Scientific Software Use and Need for Software Access for Reproducible Research

Lucas N. Joppa, Greg McInerny, Richard Harper, Lara Salido, Kenji Takeda, Kenton O’Hara, David Gavaghan, and Stephen Emmott have a new article in Science: “Troubling Trends in Scientific Software Use” (Volume 340, 17 May 2013, pages 814-815, DOI:10.1126/science.1231535, In the article, they detail the problems, concerns, and needs for open access to software to ensure reproducibility of research. As more and more fields become increasingly computationally intensive and data intensive where the data isn’t always easily decoupled from and then followed through for processing and interpretation, this need is becoming more acute. The article itself calls for peer review of scientific software code and education to ensure this can be supported. The article ends with a call to action:

Societally important science relies on models and the software implementing them. The scientific community must ensure that the findings and recommendations put forth based on those models conform to the highest scientific expectation. Learning from efforts such as those noted here, and acting upon their findings, may help transform scientific peer-review and training.

This article and the call to action are needed and timely. Nicely enough, this is another area where seemingly separate fields and cultures can collaborate, with computational work in the humanities including and/or being related to software studies and other areas with experience and expertise that can be shared and leveraged in other fields.
Related news includes the announcement that: “Computers & Graphics for the first time has published executable papers in its special issue on 3D Object Retrieval within the online article framework on ScienceDirect.” The news on this is from InfoDocket, which is sharing from Elsevier and it includes a link to “learn more about the Executable Papers.”
All of this informs and has implications for work like that being done at UF within the Data Management/Curation Task Force in support overall for scholarly cyberinfrastructure, so I’m very interested in seeing more.