EOSC EVERSE: Paving the way towards a European Virtual Institute for Research Software Excellence
RESEARCH SOFTWARE NEEDS GOOD ENGINEERING AND CLEAR ORGANISATIONAL PRACTICES
Software is ubiquitous in Research. Communities have created numerous software applications that are essential to progress in their fields. The reliability of these applications, how effectively they can be reused and their long-term sustainability, are critical aspects for future progress.
Imagine for instance, a scenario where doctors and scientists are using software to analyse medical data to make their diagnosis (e.g. to support precision medicine). If the software isn’t built with strong engineering principles and clear processes, there is more chance of errors going undetected. Just like a medical instrument needs to be reliable for accurate diagnoses, software used in healthcare must be trustworthy to ensure the safety and well-being of patients.
Trust in research software longevity requires transparency, good engineering and clear organisational practices that enable continuity for example by enabling effective handover . To ensure research software curation, quality, preservation and adoption of best practices tailored to developers at all levels, from researchers who code to Research Software Engineers (RSEs), we need to adopt an approach that accounts for the varying types and complexity of research software. The three-tier model for research software, namely analysis code, prototype tools and research software infrastructure, aims to capture this complexity and will be used as a basis for supporting research software excellence in EVERSE. Recognition and credit for developers and software are essential components of a coherent strategy to promote sustainable software practices.
Under the coordination of the Institute of Applied Biosciences (INAB) of the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, (CERTH), the European EVERSE project aims to create a framework for research software and code excellence, collaboratively designed and championed by the research communities across the five EOSC Science Clusters science-clusters.eu:
- Astronomy and particle physics
- Environmental sciences
- Life sciences
- Photon & neutron science
- Social science and the humanities
In collaboration with national Research Software Expertise Centres (e.g. Software Sustainability Institute, Netherlands eScience Center). EVERSE will build a European Network of Research Software Quality and set the foundations of a future Virtual Institute for Research Software Excellence. EVERSE starts in spring 2024 and will run for 36 months with 18 partners across 10 countries.
Research Software Quality Kit (RSQKit) - enabling the journey
EVERSE will address challenges involving community curation, quality assessment, and best practices for research software. This collective knowledge will be captured in the Research Software Quality toolkit (RSQkit), an open knowledge base to gather and curate expertise that will contribute to high-quality software and code across different disciplines. By embedding the RSQkit and services into the EOSC Science Clusters through pilot cases of research software in the three tiers, EVERSE will demonstrate improvements in the quality of research software and maximise its reuse, leading to standardised software development practices and sustainable research software. EVERSE will drive recognition of software, support training and career progress for those engaged with research software development (from researchers who code to RSEs) and enable higher software quality standards. EVERSE will aid empirical software engineering research where the focus is on understanding quality measures for research software and the adoption of best practices.
Cross-fertilisation, acceleration and culture change
EVERSE will develop the European Network for Research Software Quality, cross-fertilise different research domains, act as a lobbying organisation, and raise awareness of software as a key enabler in research. The project will accelerate research and innovation through improving the quality of research software and code. EVERSE’s is focused on cultural change where research software is recognised as a first-class citizen of the scientific process, and the people contributing to it are credited for their efforts.
Benefit, impact and efficiency
Groups and individuals will benefit from EVERSE: EOSC Science Clusters, Research Infrastructures, Research Performing Organisations (RPOs), research departments at universities and RPOs, including computer science departments, research groups, individual researchers, RSEs, students, funding agencies, policy makers and the public.
The implementation of the project will have a multifaceted impact at the scientific, economic and societal level. The embedding of Open Research practices in the Science Clusters will be one of the impactful cultural and behavioural changes enabled by EVERSE and act as a model for other research communities. Recognition of research software, of the people who build and maintain it, and awareness of quality standards relating to research software will become de facto. More efficient use of financial, computational and human resources around research software will be made possible by access to higher quality standards, a change in culture and better trained and recognised staff.
UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER CONTRIBUTIONS
The University of Manchester is participating in EVERSE with both the eScience Lab (Prof. Carole Goble, Shoaib Sufi, and Aleksandra Nenadic) and the Manchester Particle Physics Group (Prof. Caterina Doglioni, co-lead of work package 4).
Building on its engagement in EOSC-Life, Software Sustainability Institute, ELIXIR and FAIR-IMPACT, the eScience Lab will focus on gathering best practice for research software quality and software development practices (work package 2) and document this in the Research Software Quality toolkit (RSQkit), building on the RDMkit handbook approach.
The Particle Physics group will co-lead the integration of EVERSE into the EOSC science clusters and their emerging use cases, ensuring that researchers have an active part in the process of defining, designing and deploying excellent research software.
The project is funded by Horizon Europe call HORIZON-INFRA-2023-EOSC-01-02 (#101129744).