Better Software, Better Research: the challenge of preserving your research and your reputation

2017-12-13T18:11:56Z (GMT) by Neil Chue Hong
Software is fundamental to research. From short, thrown-together temporary scripts, through an abundance of complex spreadsheets analysing collected data, to the hundreds of software engineers and millions of lines of code behind international efforts such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Square Kilometre Array, software has made an invaluable contribution to advancing our research knowledge.

Within the earth and space sciences, data is being generated, collected, processed and analysed in ever greater amounts and detail. However the pace of this improvement leads to challenges around the persistence of research outputs and artefacts. A specific challenge in this field is that often experiments and measurements cannot be repeated, yet the infrastructure used to manage, store and process this data must be continually updated and developed: constant change just to stay still.

The UK-based Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) aims to improve research software sustainability, working with researchers, funders, research software engineers, managers, and other stakeholders across the research spectrum. In this talk, I will present lessons learned and good practice based on the work of the Institute and its collaborators. I will summarise some of the work that is being done to improve the integration of infrastructure for managing research outputs, including around software citation and reward, extending data management plans, and improving researcher skills: “better software, better research”.

Ultimately, being a modern researcher in the geosciences requires you to efficiently balance the pursuit of new knowledge with making your work reusable and reproducible. And as scientists are placed under greater scrutiny about whether others can trust their results, the preservation of your artefacts has a key role in the preservation of your reputation.