Cultivating research software to support world-class research
Software is fundamental to research: 7 out of 10 researchers report their work would be impossible without it. From short, thrown-together temporary scripts to solving a specific problem, 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, there are few areas of research where software does not have a fundamental role.
Since 2010, the Software Sustainability Institute has facilitated the advancement of software in research by cultivating better, more sustainable, research software to enable world-class research (“Better software, better research”). In 2018, we were awarded funding from all seven research councils. Our mission is to become the world-leading hub for research software practice.
The Institute is based at the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton, and draws on a team of experts with a breadth of experience in software development, training, project and programme management, research facilitation, publicity and community engagement.
The importance of sustainability
Sustainability means that the software you use today will be available - and continue to be improved and supported - in the future.
Securing a future for research software requires more than just quality code, which is why, over the years, we have striven to help researchers build and use better software through better practices, and advocate for culture change within their communities and institutions.
Building on our experience and expert understanding of the state of research software in the UK, our work focuses around four objectives:
nurturing the growth of communities of practice to foster the sharing of expertise across the entire research community,
conducting research to provide insight into the use of software in research,
continuing enabling widespread adoption of research software practices, and
offering training and guidance to help build a capable researcher community and increase the recognition of software in research.
Better software, better research
Over the years, the Institute has advocated for and developed an understanding of the fundamental importance of research software, its developers and users, its requirements, and how software advances research in the UK. We have learnt a lot from working with a wide range of researchers across disciplines, and we are always looking for new ways to engage and collaborate with people and their communities:
We fund researchers who want to improve software practice in their areas. Our cross-disciplinary network of 160+ Fellows are advocates for research software best practices. Applications to our Fellowship Programme open every year.
Since 2012, we’ve campaigned for Research Software Engineers (RSEs). We helped create the RSE Association and, in 2019, the Society of Research Software Engineers.
We have worked on 60+ successful projects in partnership with universities and other research organisations. Our Open Call and Online Sustainability Evaluation offer support to research projects.
We have trained 4000+ researchers in essential software and data skills, through our partnership with The Carpentries. Anyone can attend or organise a workshop or become an instructor at their institution.
We help research projects with software development processes and techniques to protect their software and ensure it has a sustainable future. On our website, you can access 80+ of our guides and top tips on an array of software and research topics.
We run events and workshops that gather the community together to debate timely challenges. Our Collaborations Workshop has seen many new concepts proposed for the first time and terms coined that are now at the core of our work (see “A not-so-brief history of Research Software Engineers”.
We keep you up to date through our blog, which features guest authors on a range of software and research topics.
Read our manifesto or check out how you can become part of our activities.
The Software Sustainability Institute has been supported by EPSRC through grant EP/H043160/1 and EPSRC, BBSRC and ESRC Grant EP/N006410/1 and EPSRC, BBSRC, ESRC, NERC, AHRC, STFC and MRC grant EP/S021779/1.