throughout the conference about the importance of diversity and inclusion was truly incredible.
One of the many worthwhile sessions I attended was from Denise Jones, Senior Product Manager, LetGo. Denise discussed whether AI has given rise to new and distinctive ethical issues and she challenged the group with statements like “algorithms can predict user preference based on previous activity and based on other users who are like them” raising important questions about how we as technologists can be mindful of bias in our work with AI. It made me really consider the balance of collecting data to provide a better user experience and product personalisation as good thing but collecting too much data and over-targeting audiences can go wrong and be frustrating for users if it’s not relevant.
I also attended the “Confident Speaking for Women” workshop led by Sarah Palmer, Director of European Business Development at PowerSpeaking. This was an incredibly useful 60 minutes packed full of exercises specifically designed to improve presentation skills. It gave loads of helpful tips for ‘presentation newbies’ like myself such as the importance of trying things out in advance and how to project confidence and credibility, especially through using effective nonverbal language. I’m looking forward to implementing several of these strategies in my own conference talks!
Another real highlight of the conference was the Women of Colour networking lunch on the second day of the event. Organised by Google, it was a chance to ‘inspire and be inspired.’ I was fortunate enough to meet with so many role models in tech and find out from them how they progressed in their career, how they managed their work/life balance and grow my own professional networks. I was also lucky to be able to meet with groups of fantastic early career women who were keen to find out more about my job and the Hartree Centre. I really enjoyed telling them more about my role and day to day life as part of the Research Software Engineering team – I hope to see some of them apply for some of our job vacancies as they would be great assets to any team!
I loved this conference – it provided a much-needed, necessary platform to women in technology, inspiring attendees to talk and network with women working across different industries and using a variety of emerging technologies in their day to day jobs. I’ll certainly be taking many of the lessons learned back to the Hartree Centre – it has inspired me to think about AI and data analytics in some of my upcoming projects and how I can make sure I continue to incorporate diversity and inclusion in to my work and professional networks.
On 3rd September the peaceful campus of Birmingham University came alive with bubbling groups of research software engineers, talking in excited tones about their latest optimisation tool and favourite python library, as the third annual conference of Research Software Engineers was started!
A real global affair, #RSE18 had 314 delegates from 12 countries. That represents a nearly 50% increase over last year’s attendance and also a 7% increase in women attending compared to 2017.
UK RSE Association is turning into the Society of Research Software Engineering! A legal, independent, professional organisation!
The UK RSE Association has seen significant growth since its inception in 2013, to over 1000 members. The community’s growth has made the informal, volunteer run format unsustainable. The move will enable the society to hold funds, employ staff, and operate as an independent organisation to represent the interests of the RSE community. Visit the RSE website for more information and sign up to receive updates.
The Hartree Centre has a new pocket-sized addition to our data centre! One of our Research Software Engineers, Tim Powell tells us all about it…
HPiC has been created as a host for software demonstrations and for outreach events. It simulates a supercomputer by networking together 20 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B’s, allowing them to communicate and execute parallel programs.
The Raspberry Pi is a low-cost, low-power, single-board computer designed to make computer science more accessible to amateur developers, schools, and developing countries. Released in 2013, Raspberry Pis can be used for a wide range of applications – from robotics, to music streaming, to smart mirrors! The incredibly versatile Raspberry Pi 3 computer has a Quad Core 1.2Ghz ARM processor at its heart, 1GB of RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth capabilities and a whole host of device connectivity via a GPIO connector.
HPiC replicates high performance computing (HPC) techniques and can perform over 1,000 million instructions per second. HPiC has 19 ‘worker’ nodes (1 node = 1 raspberry pi), each with a quad-core ARM processor, resulting in 76 cores to utilise for parallel computing. The remaining node is called the ‘Head Node’ and allows us to interact and submit jobs to the ‘worker’ nodes.
To mark International Women’s Day, Hartree Centre Data Scientist, Simon Goodchild writes a blog post to celebrate the work of a pioneering epidemiologist and doctor Janet Lane-Claypon. At the time of writing the post, Simon was studying medical statistics for the first time as part of a statistical society diploma and was surprised to have not previously heard about a woman who had invented two of the key techniques he was learning about!
How do you know that your treatment actually works?
How do you know whether something in the environment may impact upon your health?
These are some of the most basic and most important questions in medicine and epidemiology. Getting good answers is vital, and nowadays there are established procedures for finding sensible answers. Several of these can be traced back to the under-recognised work of Janet Lane-Claypon in the early part of the 20th century.
The last in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre summarises the steps we have taken to implement IT Service Management.
