Jonathan Dursi

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COBOL, Imperial College, Bursty Maintenance, and Sustained Scientific Software

We’ve all read about the huge rise in unemployment claims causing unprecedented loads on US state software systems, with the situation so dire that the governor of New Jersey put out an urgent call for COBOL programmers. It’s worth looking at this from the point of view of research software, where we need software to be sustainable and reproducible for long periods of time. The systems that need suddenly need COBOL developers have often been chugging away with maintenance and tweaks for 40–50 years. This...

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How To Quickly Start One-on-Ones with your Research Computing Team: A One-Week Plan of Action

Research computing teams around the world are finding themselves working completely remotely suddenly. As a manager, you’ve gotten over the first hump and made sure everyone has the tools they need - software, VPN access, accounts on whatever chat and videoconferencing tools you’ll need. Now what? We all know that remote teams need more communication than on-site teams, so you’ll need to start communicating more. This is a perfect time to start doing one-on-ones if you haven’t been doing them already. What follows is a...

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The Purpose of Research Computing is the Research, not the Computing

Absolutely everyone in research computing will agree that supporting research is their centre’s highest goal. And they’re not lying, but at many centres I’ve visited, they aren’t really correct, either. The day-to-day work in such a centre, naturally enough, is all about technical operations - keeping the computers running, updating software, making sure /scratch has enough space free, answering emails. And of course, it has to be. But without internal champions actively and continually turning the focus back to the purpose of those activities -...

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Computational Science Collaborations Train Great Managers - But Trainees Might Need Help To Become Good Managers First

What I write below likely applies to fields of theoretical and observational science that involve collaborations, too. I think the experiences that trainees in laboratory science are likely significantly different, as are those people who spent a large amount of time working in a single group in a well-defined large project. I’d certainly like to hear from colleagues from those areas; are there similarities, or are things quite different? We don’t like to talk about it much, but the natural career path in academia -...

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What Should a National Research Computing Platform Be?

What is a National Research Computing Platform For in 2019? Computers are everywhere now, but computing is still hard. Canada should build on its competitive advantage by strengthening existing efforts to provide expertise, skills and training to researchers and scholars across the country, and let others provide the increasingly commodity hardware. The result will be a generation of trainees with deep research and cloud experience, and a critical mass of talent at centres focussed on building enabling technologies. As R&D becomes increasingly intertwined with computational...

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A Killer Feature for Scientific Development Frameworks: An Incremental Path To Maturity

( Note: This is a bit of a work in progress; even more so than usual, comments/criticisms/additions welcome ) The Stages of Research Software Development Research software development covers a lot of ground — it’s the development of software for research, and research is a broad endeavour that covers a lot of use cases. The part of research software development that I find the most interesting is the part that is a research effort itself; the creation of new simulation methods, new data analysis techniques,...

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