I am proud to announce that this week’s Nature features an opinion piece by me, arguing that all science software–from tiny scripts to huge models–should be published. There is also a related news article–with quotes from many luminaries, distinguished company for yours truly–about the very prevalent use of software in science, and some related problems (primarily a lack of training and openness).
This issue is important for the whole of science, and I was delighted to be approached by Nature to write the article. However, the word-limit was quite strict and it was not possible to address many questions and concerns. Over the next few weeks we will be posting a number of blog articles and white papers here on the Foundation website, to help fill in these gaps. Just as a quick bullet-list of tasters:
- No, publication on its own is not enough. We want to see open-source publication, so that code can be re-used by other scientists and join the great competitive collaborative enterprise that is peer-reviewed science.
- Yes, training is important and must be funded. If I had to pick five top software skills which all scientists should learn, they would be source code management, defect tracking, literate programming, unit testing, and evolutionary development.
- Yes, open development is important. Open source-code management, open defect-tracking. Sourceforge or Google Code are good models here; there are also science-specific open workflow tools.
- Yes, there are specific requirements and a specific urgency in climate science, because of present and future public policies which are developed and decided based on the science results. Public support for these policies has been substantially eroded, in part due to doubts about climate science software. That is why the Foundation exists.
- Yes, I am an outsider, but I have known scientists all my life and have worked with climate scientists for several years on Clear Climate Code. I do know what I’m talking about.
- Yes, right now the Foundation is just tiny, and unfunded. But we have advisors, goals, a plan, and are seeking sponsorships and partnerships. We won’t be so small for long.
- Yes, our goals are ambitious, but the longest program starts with a single line of code.
This week I am in Brussels talking to NGOs and European officials, building up the organisational networks which we will need to have any effect on policies of agencies and inter-governmental bodies. So I haven’t actually been able to pick up a copy of Nature. I look forward to seeing my name in print when I get home tomorrow.