In previous posts, I described three key components of ITIL infrastructure which we have implemented at the Hartree Centre – Service Operations, Service Design and Service Transition. These are all inter-dependent and equal in stature. However, there is one further area of ITIL which is slightly different because it underpins all of the above – Continual Service Improvement (CSI). Continuous improvement is vital, because it ensures that processes and functions do not remain static. They develop and improve in response to operational lessons learnt, leading to overall improvements in service quality. Continuous improvement provides a feedback mechanism and tools to incorporate that feedback. It can also work with quality management tools.
ITIL provides two complementary tools to implement CSI – the Deming Cycle, and the Seven-step Improvement Process.
In this post we talk about developing activities for the Hartree Centre work experience programme and what happened when we challenged 6 students to work together to build a 20-node mini super computer.
STFC runs a work experience programme every year with applicants expressing an interest in placements within the centre. Initially, we had a view of taking just one student to join our Future Technologies team but after hearing about other placements, we wanted to move away from the ‘lone student’ experience and offer a group-based opportunity. We hoped that this would show students how we operate here in multi-disciplinary teams working together to solve challenges. As a result, 6 students from local colleges joined us for 2 weeks to find out more about life here at the Hartree Centre.
The third in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre gives us an introduction to service design, transition, configuration management and change management.
In my previous post, I described the key aspects of the ITIL Service Operation area that we have implemented at the Hartree Centre. In this post, I’ll move on to Service Design and Service Transition.
What is Service Design?
The ITIL area of Service Strategy considers all the business requirements for IT services, and from them constructs a high-level view of the range of services to be offered. Service Design turns this high-level portfolio into a set of service specifications for inclusion in the organisation’s Service Catalogue. It takes account of the requirements for information security, availability and capacity. Service catalogue entries also include details of standard service levels (SLA metrics) and provide, where appropriate, pricing information. Note that non-standard service levels may be negotiated with individual customers.
High Performance Computing (HPC) and High Performance Data Analytics (HPDA) – the provenance of the Hartree Centre – are rapidly expanding areas of importance to academia and industry, with myriad new employment opportunities arising. It is predicted that the gap between supply and demand of skilled staff will continue to grow. Despite the face that women make up 51% of the population, on average only around 15% of people working in IT are women. The proportion working in HPC and HPDA is even less. When taken in conjunction with recent evidence that diverse teams and organisations outperform less diverse competitors, there are sound business reasons why Diversity and Inclusion is a priority, as well as moral and social imperatives.
I am one of the founders of Women in HPC, which was formed in the UK by a small group of women who were interested in exploring the reasons why so few women were working in all areas of High Performance Computing. From small beginnings, it has grown into an organisation and network with global reach, holding programmes of events at the major international supercomputing and IT conferences.
As proud members of the European HPC community, I think it’s safe to say our efforts to achieve a world-class extreme scale, power-efficient and resilient HPC platform are ambitious. We’re working towards a machine that can scale to 100 petaflops.
This three and a half year, 20 million euro Horizon2020 funded project has been designed to answer these challenges:
How do we build an exascale machine within a sensible energy budget?
How do we design something so that we’re not moving huge amounts of data around?
How do we achieve our ambitions cost-effectively?
How do we deal with all of the complexity associated with running applications on a machine of that size?
First of all, it’s important to note here that we’re not going to be starting from scratch. EuroEXA will build on previous projects that have demonstrated smaller elements of our community ambitions. This learning has directed the approach to EuroEXA and Professor John Goodacre based at The University of Manchester is leading the project and has pulled together a consortium of 40 partners industry and academic partners across Europe. Each project partner will play a fundamental role in bringing together key components of this undertaking. We’ll explain the specific role we’ll have here at the Hartree Centre later on.
The second in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre gives us an introduction to Service Operation, the primary interface for service delivery with customers.
In the first post of this series, I gave a brief description of IT Service Management and the specific implementation we have adopted, known as ITIL. In this post, I describe how we have implemented one function and three key processes from the ITIL area of Service Operation.
What is Service Operation?
Service Operation is the collection of processes and functions that describe how to deliver services to customers at agreed levels.
Why is it important?
Service Operation represents the primary interface for service delivery with customers. As such, it can win or lose business. It also helps the service provider, by providing clear mechanisms for prioritising customer requests for assistance, and tools to identify deep-rooted issues that require additional effort to resolve.
In this post, Katharina Reusch, a Software Engineer from IBM Research takes us through their second annual ‘Girls in Tech’ event held on Ada Lovelace Day.
