# Computing: The Science of Nearly Everything

Computer Science…Research, Education and Policy

## Ten Simple Rules for Reproducible Computational Research

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 9: Connect Textual Statements to Underlying 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?

Written by Tom

1 November 2013 at 12:01 am

## Sleep sort

Everyone likes algorithms, especially novel sorting algorithms. So the basis for this “sleep sort” is simple: take the first element $n$ of the array (of positive integers), fork a new process which sleeps $n$ seconds then displays that number. Repeat for the next element.

```#!/bin/bash
function f() {
sleep "\$1"
echo "\$1"
}
while [ -n "\$1" ]
do
f "\$1" &
shift
done
wait
```

Calculation of the average (and worst-case) complexity of this algorithm is left as an exercise to the reader; you might also enjoy bogosort and stooge sort (as well as some dancing).

Written by Tom

28 October 2013 at 9:42 am

## 2014 University Guides: Computer Science

with one comment

While the higher education sector is swamped with league tables and rankings, I find it useful to keep an eye on the subject-specific tables (especially w.r.t. year-on-year variance, as well as changes in metrics/weightings). Therefore, here are the four three main 2014 UK university guides for Computer Science:

(cf. the 2013 guides)

Written by Tom

17 October 2013 at 12:21 pm

## Garbage in, garbage out

with one comment

On two occasions I have been asked “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?“. In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question.

I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864)
Charles Babbage (1791-1871)

Written by Tom

9 October 2013 at 4:57 pm

## The ICT Steering Group’s Report to the Welsh Government

Today, the ICT Steering Group published its review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, at a launch at Box UK’s office in Cardiff attended by Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills.

This is the culmination of eight months of discussion, evaluation and consultation, to identify a way forward for ICT in Wales. As co-chair of this review, I am delighted with what we have delivered: a declaration of intent for Wales, to change the profile and perception of a subject of tremendous educational and economic importance to Wales. I truly hope that the Welsh Government adopt the report’s recommendations in full and use this as an opportunity to highlight the importance of computing and digital literacy in a modern, challenging and aspirational national curriculum.

As per today’s written Ministerial Statement:

The report of the ICT Steering Group, published today, poses some very significant questions and explores themes that we must now consider in the context of the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum…I am very grateful for this report and will respond in full to all these recommendations in due course.

1. A new subject named Computing should be created to replace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) from Foundation Phase onwards. This new subject will disaggregate into two main areas: Computer Science (CS); and Information Technology (IT).
2. Computing should be integrated into the curriculum as the fourth science, served by a mandatory Programme of Study, and receive the same status as the other three sciences.
3. A Statutory Digital Literacy (DL) Framework should be implemented to work alongside the Literacy and Numeracy Framework from Foundation Phase through to post-16 education.
4. Perceptions of Computing education pathways should be changed to recognise the key societal roles of computing and technology, as well as promote the importance and diversity of IT careers.
5. The revised Computing curriculum should encourage creativity, allow thematic working and develop real world problem-solving. It should be flexible enough to continually evolve to remain current, adopting an Agile ideology and approach to ensure this.
6. A range of engaging and academically rigorous pathways and bilingual qualifications for Computing and Digital Literacy should be devised, encouraging interest and opportunities for deeper learning.
7. Engagement and collaboration between education and industry should be an integral part of the curriculum to embed current practices and skills.
8. Pathways for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Computing should be created to encourage the best talent into the profession. All entrants to the teaching profession should have the skills to deliver the Digital Literacy Framework (DLF).
9. A programme of training and professional development to enable the new Computing curriculum should be accessible to new and existing teachers.
10. A National Technology Framework should be devised to create an effective technology infrastructure for education. Welsh Government, local authorities, industry and learning providers should be responsible for its effective implementation and strategic development.
11. Effective monitoring arrangements should be created for Computing and the Digital Literacy Framework. Estyn should consider relevant changes to the Common Inspection Framework in light of all of these recommendations.
12. An appropriate body or properly constituted group should oversee the implementation of these recommendations. Its remit would need to be broad enough to encompass this crucial governance role, utilising appropriate expertise and representing key stakeholders.

Written by Tom

4 October 2013 at 9:00 am

## The Times and The Sunday Times University Guide 2014: Computer Science

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Today saw the publication of the first combined The Times and The Sunday Times University Guide 2014 (£), in which the University of Birmingham was named University of the Year, along with strong performances from Bath and Coventry (also named Modern University of the Year). Looking at the methodology for the new combined guide, with higher weightings on student satisfaction (NSS) and research quality (RAE 2008), it looks similar to the original Times methodology rather than the Sunday Times. Whilst generally sceptical of the plethora of university rankings and league tables, I wholeheartedly agree with Phil Baty (Editor-at-Large, THE) — it seems mad to reward universities for dishing out more first and upper second class degrees, as surely this metric is trivially improved?

As always, there are familiar institutions in the top 10 of the Computer Science category; due to the similarity in methodology, I’ve compared this new combined table to last year’s Times table (but it is also worth comparing to the 2013 Sunday Times table). I’ve also added another column to compare to the position in the overall table:

 Ranking 2013 Overall 1. 1 ↔ University of Cambridge 1. 2. 2 ↔ Imperial College London 5. 3. 5 ↑ University of St Andrews 4. 4. 3 ↓ University of Oxford 2. 5. 8 ↑ University of Southampton 20. 6. 14 ↑ University of Birmingham 16. 7. 4 ↓ University of Bristol 15. 8. 7 ↓ University of Glasgow 25. 9. 11 ↑ University of Bath 7. 10. 10 ↔ University of Edinburgh 22.

And the rankings for Wales:

 Ranking 2013 Overall 21. 34 ↑ Cardiff University 33. 37. 33 ↓ Swansea University 47. 52. 26 ↓ Aberystwyth University 82. 66. 72 ↑ Cardiff Metropolitan University 87. 83. 60 ↓ Glyndŵr University 109. 85. 41 ↓ Bangor University 56.

N.B. there was no data available for the University of South Wales (formed from the recent merger between University of Glamorgan and University of Wales, Newport) or the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (formed from the recent merger between University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University).

While there have been some significant drops in ranking for a number of Welsh institutions (most likely to due to student satisfaction scores), this does not seem to correlate with the 2014 Guardian University Guide from June (which also places a high value on the NSS). However, it is encouraging to see Cardiff just outside the top 20.

Written by Tom

22 September 2013 at 3:42 pm