Better Software, Better Research
Software is increasingly playing a big part in scientific research, but in most cases the growth is organic. The life time of research software is often as short as the duration of a postdoctoral contract: Once the researcher moves on, custom-written niche code is frequently not well documented, components are not reusable, and the overall development effort is likely lost.
This is a case study in looking at the evolution of software for research in the field of genomics within my research group at the Department of Genetics at Cambridge University. While our research questions changed over the past decade, we moved from Perl code and regular expressions to R and statistical analysis, and from there to agent-based simulations in Java. Not only will I discuss the languages and tools used as well as the processes and how they have evolved over the years. It also covers the factors that influence the nature of the growth, such as funding, but also how 'open source' as a default has changed our development work. We also take a look into the future to see how we predict the software usage will grow.
Also, in presenting the problems and discussing possible solution, this talk will look at the role institutions play in helping address these issues. In particular the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI, http://software.ac.uk/) works in the UK to promote the development, maintenance and (re)use of research software.
The Eclipse Foundation, with the Science Working Group, works to facilitate software sharing and reuse. How can organisations like the SSI and Eclipse align their strategies and activities for maximum effect?