What do sociologists, ecologists, economists, engineers, anthropologists, geographers, hydrologists, evolutionary biologists, and environmental scientists all have in common? Software! Science at the intersection of humans and the environment increasingly requires collaborative, interdisciplinary work among researchers with varied computing backgrounds to gather insights from highly diverse data at multiple scales. Reliable software is necessary to achieving this synthesis. At the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), we provide cyberinfrastructure support oriented toward helping researchers choose, apply, and develop software to meet the research needs of the 40+ interdisciplinary projects we support at any given time.
When I first started thinking about how we could create a career path for Research Software Engineers (RSEs) in academia, I assumed it would involve persuading university managers to implement a new career path. Quite frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to the interminable bureaucracy that such a change would require me to navigate. Fortunately, a completely different solution quickly gained traction in the UK: the rise of RSE Groups. An RSE Group is a centralized group, based at a university or other research organization, that employs a number of RSEs and then hires them out to researchers across the organization.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a biologist in possession of a data must be in want of a computer to analyze it on. Or, perhaps not. In 2016 as part of our efforts to better understand the needs of users and potential users of CyVerse (NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure for life sciences), we conducted a survey of NSF-funded investigators to determine what was important for them when it comes to analyzing large datasets.
Software has been both ubiquitous and largely neglected in computational science and engineering (CSE) since before the field became a recognized entity. The interest in CSE software for both practitioners and sponsors has primarily been on the scientific insights and advances it enables rather than on its value as a long-lived tool or product. As a result, the culture of CSE, broadly speaking, has a structure and reward system that focuses on the algorithms and the results, but where good quality research software, as well as the time and effort required to produce it, often tend to be marginalized.
Among the many efforts that are underway as part of NSF’s SI2 program, one of the most cross-cutting efforts is the planning for a US Research Software Institute (URSSI), which was funded in December 2017. This effort aims to plan an institute that would address challenges around making research software sustainable and robust, and more importantly, improve the sustainability of the researchers who develop such software. Some of our initial discussions, described in detail below, have surfaced problems encountered by specific researchers working on specific software applications, but the solutions conceived of and planned for by URSSI are not aimed at any one domain or discipline of research.
Note: This is reposted from the CANARIE Blog My previous blog posts have focused on the research software landscape in Canada, but the challenges and opportunities we face are not different from those in other parts of the world. In this post, I provide a brief overview of three international organizations that CANARIE works with as part of our Research Software program. These organizations are very different in their structure and approach to excellence in research software, but as you’ll see, they are all trying to solve common problems.
In 2016, the UK Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) ran a first survey of Research Software Engineers (RSEs): the people who write code in academia. This produced the first insight into the demographics, job satisfaction, and practices of RSEs. To support and broaden this work, the Institute planned to run the survey every year in the UK and an ever-expanding number of countries so that insight and comparison can be made across the globe.