[R] Why software fails in scientific research

John Maindonald john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
Mon Mar 1 01:04:27 CET 2010

I came across this notice of an upcoming webinar.   The issues identified in the 
first paragraph below seem to me exactly those that the R project is designed
to address.  The claim that "most research software is barely fit for purpose 
compared to equivalent systems in the commercial world" seems to me not
quite accurate!  Comments!

A Crack in the Code: Why software fails in scientific research, and how to fix it. 
Thursday, March 25, 2010, 3:00 PM GMT 

In the 60 years since the invention of the digital computer, millions of lines of code have been developed to support scientific research. Although an increasingly important part of almost all research projects, most research software is barely fit for purpose compared to equivalent systems in the commercial world. The code is hard to understand or maintain, lacking documentation and version control, and is continually ‘re-invented’ as the code writers move on to new jobs. This represents a tremendous waste of the already inadequate resources that are put into its development. We will investigate how this situation has come about, why it is important to the future of research, and what can be done about it. 

Robert McGreevy will draw on his extensive experience at the STFC ISIS Facility, and explain how these issues are being addressed for the benefit of research science globally. Nicholas Draper, consultant at Tessella, will then expand on this, using the example of the Mantid project at ISIS. 

Tessella (www.tessella.com) is a technology and consultancy firm, based in Oxford.

ISIS (International Species Information System) (www.isis.org) has as its mission the facilitation of "international collaboration in the collection and sharing of knowledge on animals and their environments for zoos, aquariums and related organizationsvalues the use of objective data to benefit conservation, science, animal welfare, education, and collection management."

John Maindonald             email: john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
phone : +61 2 (6125)3473    fax  : +61 2(6125)5549
Centre for Mathematics & Its Applications, Room 1194,
John Dedman Mathematical Sciences Building (Building 27)
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200.

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