SSI will 'rescue' previously-loved research software

A body tasked with the task of ensuring that software developed for research programmes continues to be developed to its fullest potential has been set-up with a grant for £4.2m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) will bring together software engineers and academics from three computer science centres: the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science, and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) at the University of Edinburgh. Their aim is to manage research software beyond its original funding period, and maximise its value to generations of users to come. Until now there has been no co-ordinated way of sustaining such software when it comes to the end of its funded life.

“Some [of the research] software gets abandoned when projects end,” says Neil Chue Hong, director of the Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute OMII-UK, and now of the SSI. “Some systems are maintained in pockets on a ‘best-efforts’ basis, rather than on the basis of any longer term strategy.”

Chue Hong adds: “Robust software is key to research. The remit of the SSI is to [build] self-sustaining communities around important software [that] enables the development and evolution of the code to be carried-out within the environment of the people who use it.”

A wide range of disciplines will benefit from the SSI’s work, Chue Hong believes, with early projects addressing climate change, nuclear fusion, and medical imaging.

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