Archive for GitHub

Team News from the Vale

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 26, 2017 by telescoper

We have a short break in the schedule for our induction event here at the Cardiff Vale Resort Hotel. Yesterday we had a full schedule of presentations, an excellent interactive training session by Cardiff PhD student Ed Fauchon-Jones about version control and the use of Github, an ongoing `hackathon event’, and a networking event with our industrial partners. It’s been a busy but very exciting and enjoyable start to the new Centre for Doctoral Training. This afternoon we have more activities, but this morning the new students have been sent out into the countryside in land rovers for a `Team Building’ event, leaving us old fogeys behind to enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet back in the hotel.

One of the aims of the hackathon has been to build teamwork. The students are in groups of three or four. Each group has been given a bit of old software (written in Fortran) and charged with the task of figuring out what it does and then rewriting it in a modern programming environment (most of them are using Python). That plan was that by the end of this afternoon they should be able to present us a working piece of code. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ve allowed enough time so it may be that the teams don’t all finish their challenge, but it’s been fun to see how they’ve tackled the problems. I’m old enough to remember Fortran very well, so I was able to help a couple of the groups by explaining some of its idiosyncracies.

We discovered last night that the Leeds United football team is staying in this hotel in advance of their game this evening against Cardiff City. Some of the players were in the bar last night, but I didn’t recognise any of them. With Leeds currently top of the Championship I’m not sure to what extent their team needs building, but they’re playing a Cardiff City team which is in third place, level on points and separated only by goal difference, so it should be a good game tonight.

Anyway, I’d better get on and get some work done before the students get back. We have a full afternoon in front of us, and then we have to tackle the logistics of getting everyone back to Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol respectively!

Here is a picture of the students along with a few of the staff that attended the event, taken during the last afternoon. Happily the students all got back safely from their adventures this morning!

UPDATE: 27th September. This event finished yesterday evening and we left just as Leeds United were getting ready to depart in their team coach for their match against Cardiff City last night. Cardiff City won 3-1.

The Open Journal for Astrophysics Project

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 10, 2014 by telescoper

I owe many people various apologies for not posting anything for a while about the Open Journal for Astrophysics. For a start I have to admit that the call for test submissions last year was a bit premature. I should have been more patient and ensured that the system was complete before going public. I hope nobody has been too seriously inconvenienced by the ongoing delay.

The project has got stalled a bit largely because I have just had too many things to do to devote enough time to complete the final stages needed to go fully live and also one of the people helping with the project Arfon Smith moved to a new job. Arfon and Chris Lintott have posted an account of the project so far which gives a bit more detail about how we wanted to realize the project (hosted by GitHub); the code development has involved major work by Robert Simpson and Stuart Lynn in addition to Arfon and Chris.  In essence they say that the job is now about 80% complete. I would have said it was more like 75%, so the OJFA is in some sense just the OJF at the moment! Much of what remains is not actual programming stuff but administrative stuff involved with, e.g., arranging the assignment of  digital object identifiers (DOIs) and so on, all of which has been on my to-do list for several months now.

Anywhere, just to show you that the whole project isn’t just hot air here is a demonstration of the snazzy user interface which we plan to use to facilitate the online refereeing process:

However, in the spirit not only of open access publishing but also of open source programming, Arfon has made available all the codes that have been developed so far. One intention of this is that  these can be adapted  for other OJFs hence the construction of a generic website ( as well as the hope that some folks out there might help us bright the OJFA itself to completion. Anyone out there with the requisite skills is welcome to volunteer, either through the comments box here or through the OJ repository. If we can get enough volunteers we can meet and put together a plan to bring this idea to completion at last.

Despite being forced to accept that my own workload makes it difficult for me to be as involved as I’d like to be in this project I’d still really love to get this project off the ground. I hope I can use the time freed up by no longer being a member of RAS Council to work on the OJFA. I no longer have a conflict of interest in that regard either; like many other learned societies the RAS currently makes a large fraction of its income from academic publishing!

As Arfon mentions in his piece, the recent BICEP2 episode in particular provides pretty strong motivation that we need a new concept of academic publishing. Practical difficulties may have intervened for now but the motivation for the project itself is stronger now than it has ever been.