User Programme Software
19 Nov 2020



The user programme software group develops and supports the software used for proposals, visits, ERA & other systems needed to prepare for experiments


​Simon: a developer in our ​Proposals & Outcomes team


​​Need help? Problem to report?

​Please contact the user office​ in the first instance as they can usually resolve most issues for you directly. If you have a specific technical issue, then they will pass your query onto u​​​s and our group's support assistant, Edward. He will then make sure we help resolve the issue as fast as possible.​

Got an idea? 

Great​. We always want to make our software easier to use. We have​​​​​ a long list of things we know we need to improve already but if you've got something brand new you think we should look into, please let us know by contacting us or share your idea when you complete your feedback form​.

​Who we​​​ are

As part of the Computing division, we develop software solutions to enable external users and colleagues to do great science. We mainly do this through the development and maintenance of software to facilitate the user programme processes​. Our software is used by thousands of scientists around the world.

We are trained professional software engineers involved in all stages of each project we undertake, from requirements capture through to deployment and maintenance. We also hire great students and apprentices who are passionate and motivated. They work with us on real software from the start and quickly become a valued member of the team.

What​​ we do

The suite of software we have developed (and continue to maintain to make it even better!) includes:

  • ISIS and CLF Proposal systems: For each experiment, a beam time proposal outlining the scientific case must be submitted. Scientists use our online proposal system to do this.
  • ISIS and CLF Visit Request system: When a proposal is accepted the team of scientists start to plan their visit to RAL to carry out their experiment. They request accommodation and travel using our website. Visitors may also find our Mobile site useful.
  • ISIS Experiment Risk Assessment system: Once an experiment is scheduled the process for assessing experiment and sample safety at ISIS begins. Principal Investigators use our online system to tell us what they intend to do and the hazards involved so we can prepare appropriately.
  • ISIS and CLF Safety Test system: It is important all users of the facilities are aware of the various safety issues of working at RAL. We check they have understood the safety information provided by asking them to take (and pass) an online test.
  • ISIS and CLF Scheduling system: A lot of logistics goes into getting the right people here at the right time with the right kit. Our online scheduling system is used by staff to schedule experiments and the associated sample environment.
  • ISIS User Check system: This system is used by our staff to check if a user has passed the safety test and read the awareness information before allowing entry to the experimental halls.
  • ​Other systems: As well as various other systems we maintain, we have several brand new projects in the pipeline including helping to gather information on the impact of the science experiments done here.

How ​​​we do it

We use various agile techniques and work in a range of technologies depending on the requirements - we choose the best tool for the job.​

We have daily standups, weekly code reviews and have recently introduced weekly design reviews. We love GitHub and can't remember life before Jenkins.​​​​

We design object oriented software and make extensive use of mock up software to communicate with our customers and develop prototypes.

We program in Java and C# and use various persistence frameworks. We regularly refactor and, as appropriate, port code to the latest version. The interfaces between our software systems use technologies such as SOAP and RESTful web services.

User interaction is important to us and we develop GUIs (mainly web-based) for various audiences using mainly ASP.NET, and use third-party libraries such as Telerik as appropriate. HTML5, CSS3, and frontend frameworks are really important to us. Our customers are very engaged and provide great ideas for making our interfaces make their lives easier so they can focus on world-class science.

We develop and support SharePoint for use by internal staff and external collaborators. We use our software engineering skills to deliver great scalable out-of-the-box solutions and support them from the customer's ​initial concept through to ongoing support.

We maintain and develop relational databases using Oracle and SQL Server DBMSs.

We maintain a few legacy systems in Struts 1, a couple of Windows Forms tools, and a decreasing number of user office tools that use Microsoft Access and VBA.

Other things we use

Microsoft IIS, Payara, Apache Tomcat and JBoss Application Server

Various IDEs including Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, and IntelliJ. We also love Balsamiq for mock ups.

Git to manage our codebase and Jenkins to help keep us delivering quality code. We use a variety of testing frameworks and tools to automate testing of both our back-end and front-end code. We also use Artifactory and are in the process of getting set up with Logstash.

​There are various learning and development opportunities available and we are always trying out new technologies to see if they could benefit our colleagues and our users. Ask us about Try It Out days, and the conferences we attend.​

Want to​ join us?

Fancy working with us developing software in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside​? Or remotely at home or at our Daresbury Campus​ in Cheshire?

If you're experienced and want to help us make a difference, we'd love to hear from you. 

Also, if you're interested in a starting your career with us, as an apprentice, intern, vacation or sandwich student, or work experience student, get in touch.

For more information, please see: Careers in Computing

#womenintech #diversityintech​​​ #ComputingForISIS​​


Contact: Facilities Business Systems & Support