Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) is an EPSRC-funded project based at the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton, and draws on a team of experts with a breadth of experience in software development, project and programme management, research facilitation, publicity and community engagement. It’s a national facility for cultivating world-class research through software, whose goal is to make it easier to rely on software as a foundation of research; see their manifesto. The SSI works with researchers, developers, funders and infrastructure providers to identify the key issues and best practice surrounding scientific software.
During my fellowship, I’m particularly keen to work closely with Software Carpentry and Mozilla Science Lab to highlight the importance of software skills across the STEM disciplines. I’m also interested in a broader open science/open computation agenda; see the Recomputation Manifesto and the recently established recomputation.org project.
More to follow in 2014!
Here’s a useful (draft) set of colloquial definitions for Big, Open and Personal Data on GitHub from the Open Data Institute.
Why is this a worthwhile exercise? Well, Open Data gets conflated with Personal Data, everyone talks about Big Data (yet no-one is exactly sure what it is, but many have tried to define it)…and we all should be concerned about Personal Data.
1. Big Data is (i) data that you cannot handle with conventional tools or (ii) a term used as a vague metaphor for solving problems with data.
2. Open Data is data that anyone can use; without legal, technical or financial barriers.
3. Personal Data is data derived from people, where you can distinguish a person from other people in the group.
(also, can Big Open Personal (BOP) Data exist?)
Further to my most-read blog post (from May 2012: A set of top Computer Science blogs, 80,000 hits and counting), here’s a follow-up: blogs on computer science education.
- they focus on computer science education (research, policy and practice);
- they are of consistently high quality;
- I regularly read them.
Computing Education Blog by Mark Guzdial (@guzdial)
Mark is a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology and a researcher in computing education. His blog is about how people come to understanding computing, and how to facilitate that understanding, cross-cutting research, policy, practice and wider societal issues. And while it is US-focused (as you would expect), it is an excellent venue for the discussion of key topics in computer science education.
Teach Computing by Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher)
Alan is a busy chap: as well as being principal teacher of Computing at Our Lady’s High School in Preston, he’s the founder of both Hack To The Future and Raspberry Jam, the global community of events for everyone to discover the wonders of the Raspberry Pi. His blog tracks his five-year computing journey: from improving classroom practice (listen to his Teach Computing podcasts), contributing back to the community as a CAS Master Teacher, to shaping the development of a new curriculum subject in England.
Miss Philbin’s Teaching and Learning Journal by Carrie Anne Philbin (@MissPhilbin)
Carrie Anne is an award-winning secondary teacher at Robert Clack School in Essex and a passionate advocate for women in technology. She is the creator of Geek Gurl Diaries, a YouTube web series for teenagers who want to be makers and creators of technology (which recently won a Talk Talk Digital Hero Award) and vice-chair of the CAS initiative #include to address diversity issues in computing. Her blog also covers the gamut of classroom practice, the transition from ICT to computing, supporting the wider community, to shaping policy in England.
Academic Computing by Neil Brown (@twistedsq)
Neil is a research associate in the Programming Languages and Systems Group at the University of Kent, working on the BlueJ and Greenfoot projects. He writes thought-provoking pieces on topics spanning computing (and more broadly, STEM) education, programming and socio-technical issues. He also has a second blog on learning and applying mathematics through computing: The Sinepost.
An Open Mind by Miles Berry (@mberry)
Miles is a principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He sits on the boards of both CAS and Naace, with wide experience of curriculum development in the UK. His blog, a personal perspective on education, technology and culture, covers a range of interesting pieces on computer science and programming pedagogy, CPD and agile practice.
Computer Science Teacher by Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo)
Alfred is a high school computer science teacher in New Hampshire, having previously been the K-12 Computer Science Academic Relations Manager for Microsoft and a software developer for 18 years. He currently sits on the board of the Computer Science Teachers Association. His blog covers a wide range of topics, including computer science and programming pedagogy, curriculum development and US education policy.
Knowing and Doing: reflections of an academic and computer scientist by Eugene Wallingford (@wallingf)
Eugene is an associate professor and head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has been blogging since 2004 on topics across computing, software development, higher education, learning and teaching, as well as managing and leading.
Raspberry Pi Blog by the Raspberry Pi Foundation (@Raspberry_Pi)
These guys need no introduction, especially after the two millionth Raspberry Pi was sold in October! With the huge success and penetration of the Raspberry Pi over the past two years, the platform now exists for the Foundation to fulfil its wider educational objectives. A diverse blog, ranging from technical posts, peripherals and resources, to superb examples of innovative uses of the Raspberry Pi.
CSTA Blog by the Computer Science Teachers Association (@csteachersa)
The Computer Science Teachers Association is a membership organisation (free to join), supported by the ACM, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines in the US, providing opportunities for K–12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and learn. Its blog covers a wide range of topics across computer science education, programming, curriculum design and education policy,
CAS Online by Computing At School (@CompAtSch)
Computing At School is a membership organisation (also free to join), supported by the BCS, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science in UK schools. Formed in 2008, it now has over 7000 members from across schools, colleges, universities, industry and government and is the subject association for computer science. Along with numerous high-quality articles in the quarterly CAS newsletter, Switched On, CAS Online provides the UK computer science education community with a wide range of forums, events, policy discussions, consultations and a veritable wealth of resources to support learning and teaching.
This set is most definitely incomplete — please post your computer science education blog recommendations in the comments below. You can also read some of my posts on computer science education.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, I think it is quite useful for academics to blog and use social media. I have been blogging here since April 2011, talking about my research and teaching, science and education policy, through to minutiae and quotes. During my career, the range of expected roles for an academic/researcher has changed significantly, with increasing focus on public engagement and engaging with policy-makers. While this has most likely expanded the metrics for how an early career academic/researcher is measured (i.e. on top of a strong research profile: publications and funding), the changing models of academic dissemination and discourse reinforces the value of academics blogging.