It was that time of year for the second annual “Girls in Tech” outreach event, organised by Katharina Reusch from IBM Research in collaboration with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The event was sponsored and initiated by IBM UK Foundation (our Early Professionals Programme for Graduates, Apprentices, Interns and Futures) and the IBM Girls Who Can team. Girls Who Can is a support network within IBM UK Foundation, with the aim to provide a healthy and positive environment where not just women, but all the work force, can prosper and fulfil their potential. After a successful trial event with 80 girls back in October 2016, we decided to go even bigger this year and run a joint event at STFC’s Daresbury (DL) and Rutherford Laboratory (RAL) Campus with 90 girls at each site, aged 12-13.
We had a busy day, packed with activities to introduce the girls to our cutting-edge technologies and where our products fit in everyday life along with our aspirations for where future technologies can make an impact. This was illustrated with demonstrations of IBM and STFC projects currently underway in the UK.
The girls also had a chance to quiz us in a career Q&A session (the most popular session on the day!), to understand how to get into a technology career with all the different avenues available to them, from work experience, apprenticeships, graduate schemes and professional career development.
But a day learning about technology is nothing without a bit of hands-on experience: In the Arduino coding challenge, the girls had to code and wire up a temperature sensor for the Ada Lovelace Earth Observation Satellite. Again, this proved to be a very popular session with great feedback from both volunteers, teachers and pupils.
“Science and innovation wouldn’t be possible without inspired minds, great ideas and grand challenges.”
Science and Innovation wouldn’t be possible without inspired minds, great ideas and grand challenges, so for the third activity we set the girls a 60 minute innovation challenge: come up with an innovative idea, outline a prototype and do a 1-minute elevator pitch to everyone in the big lecture theatre at the end of the day. We were all amazed with the creativity, imagination and truly innovative ideas the girls came up with – we even noted some down some for our own work! We covered a wide spectrum of ideas from robots organising your daily schedule at home, medical robots for elderly, smart microwaves to self-learning hair salons.
The winning team at Daresbury invented “Reflect and Select”, a smart mirror in which you can try on online shopping items virtually in the mirror and purchase with one click – who would not buy into that idea? The winning team at RAL introduced a hovering wheel chair to allow disabled people a new found freedom in movement, a wonderful example for “out-of-the-box” thinking!
Throughout the day, the positive spirit and excitement caught everyone, volunteers, teachers and girls. Our IBM staff “had a blast working with the girls, such an inspiring crowd!” and said “the RAL event was excellent and even I felt inspired by all the science and technology on-site.” Teachers confirmed that “it was a great day and the girls enjoyed it; they were clearly talking more about the subject on the way home than going” and Dianne Kennedy from St. John Plessington High wrote to us after the event: “Thank you for the really enjoyable day. The pupils really enjoyed the experience, hopefully this will encourage them to think about choosing a STEM subject” and Ruth Harrison from Lowton High School thought:
“the balance was right, it was wonderful to see young, vibrant, bright women inspiring our girls to think about a career in STEM and raise their aspirations – whatever their academic ability.”
This feedback was also confirmed by the numbers as 77% (DL) / 80%(RAL) girls said they now want to find out more about STEM when they get home. We further asked whether the event made them more likely to consider choosing a science/technology degree at university or for an apprenticeship, with 53% (DL) / 63% (RAL) confirming this to be more encouraged and 32% (DL) / 19% (RAL) considering this as a career choice anyway.
We were so pleased with the feedback received from teachers and girls and are keen to plan the next event to inspire even more young pupils to join us in a truly rewarding career choice!
Last but not least, a big shout out for the IBMers Houda Achouri, Kashif Taj, Georgia Prosser, Jenni Marr and STFC’s Sophy Palmer, Phill Day and Wendy Cotterill to help make the event possible and the helpers on the day: Georgia Clarkson, Malgorzata Zimon, Blair Edwards, Martyn Spink, Lan Hoang, Flaviu Cipcigan, Anna Paola Carrieri, Dave Cable, Navatha Tirungari, Rob Allan, Roger Downing, Laura Johnston, Holly Halford, Gemma Reed, Julia Game, Shannon Wilson, Olivia O’Sullivan, Lisa Whimperley, Peter Kane, Greg Corbett, Tom Dack, Jeremy Spencer, Louise Davies, Tom Byrne, Chris Oliver, Jacob Ward, Mostafa Nabi, Sarah James, Rosie Davies, Kate Winfield, Eilidh Southren, Kyle Birtwell, Lauren Mowberry, Vicky Stowell, Dave Wilsher, Manny Olaiya, Preeti Kaur, and Ffion Argent.
The first in a series of blog posts from Dave Cable, Head of Service Operations here at The Hartree Centre gives us a gentle introduction in to the world of IT Service Management. Look out for future posts covering service operation, service design, and continual service improvement.
