Mission and vision
The Software Sustainability Institute cultivates better, more sustainable, research software to enable world-class research.
We help people build better software, and we work with researchers, developers, funders and infrastructure providers to identify key issues and best practice in scientific software.
From the grand problems that push the boundaries of human knowledge, to day-to-day research tasks, software has made an invaluable contribution to advancing research.
We believe that the full benefits of software in research will only be realised when software is accepted as a valid research output.
We call for all researchers to have access to basic software training to help them harness the power of software for their research.
We say that there must be reward and recognition for Research Software Engineers: the people who contribute to research by developing software.
Finally, we argue that good software practices create better software, and that better software improves the reproducibility and reusability of research.
The Software Sustainability Institute represents the needs of software users and developers in the research community. We lobby for the recognition of the role of software in research, better software education for the research community, recognition of the role of people who develop research software and better engineering of software to provide confidence in the results that software generates.
Recognition of software as a research output
Many researchers invest a considerable amount of time into the development of software for their research, but this time is not rewarded in the same way as time that is invested into writing papers. The metrics used for determining the quality of research must be updated to reflect the role of software in research, and to reward the time invested into developing useful software.
An understanding of software development is an important skill for a researcher to develop, and one that should be seen in the same light as an understandng of statistics, ethics or information gathering. A basic introduction to software development should be a core part of any researcher's training, and more advanced courses should be made available to researchers who wish to learn more.
If we are to include more software expertise in research, we must make it easier to fund software experts on research projects. The first step towards recognition is to name the role of these software experts, who we now call Research Software Engineers.
Research councils state that funding is available for people who do not directly contribute to research, but who develop software that is used by the researchers. It appears that this view is not shared by many academic institutions. Funding for software experts must be clarified and this clear message must be communicated to academic institutions within the UK.
The reproducibility of research is at the very heart of the scientific method. As more research is based on results that are generated by software, there must be an increased focus on developing software that is reliable and which can be easily proven to produce reproducible results.