Thus, Alan Winfield (Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of UWE’s Science Communication Unit) and I are running a workshop on academic blogging at Engage 2013, the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement‘s annual conference to be held in Bristol on 27th-28th November. The headline focus for this year’s event is partnerships that count; it should provide a great opportunity for open dialogue between the HE community, policy-makers and funders, and the organisations working with them.
In a paper published last week in PLoS Computational Biology, Sandve, Nekrutenko, Taylor and Hovig highlight the issue of replication across the computational sciences. The dependence on software libraries, APIs and toolchains, coupled with massive amounts of data, interdisciplinary approaches and the increasing complexity of the questions being asked are complicating replication efforts.
To address this, they present ten simple rules for reproducibility of computational research:
Rule 1: For Every Result, Keep Track of How It Was Produced
Rule 2: Avoid Manual Data Manipulation Steps
Rule 3: Archive the Exact Versions of All External Programs Used
Rule 4: Version Control All Custom Scripts
Rule 5: Record All Intermediate Results, When Possible in Standardized Formats
Rule 6: For Analyses That Include Randomness, Note Underlying Random Seeds
Rule 7: Always Store Raw Data behind Plots
Rule 8: Generate Hierarchical Analysis Output, Allowing Layers of Increasing Detail to Be Inspected
Rule 9: Connect Textual Statements to Underlying Results
Rule 10: Provide Public Access to Scripts, Runs, and Results
The rationale underpinning these rules clearly resonates with the work of the Software Sustainability Institute: better science through superior software. Based at the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton, it is a national facility for cultivating world-class research through software (for example, Software Carpentry). An article that caught my eye in July was the Recomputation Manifesto: computational experiments should be recomputable for all time. In light of the wider open data and open science agenda, should we also be thinking about open software and open computation?
How much damage could be caused by a peer reviewer having a bad day? You only have to have a look through the list of Turing Award winners (or some of the top cited papers in computer science) to see that, given the current standards for reviewing, many of those papers would never have been published. As highlighted in this CACM article, they would have come up against journal reviewers who would have rejected such works, considering them too speculative or theoretical. More specifically for UK academics, how many of them would be REF returnable?
On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem
This is a bizarre paper….If the article is accepted, Turing should remember that the language of this journal is English and change the title accordingly.
Further to the previous CAS papers, Neil Brown (University of Kent) presented a paper entitled: Bringing Computer Science Back Into Schools: Lessons From The UK at SIGCSE’13, the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, in Denver in March.
The paper is available to download for free via the ACM Author-ize service below; you can also listen to Neil’s voice-over of the presentation slides. The abstract is as follows:
Computer science in UK schools is a subject in decline: the ratio of Computing to Maths A-Level students (i.e. ages 16–18) has fallen from 1:2 in 2003 to 1:20 in 2011 and in 2012. In 2011 and again in 2012, the ratio for female students was 1:100, with less than 300 female students taking Computing A-Level in the whole of the UK each year. Similar problems have been observed in the USA and other countries, despite the increased need for computer science skills caused by IT growth in industry and society. In the UK, the Computing At School (CAS) group was formed to try to improve the state of computer science in schools. Using a combination of grassroots teacher activities and policy lobbying at a national level, CAS has been able to rapidly gain traction in the ﬁght for computer science in schools. We examine the reasons for this success, the challenges and dangers that lie ahead, and suggest how the experience of CAS in the UK can beneﬁt other similar organisations, such as the CSTA in the USA.
Paper at WiPSCE’12: “Grand Challenges for the UK: Upskilling Teachers to Teach Computer Science Within the Secondary Curriculum”
Further to the CAS paper presented at Koli Calling 2011 in Finland in November 2011, Sue Sentance (Anglia Ruskin University) presented a paper entitled: Grand Challenges for the UK: Upskilling Teachers to Teach Computer Science Within the Secondary Curriculum at WiPSCE’12, the 7th International Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, in Hamburg in November.
The paper is available to download for free via the ACM Author-ize service below; the abstract is as follows:
Recent changes in UK education policy with respect to ICT and Computer Science (CS) have meant that more teachers need the skills and knowledge to teach CS in schools. This paper reports on work in progress in the UK researching models of continuing professional development (CPD) for such teachers. We work with many teachers who either do not have an appropriate academic background to teach Computer Science, or who do and have not utilised it in the classroom due to the curriculum in place for the last fifteen years. In this paper we outline how educational policy changes are affecting teachers in the area of ICT and Computer Science; we describe a range of models of CPD and discuss the role that local and national initiatives can play in developing a hybrid model of transformational CPD, briefly reporting on our initial findings to date.
Tiny Transactions on Computer Science (TinyToCS) is the premier venue for computer science research of 140 characters or less.
This is certainly an interesting concept: computer science research papers whose body fits into 140 characters, although the abstract may be longer (up to 250 words), plus references. However, the abstract is not allowed to elaborate on the result; see, for example, Safe Haskell. TinyToCS focuses on the sound bytes to draw readers in and convey key ideas, but provides background and references to those who want to dig deeper.
As per the Call for Papers and the Chairs’ Note in Volume 1, the creators hope that TinyToCS contributes to the growing discussion on academic publishing in the modern era. While similar initiatives using 140 characters have been used for science communication on Twitter, this is the first time I have seen a serious attempt at disseminating computer science research — it will be interesting to see how this project develops.