Software is fundamental for modern day research. In a recent survey [1], carried out among researchers at 15 Russell Group universities in the UK, 7 out of 10 researchers responded that it would not be practical to conduct their work without software. Software has evolved from an useful tool into a highly valuable and complex research infrastructure with a lifetime that exceeds that of funding cycles several times.

Despite its significance, academic software is often poorly managed and maintained. Common practices do not stand up to a comparison with commercial standards in the corporate world. The fact that in academia software is often left for afterthoughts does not only jeopardise research projects [2]. It is also inefficient, unsustainable and in fact unjustifiable. A significant amount of public money is being invested into the development of new functionalities, which are then left to degenerate beyond their usability.

The UK community of Research Software Engineers (UKRSE) has come together to raise awareness of this issue, to campaign for change, and to share knowledge and collaborate to improve research software. UKRSE is in the vanguard of a new profession. Research software engineers combine expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research. This pioneering campaign, spearheaded by EPSRC, is the first of its kind in the world and has now attracted global attention.

[1] Simon J. Hettrick, Mario Antonioletti, Les Carr, et al., “UK Research Software Survey 2014″; DOI:10.5281/zenodo.14809
[2] Greg Miller, “A Scientist’s Nightmare: Software Problem Leads to Five Retractions”, Science 314, 1856-1857 (2006); DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5807.1856