BEAR services for IAHR

Having been told by Farina that we need to come up with an ice breaker question that was not controversial, I was pondering on what it should be. Several days later I had come up with “Is a Jaffa cake a cake or a biscuit?” I decided to test it out on my colleagues. Oh boy, that’s not a question to ask! Several hours of discussion followed and we’re still talking about it a month later!

When Grace introduced us I was still without a question but Gemma came up with one, phew I got out of that one!

BEAR (Birmingham Environment for Academic Research) was set up a few years ago to cater for researchers’ complex computing needs. We have grown significantly in the last year and now offer the following free services:

  • Storage, each PI/supervisor can request up to 3TB per project (Research Data Store)
  • Life Science specific storage and compute (CaStLeS)
  • Sync and share Dropbox-type facilities with a 25GB quota (BEAR DataShare)
  • High Performance Computing (HPC) – A supercomputer where you can run your analyses, using programs such as STATA and R (BlueBEAR)
  • GitLab – versioning control for software/datasets
  • Video Conferencing and visualisation (BEAR View)
  • Virtual machines – for when you need that extra va va voom for your analysis (BEAR Cloud)
  • Research software engineers – for help with your coding (BEAR Software)

All our information is here: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/bear

To help you on your way we have training courses to get you up to speed with our services:

  • Using our HPC systems:
    • How to use the Linux command line (Introduction to Linux [for using BlueBEAR])
    • How to submit jobs onto our HPC system (BEAR Necessities)
  • Application specific training via our YouTube channel (BEAR UoB training):
    • Fluent/OpenFOAM/CFD
    • Abaqus
    • Matlab

N.B. If you would like to help us develop more content on your specific application then please let us know. Two areas that are particularly in demand at the moment are STATA and R.

All this is well and good but we want to make sure that we connect people up who are interested in the same areas and initiate collaborations throughout the University, which in itself is difficult as researchers tend to stick within School departments and research groups. So we have setup our series of ‘Digital Research Conversations’ workshops every term where researchers can come together to discuss issues related to data management. Our first two have been well attended and covered:

If you have an idea on a subject please let us know and we will organise it for you.

We are also bringing researchers together through the specific applications that they use in our Special Interest Groups (SIGs). We are currently facilitating five groups:

  • Academic Programmers
  • Stata
  • Finite Element Method
  • Bioinformatics (starting up)

We would really like to start up an R group within the University, please let us know if you’re interested and would like to help facilitate this.

For those interested in data analysis and software development, a new peer support group has just started called The Hacker Within programme. The group is led by Matt Bret who recently joined the School of Psychology from Berkeley where he was exposed to the developing movements in open scientific software, reproducibility and data science. The group aims to share skills in data analysis and software development enabling researchers to choose the right tools.

Data is our building blocks – we want researchers to be able to manage it well with centrally provided, backed-up storage – which is where we come in.  We currently do not allow data which is:

  • Non-anonymised patient data
  • Non-anonymised medical data
  • Non-anonymised NHS data

If you need to talk to us then we hold a series of weekly drop-in sessions (see here for dates). Alternatively, if you can’t make these we are happy to come out and visit – just email us at bearinfo@contacts.bham.ac.uk or log a call via the IT ServiceDesk.


Research Engagement team (L-R: Earl, Debbie, Stephanie & Aslam)

We really enjoyed coming in to talk to you all for what I thought would be 20 mins but turned out to be a lot longer (apologies 🙂 ). If you’d like to know how your colleagues are using our services then talk to Linda Hamilton on using HPC (supercomputer), and Gavin Rudge on his novel use of collecting data using BEAR DataShare (sync and share).

Aslam Ghumra, ext 45877


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