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Research Software Engineering conference 2018 #RSE18

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.

Big News!

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.

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Introducing HPiC, the Hartree Centre’s Raspberry Pi Cluster

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.

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International Women’s Day 2018 | Janet Lane-Claypon

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!

Janet Lane-Claypon

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.

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Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Continual Service Improvement

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.

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Work experience at the Hartree Centre

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.

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Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Service Design

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.

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Diversity & Inclusion in HPC

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.

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EuroEXA: working together to build an exascale demonstrator

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.

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Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Service Operation

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.

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Inspiration, ideas and innovation: Girls in Tech outreach event

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.

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Shaping IT Service Management at The Hartree Centre: Introduction

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 operationservice 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.

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From a Computing GCSE to being Deputy Director

“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.

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Shaping the Northern Powerhouse

Delegates attending APM Project Management Conference 2016.
Image credit: APM

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.

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Bringing big data to life | TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow comes to Manchester

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-information-exchange-image9317559
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-information-exchange-image9317559

Last week, the Hartree Centre sponsored TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow in Manchester, held as part of a series of events across the UK to demonstrate the tools and technologies available for businesses to use, explore and get value from their data. Read on to find out how the day unfolded. Continue reading “Bringing big data to life | TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow comes to Manchester”

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An experiment, of sorts….. improving my health and well-being in the workplace

Dawn Geatches

Dawn Geatches, Project Scientist at the Hartree Centre, has been actively trying to improve her health in the workplace. Here, she shares her experience:

Recently I have been carrying out an experiment. Given that I work in science at STFC and have the pleasure of working on some very exciting Hartree Centre projects, you might rightly say “So what? You’re a scientist and they do that!” Continue reading “An experiment, of sorts….. improving my health and well-being in the workplace”

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Through the gears: boosting car industry competitiveness

 

The visualisation facilities at the Hartree Centre have been used to help car manufacturers reduce time and money from their innovation processes

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.

The automotive industry is one of those sectors that countries tend to use as a barometer of their overall industrial and economic performance. In the UK, the sector enjoyed a pretty buoyant 2015 all things considered. Continue reading “Through the gears: boosting car industry competitiveness”