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Research software management, sharing and sustainability

ucyldva23 January 2017

Two weeks ago I attended ‘research software management, sharing and sustainability’ at the British Library. The event organised by the Software Sustainability Institute (an organisation promoting best practices in research software development) and JISC and hosted by the British Library aimed to explore some of the challenges that researchers faced in developing, maintaining and sharing software they produce as part of their research. In my role as one of the Research Data Support officers one of my responsibilities involves helping foster best practices around research data management. This includes issues around data collection, organisation, storage and sharing – increasingly activities aided by the use of software. For many data collections, analysis and reuse is difficult, if not impossible, without access to the software that was used to generate, process or analyse the data.  As a result of this close relationship between data and software, it is important that research data management activities considers software alongside data.

Image result for british library creative commons

The first session of the day was run by Neil Chue Hong of the Software Sustainability Institute. Neil’s talk framed the rest of the day with the title ‘is my research right? Surviving in a post-expert world’. Neil began by discussing research projects where software (or more specifically the way humans used software) has resulted in incorrect results being published. Many of these mistakes were later discovered by other researchers demonstrating the importance of making underlying data and code available for others to interrogate. Having introduced some of the problems Neil outlined some of the things that researchers can do to address these. Suggestions for best practices were presented in a paper, ‘Best Practices for Scientific Computing’  include using version control, unit testing your code and using a continuous integration service. A subsequent paper recognised that some of these best practices could be intimidating to researchers so a set of ‘Good Enough Practices in Scientific Computing’ was subsequently published.

Following Neil’s session there were a range of group discussions and exercises alongside sessions by Torsten Reimer, Angela Dappert and Rachael Kotarski covering institutional support, software preservation and crediting software. There are already a range of UCL services which support researchers in these areas. Research IT Services provide training, consulting on software development and a research software dashboard which helps researchers get credit for software they produce as part of their research by linking it to IRIS profiles and making it easier for others to cite this software.

"Citation needed" CC BY 2.0 Image by 'futureatlas.com' on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/8PhzKc

“Citation needed” –  CC BY 2.0 image by ‘futureatlas.com’ on Flickr

Many of the sessions mentioned potential roles libraries could have in supporting software sharing and sustainability, these included hosting sessions on best software practices for researchers, incorporating considerations around software and code in open access and research data management services and working to shift practices and cultures of academic recognition (not a simple task!).  A simple step is to encourage students and academics to cite software used as part of their research. The Software Sustainability Institute offers guidance on citing software in academic papers. Currently researchers do not often receive the same level of academic recognition for software they write when compared to other academic outputs. Projects like Depsy are playing a part in trying to shift this lack of recognition by tracking contributions researchers have made to software, and the subsequent use of that code in other software or published outputs. Librarians can also support researchers by offering them support in making their own code citable.

Although there were no simple solutions to the issues raised during the sessions it was useful to share ideas with other people working in similar and different contexts and to begin to think about projects that would help address these issues. The Software Sustainability Institute host regular events and has a great range of resources which I would recommend if you are interested in these issues.

UCL Special Collections opens new reading room in the Wilkins building

Benjamin Meunier23 November 2016

On Monday 21st November 2016, a group of Library Services staff and supporters including UCL academics and Professional Services staff celebrated the formal opening of a new reading room which will allow wider access to UCL’s rare books, manuscripts and archive materials for research and public engagement, supporting UCL’s distinctive Connected Curriculum.

Dr Paul Ayris said a few words to mark the opening of the reading room, sited at the heart of UCL. Paul highlighted that the project had delivered a high-spec space which UCL could be proud of. The opening marks a new phase in the history of UCL Special Collections, which started largely as a set of collections donated by the widows of early professors at UCL. Developments are afoot to establish permanent new bases for the treasures held in Special Collections, with a collaborative venture in partnership with Senate House Library and members of the federal university, as well as expansion facilities in future phases of UCL East. Paul congratulated all those involved in establishing the new reading room, and the party toasted the future of UCL Special Collections.

UC School pupils

As described in a recent tweet, the site where UCL Special Collections’ new reading room is located was once a playground for University College School pupils…

What’s in our Special Collections?

UCL’s collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books date back as far as the 4th century AD and cover a vast range of subject areas, notably: London, Social History, Latin America, Jewish Collections and the Orwell Archive – which is the most comprehensive body of source material for Orwell studies anywhere in the world.

A selection of Special Collections treasures were on show at the event.

A selection of Special Collections treasures were on show at the event.

Did you know?

  • Some of the earliest donations to the Library include the 4,000 books given by Jeremy Bentham in 1833.
  • We recently discovered the manuscript of a poem by Byron inscribed into Samuel Rogers’ The Pleasures of Memory (London, 1810).
  • The first major manuscript gift, a magnificent 13th-century illuminated Latin Bible, was presented by William Steere in 1859.
  • Sonia Orwell, George Orwell’s widow, chose UCL Library Services to house the precious manuscripts and notebooks of the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

The new reading room is located in the South Junction and is open weekdays from 09.00-17.00 with appointments to consult material between 10.00 and 16.00. The room can hold up to 8 readers at any one time.

Open Access Drop-In (26 October 2016)

Alison Fox10 October 2016

The UCL Open Access Team and UCL Press would like to invite all UCL staff to a drop-in session to find out more about open access options and support available at UCL.

