Update: There has been some good discussion on this post at the LinkedIn group on Scientific Software Development and Management. See also the papers by Victoria Stodden and the great complmentary article by Ilian Todorov.
Update 2: There is now a Part 2 to this post: The research software engineer.
Last week I attended the 2012 Collaborations Workshop at Queen’s College in Oxford. Organized by the Software Sustainability Institute its goal was to bring together software developers and researchers and relect upon how both groups interact and if anything needs to be changed.
I only found out about the two day workshop and the existence of the SSI a few weeks before but immediately signed up. It was the first time I attended a conference so relevant to my own position and work. There were about 50 attendees, all in a similar position: PhD degree, working in academia or research lab, strong computational/software skills and working closely with researchers from at least one other scientific field (with a strong representation from biology/chemistry).
The conference went very smoothly, expertly managed and organized by Simon Hettrick and Neil Chue Hong. There were hardly any conventional talks, rather lightning talks and a whole series of break-out sessions which resulted in a lot of interesting discussions. One of the fundamental problems that kept coming up was the problem of defining ourselves as a group. What kind of species were we?