What is IT Service Management?
IT Service Management (ITSM) is the proper design, governance and operation of IT-related services to meet agreed customer needs within predictable cost and efficiency bounds. It brings together policies, processes and people with the common goal of service delivery and continuous improvement.
Why is it important?
Any IT service provider needs a clear idea of what it is they are trying to deliver and to whom. The provider also needs to understand the costs of providing services alongside any financial returns. ITSM provides a mechanism for businesses to be able to meet these requirements.
As big data, high performance computing and cognitive technologies start to appear in more newspaper articles, TV shows and pop up on social media hashtags, it seems to me to be more important than ever to start talking about our science and technology and the impact it makes on society.
Before I start to write the main content of this blog post, I should confess that although my background is in biomedical science, I prefer talking about science rather than actually doing it. So much so that I decided to study towards an MSc in Science Communication. This means that I spend a lot of time thinking about science and its relationship with society by reading about insights from history and the media as well as about innovation and policy research. At the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), I really enjoy working closely with those at the forefront of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), facilitating relationships between academia, industry and publics by highlighting how our work impacts businesses and the UK economy. Essentially, I enjoy answering the “So what?!” question about research.
Having worked in public engagement over the last 5 years, I am going to address some of the common misconceptions I’ve heard along the way.
“Life is like a large pond, you are surrounded by lilypads and depending on your capabilities and circumstances you have to pick the next one to step onto.”
When I was younger, growing up in Wigan I was mainly interested in three things: football, computers and radio control cars. At school, I decided to study A Levels in maths, physics and chemistry and then went off to study chemistry at the University of Leeds with no fixed idea of what I wanted to do or where I was going afterwards.
After a period of unemployment, I was lucky enough to get a job as a Research Chemist with Crosfield, a Unilever company at the time. This involved working with Crosfield silica to remove protein from beer, essentially increasing the shelf-life of the product. To me, this was great, I was a beer scientist at the age of 21! I enjoyed the challenge of working on new formulations and eventually discovered a way of improving the shelf-life of beer using 50-70% less material than previous methods. At first, the brewers we worked with did not seem to buy in to the idea so the sales staff invited me out with them to explain the process to our customers. That was my first taste of sales and I really enjoyed it so I started to try to go out with the sales team as much as I could.
My next ‘career leap’ was in to telesales and this turned out to be a terrible idea as it really did not suit the way I liked to work and how I liked to develop customer relationships and insight. From there, I went to work for Dionex in a regional sales role with a remit for selling chromatography columns that separate chemical components. It was this position that helped me to recognise that I was actually quite good at sales and learned an important point:
“people do not just buy kit, they buy answers to the problems they want to solve.”
This led me back to my interest in computing where I taught myself how to use a macro-based scripting process that increased the efficiency of the sales process, helping me to match solutions to customer problems.
On International Women’s Day, we’re looking at the gender balance in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. Impact and Engagement Officer Holly Halford discusses why seeing women represented in STEM from a young age matters.
While much has been done in recent years to encourage women into STEM careers, statistics show that the UK – and indeed, the world – still has a way to go before we see equal gender representation reflected in the scientific workforce. In this post I’d like to examine the element of choice involved in this under representation, and how we can tackle it.
When pressured to recruit, companies often cite lack of applications as the reason for gender imbalance. For example, a 2014 study showed that for 50% of UK companies studied that hire IT workers, only 4% of job applicants were women. Whilst we must take into account the other influencing factors at play, evidence suggests that women are still disproportionately choosing not to follow STEM career paths.
“Only 20% of A Level physics students are female, a figure that has not changed in 25 years.”
While take-up and performance in GCSE level sciences shows little difference between genders, only 20% of A Level physics students are female, a figure that has not changed in 25 years, despite the social gender equality climate having arguably improved within that time. This indicates that more effort is needed at an earlier stage of education, to prevent that drop-off before it happens – but what kind of effort?
One way to tackle this is improving visible representation of female scientists, engineers, coders at a younger age. By the time children reach high school age, they’ve already absorbed a plethora of subtle signals – from the toys we assume they’ll prefer, to the colour of the clothes we dress them in – regarding gender norms from family, friends, teachers, the mass media and society in general. So many, in fact, that I believe it’s difficult, if not impossible, to reverse these factors which contribute to personal unconscious bias (or indeed identify any one prevailing influencer) and allow young people to make career choices objectively; gender neutrally.
According to the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10% – something I experienced first-hand at university. Whilst studying a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, I found myself to be one of only ten female students in a year group of approx. 100 – pretty much bang on with the stats!