Find out more and register your interest at: uclopenaccess2016.eventbrite.co.uk

15:00-16.45 Drop-in Session

Drop in to meet the Open Access Team and UCL Press to learn more about the HEFCE mandate for REF2020 and publishing with UCL Press, the UK’s first fully open access university press.

Staff from UCL Open Access and UCL Press will be on hand to show you:

  • How to upload your paper to RPS for REF open access
  • The process of applying to have gold APCs paid for by the UCL OA funding
  • How to promote your book/journal via social media
  • The submissions process to publish a book with UCL Press
  • Display of UCL Press books published so far


Presentation for the 10 millionth download from UCL Discovery to Professor Daniel Miller (UCL Anthropology).

17:00-18.30 Speakers and book launch / drinks reception


  • Andrew Morris, Honorary Fellow at UCL IOE, and author of Why Icebergs Float: Explaining Science in Everyday Life.
  • Nicholas Gold, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science

Find out more about the impact of open access publishing on the careers of guest speakers, and about UCL’s leadership in the open access arena.

Join UCL Press for the launch of Why Icebergs Float: Explaining Science in Everyday Life, a brand new open access book that explains how science can solve life’s mysteries. 


Further Student Choice Teaching Awards news

utnvbsc13 April 2016

Good news. Nazlin Bhimani, Research Support & Special Collections Librarian at the UCL Institute of Education library has been nominated in the Student Choice Teaching Awards (SCTA) Roll of Honour 2016. Nazlin’s nomination comes under the Outstanding Researcher Development category.

It is a particularly powerful endorsement because the SCTA is student led and comprises solely of the opinions of the students themselves.

LaSS were also nominated, so it’s great to be able to celebrate success across the library service.

Congratulations to Nazlin.

The Small Press Project Event

L ( Elizabeth ) Lawes18 February 2016

Small Press ProjectThe Small Press Project is a two-term project and collaboration between the UCL Slade School of Fine Art and UCL Library Services, culminating in an event at the Institute of Advanced Study’s Common Ground on Thursday 25th February.

The Project uses as its basis The Small Press Collections of Little Magazines and Poetry Store, held in UCL Special Collections. Staff and students have been afforded hands-on access to items from the collections, followed by a series of tutorials, workshops (e.g. in the Slade Bindery), and visits to independent booksellers and publishers.

Thursday’s event will include speakers, discussions, a live Risograph publishing workshop, and an exhibition by students and staff from the Slade School of Fine Art of work inspired by the Library’s Small Press Collections.

The event runs from 13:00 – 18:00, followed by a private view of the exhibition in the North Lodge, 18:00 – 20:00. More details can be found on the Slade School of Fine Art website.

Please do come along.

Using twitter for global engagement

Lesley Pitman25 September 2015

We all know that twitter is a powerful tool for communicating across boundaries of all kinds, but in SSEES Library we recently saw evidence that we really were reaching a worldwide audience. Use of the tool tweepsmap (http://tweepsmap.com/!UCLSSEESLibrary), which shows where in the world your followers are located, has shown consistently that 38% of the followers of the @UCLSSEESLibrary account are based outside the UK. Apart from academics, researchers and librarians from academic institutions across the world, they also include official organisations like the US Mission to the OSCE and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), media outlets, journalists (a few important enough to warrant the blue tick) and publishers, as well as the interested public – and of course a few of the more outlandish followers that all twitter accounts attract. Even within the UK the international focus continues, as we are followed by a number of the London embassies, and most recently by the Russian ambassador himself.

We have built up an audience like this by taking our twitter account very seriously, and we do a number of things to ensure that we continue to attract and retain followers of this kind by providing a real service to them. By far the most important factor is the content that we tweet. Our area specialists go out of their way to look out for links to useful sources on the web, particularly if they relate to current news stories. Where possible we tweet links to primary sources which add substance to the summaries and interpretations which appear in the media. This has been particularly important in relation to events in Ukraine, but translates readily to our work on the rest of the region. We also link to new academic resources and digital collections, where they are likely to be of interest and are generally accessible. We are careful to be balanced where matters are controversial, which many are. In this way we have effectively taken the principles of curating a research library and applied them to twitter.

Beyond the content we make an effort to let potential followers know we exist. We look for interesting accounts and follow or retweet them, and then they are likely to return the favour. In the case of the Russian ambassador we had retweeted the Russian Embassy, who had tweeted about the SSEES Centenary Film Festival (book your tickets now at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ssees/centenary/centenary-events/seasonoffilm). Within seconds the ambassador himself was following us. Sometimes the power and speed of twitter takes our breath away.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about this kind of approach to twitter do get in touch. It is daunting at first, but enormously rewarding.

information for researchers

Lesley Pitman19 August 2013

As part of our strategic work to improve our support for researchers a small team of staff from the Academic Support Group has created a new checklist and leaflet to be used in researcher induction, and a new web page designed to bring together in one place all the services we offer researchers.  You can find the checklist and leaflet on Libnet at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/libnet/strat-pol/strategy-2011/research-sup, and the draft webpage is at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/research-support.

The idea is to have them ready for the new academic year, so do have a look and let us know what you think. All comments and suggestions are very welcome.