5 things about software for research

Software is a critical element of many research endeavours, and not just scientific ones – And needs to be recognised as such.

In response to the initiative by the UK’s Software Sustainability Institute to lead a petition for greater recognition of the role of software in research — “Software is fundamental to research” — I thought I would outline 5 key points I consider to be essential. They are:

  1. Software is a critical element of many research endeavours, and not just scientific ones – And needs to be recognised as such.
  2. Software needs to be properly designed, implemented, supported and maintained over its entire lifecycle, as an essential part of research infrastructure – just like any other physical research infrastructure asset. This is expensive to do and needs to be financially provided for accordingly.
  3. The costs associated with software creation, configuration and use, and maintenance are mainly recurring personnel costs (and sometimes also licensing costs) rather than fixed capital costs – this needs to be provided for in research infrastructure and project funding mechanisms.
  4. People writing software need to be properly trained and experienced — in order to avoid costly problems downstream. In general, research post-docs and PhD students should not be expected to write their own software unless they have specific reasons, interest and skills to do so – because it distracts from what they are supposed to focus on i.e., their research.
  5. People writing software within the academic sector need to be properly recognised for their contribution and expertise, in ways that are alternates to peer-reviewed publication and academic promotion — because it is often not possible or appropriate to use these mechanisms for such persons.

If you agree with these principles, please support the cause by signing here: https://www.change.org/p/everyone-in-the-research-community-we-must-accept-that-software-is-fundamental-to-research-or-we-will-lose-our-ability-to-make-groundbreaking-discoveries)

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