Author Archives: Peter

Using the ASCL for education

The Astronomy Department at the University of Maryland (College Park) offers a one-credit astronomy scientific computing class, ASTR 288P: Introduction to Astronomical Programming, to provide undergraduates with a foundation in computing. This course is a prerequisite to an advanced-level three-credit course on Computational Astrophysics (ASTR 415).

In ASTR 288P, students learn to work with the UNIX terminal, get the basics of coding with Python and some C, and learn what makefiles are and how to install software, among other topics. The course also introduces students to the ASCL, as for the final class project, students (either alone or in pairs) pick a code from the ASCL, give a short presentation on how they installed and used it, and discuss how that code fits in the large scheme of computing in astrophysics. This allows the students to get a feel for the computational work the astro community is doing and is a good match to test the skills they should have learned in the class.

Facilities and Codes in papers?

Today I was reading the draft of an upcoming thesis defense in our library, and noted the student in question had been using a nice number of codes to support her research. All properly referenced via footnotes, and even some routine names in a “typewriter” font to make them stand out.

Later that afternoon after the weekly graduate un-journal club talk she gave, we and another graduate student got to talking about the ASCL, and explaining to them the triad of paper/data/code that one can view as the three ways our research is now peer review published. In fact, if you look at some recent publications, just after the Acknowledgements, you can find a “Facilities:” line, in which the various facilities (read: observatory/instrument pairs) are listed from which the data in this particular paper were used. We in ASCL have been suggesting that one should add a “Codes:” line as well, with (ASCL) codes used in the paper. Now that ASCL entries are searchable via ADS, there is no reason not to make searching for codes in papers easier. In fact, if you look at the next ADASS conference proceedings, you will find a separate ASCL index in the back of the book!

What do people think, should we ask the editors of journals to make this “Codes:” line a standard feature of papers?