It’s difficult not to feel somewhat radical when faced with that reality, despite knowing you are more than entitled to be there. There’s something subtle to be said for the self-doubt that can creep in when looking around a room and seeing very few people who share your background, your life, your experiences. Even the most self-assured of minds can be forgiven for wondering: Do I belong here?
“The doubt that might cause a young woman to drop out of science or maths too soon because she doesn’t see any evidence that it is ‘for her’ is perhaps more powerful than any open hostility could be.”
The answer, of course, is yes – gender diverse businesses have time and again been proven more likely to outperform their competitors. But a lack of representation, the tiny but persistent doubt that might cause a young woman to drop out of science or maths too soon because she doesn’t see any evidence that it’s ‘for her’ is perhaps more powerful than any open hostility could be. Studies have shown that “fitting in, or gaining peer acceptance, is a primary objective of youth in the high school context and […] may be more important than academic goals”. For young children, that feeling of belonging, of being represented, cannot be overlooked if we want to change STEM statistics for the better.
I firmly believe that the most valuable thing we can do to inspire more girls into tech careers is to put more examples of real women doing real STEM jobs in front of them – and in front of the boys too – from as early an age as possible. Change starts at home, and we need to make sure children have access to resources that show the full diverse range of notable people in STEM throughout history and now, in 2017. We need to question our own preconceptions, and do our hardest not to pass them on to our children and those around us.
It’s not about telling girls they must seek STEM careers, it’s about making sure they don’t close themselves off to those options when social influences are being imposed on them at every turn.
It’s not about telling girls they must seek STEM careers, it’s about making sure they don’t close themselves off to those options prematurely when potentially limiting social influences are being imposed on them at every turn. It’s ensuring boys won’t dismiss them as potential future colleagues in STEM.
The good news is that a change in perceptions and awareness of STEM gender balance is occurring, however slowly. Improvements in representation are inching forward, from Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton receiving long overdue awards for their contributions to computational science to films such as Hidden Figures coming to the fore and revealing previously overlooked truths about the history of women and minorities in great scientific achievements. There is an undoubted shift in thinking – but it has been too long coming and still has a way to go.
There are many UK organisations and government initiatives already doing great work to inspire future generations of women to study STEM, but we can’t rely on outside influences to eradicate centuries of gender bias – it has to start with us. It is everyone’s responsibility to remember why diverse representation matters, and to provide it whenever they can. To question our own assumptions, and those around us – not just in the workplace, but in every aspect of our lives. (After all, isn’t that what scientists do best?) Only then, will we truly be able to give future generations the freedom to choose without bias; the freedom to choose science.
You can read about how the Science and Technology Facilities Council is supporting equality and diversity in STEM here.
The Association for Project Management (APM) recently held their first Manchester based conference, and the Northern Powerhouse initiative by UK Government was their key theme. Claire Trinder and Lisa Booth from our Programme Management Office attended the event, and it got them thinking about where the Hartree Centre fits in.
“If the Northern Powerhouse were a country, it would be amongst the biggest economies in Europe. If we can make this region an economic powerhouse, the whole of the UK will benefit.”
Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
It sounds simple enough when you put it like that, but as we discovered at the APM conference, there’s a lot more to unlocking the benefits of the Northern Powerhouse than meets the eye.
The event, held in early December 2016, zeroed in on the developments in infrastructure, communication and technology projects that are being designed to re-balance the UK economy in line with the government’s Northern Powerhouse vision laid out in its strategy document. In summary, the Northern Powerhouse is a vision for a more joined up region in which northern towns and cities work collaboratively, sharing skills and resources to unlock the economic potential of the area.
We recently worked with our partners at IBM to deliver an outreach event aiming to promote careers in STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) to 80 girls from high schools across the North West.
The students spent the day taking part in a mixture of talks and activities including an innovation workshop, a 3D visualisation demonstration – which took place in the Hartree Centre visualisation suite – a 3D printing demonstration, and careers Q&A with women currently working at IBM and STFC. This gave the girls a valuable opportunity to ask real people working in a technical field their advice and learn about their experiences.
Women have been involved in computing expertise from the very beginning – from 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace to the communications operators and code breakers during World War II.
Director of the Hartree Centre, Alison Kennedy, also presented on her own experiences of a career in technology, identifying that women have been involved in computing expertise from the very beginning – from 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace to the communications operators and code breakers during World War II. You can read a full recap of the day and see more pictures here.
Now that the summer break is pretty much over (what was that I hear some of you shout?), I thought it was time for us to publish another post on here. In this post I touch a little on the automotive industry.