Dr Ian Bush gives Fortran talk at 1st Research Software Engineer conference

Dr Ian Bush gives Fortran talk at 1st Research Software Engineer conference

The Oxford e-Research Centre's EPSRC Fellow Dr Ian Bush gave a talk at the 1st Research Software Engineers conference which took place at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 15-16 September 2016. Research Software Engineers work in research, but write code rather than papers.

The aims of the conference organisers are to create a community to represent the UK's Research Software Engineers, raise awareness of RSEs and their role in research and campaign for the recognition and reward of RSEs.

Dr Bush's talk on Friday 16 September focussed on Fortran, the dominant programming language of high performance computing when used for computational science and engineering, which accounts for over 70% of CPU cycles on ARCHER, the UK national supercomputing service. You can access Dr Bush's slides on Modern Fortran in Research Software Engineering here.

Recent surveys have shown that a significant percentage of the academic software engineering community are still using the Fortran 77 standard, and that Fortran 90 is the most used standard. Adoption of the Fortran 2003 and 2008 standards in academia is still lagging behind. These newer standards include features such as object oriented programming, floating point exception handling, interoperability with C, CoArray for distributed memory parallelism and submodules. Such modern programming language features aid better software engineering for scientific codes, and so increases those codes robustness and sustainability. This robustness and sustainability will be portable across the large number of platforms that are available to the Fortran programmer today, including compilers from GNU, Intel, Cray, IBM, and NAG. Dr Bush will introduce these newer standards and give real, practical examples as to how their use aids the RSE in his or her work.

Dr Bush started at the e-Research Centre in April 2016 as an EPSRC Research Software Engineer Fellow, having previously worked within the ARC (Advanced Research Computing) Facility, which helps researchers access advanced research computing facilities, locally, nationally and internationally. As an EPSRC Fellow, he is exploiting high end computational facilities to enable accurate modelling of a number of scientific processes, from the microscopic (such as how X-rays interact with in vivo proteins) to the macroscopic (for example the ITER project, a 10 billion Euro fusion power facility in France).

Of his appointment, Dr Bush says, "I hope to use the fellowship to raise the profile and recognition of Research Software Engineers (RSEs) initially within Oxford, and in the longer term more widely. I feel passionately that there should be better respect and career progression possibilities for the people who provide the irreplaceable technical enabling of fundamental scientific research, much of which is just not possible without RSEs".

Dr Bush is also involved with Oxford University's own software engineer group, the Research Software Developers Network (RSDN).  The network, which is supported by a website and mailing list, provides a register of RSDs and their expertise, combined with a community forum and virtual employment exchange to facilitate discussion of project ideas and link RSDs with research projects needing their skills. It currently has nearly 200 members.

Read a recent Q&A with Dr Bush.