Have you ever gone through life completely oblivious to something? I recently experienced that sensation when I stumbled upon an entire ecosystem of institutions, only learning about them after starting this blog. These organizations are dedicated to promoting better scientific software, which aligns with the mission of my blog. I wanted to know what's going on, so let's have a look at what's out there.
I noticed the names of the fields of "scientific software" vary a little, but I consider all of these roughly equivalent:
Research Software Engineering (RSE)
Yes, there are differences between them, but all of them involve turning scientific knowledge into algorithms and software, and writing software to do scientific research or other exploratory research. My apologies if someone has a strong feeling about a name meaning something entirely different from the others.
This article may not be my most interesting one, but I'd like to curate and store everything I've found for future reference. People on LinkedIn have already been kind enough to assist me when I asked nicely.
How many institutes are there?
My goodness, so many!
My journey started by encountering a post about Better Scientific Software on LinkedIn. I was impressed that this institute gives away $25000 fellowship grants to people helping to improve scientific software.
But after some searching and asking around, we can quickly find many more:
BE-RSE - Belgium Research Software Engineers community
DE-RSE - Society for Research Software in Germany
NL-RSE - The community of Research Software Engineers in the Netherlands
NORDIC-RSE - Nordic Research Software Engineers Community
RSE-AUNZ - The RSE Association of Australia and New Zealand
SocRSE - Society of Research Software Engineering - UK
US-RSE - The US Research Software Engineer Association
Danish RSE - Danish Research Software Engineers Community
RSE Asia - You get the idea
The list doesn't stop here, there are all kinds of more creatively named organizations:
SURF in the Netherlands, has research-oriented IT
Hardware Acceleration Network in the Netherlands
Digital Research Alliance of Canada
the Australia Research Data Commons (ARDC),
the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI)
Le Group Calcul, French obviously
IDEAS initiative of the US department of energy.
Some of these groups provide grants to researchers. Others provide paid consulting services. Most of them seem to blog and try to create a "community", which is typically a Slack channel to chat, but sometimes includes dedicated conferences.
Most of these organizations focus on the interests of a single nation, probably because most funding comes from governments. But there exist a few global institutes for scientific software.
This Research Software Engineers International organization claims to be an umbrella for many other RSE organizations across the globe.
But wait, there is another one, the Research Software Alliance (ReSA) that claims to be a worldwide RSE institute.
There is a UK-centric Society of Research Software Engineering, but someone mentioned they have a very active international Slack channel. And this society organizes a global conference called RSECon.
When it comes to conferences, there is the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) which I know from their conference recently in Amsterdam.
There's a Research Software Directory that tries to make an overview of ... you guessed it: research software. It tries to index known software packages, but also has an overview of all contributing organizations.
The only organization I knew before all this, is NumFocus. Which has a slightly different goal of promoting open-source numerical computing software, such as NumPy and Julia, and sponsors conferences such as PyData and JuliaCon. Because of their visibility at conferences and heavily used packages, they are much better known.
Competing with NumFocus, or maybe complementing, is the Essential Open Source Software for Science by Chan Zuckerberg. Funding lots of open source package improvements it seems, many from NumFocus.
Very few of these institutes are focused on industry or industry collaboration. According to the Research Software Alliance (ReSA) on this webpage, only 1/12th of their funding is from the industry. I have also noticed that most of the websites focus on academic research.
Who is doing numerical and scientific computing in the industry?
I bet a lot of companies. In our JuliaLang Eindhoven Meetup we would like to find everyone doing numerical computing in our area. Generalizing bluntly, I believe the Julia meetups attract numerical computing and scientific software enthusiasts, while PyData meetups attract more data science and AI enthusiasts.
Another trick to finding industry users could be by looking at Mathworks and JuliaHub customers. You'll find examples from fields in automotive, semiconductors, finance, pharmaceutical and many more. Successful numerical computing service providers are good at finding their industry users.
Maybe I will write down a good industry overview in another article. I am interested in learning how scientists do numerical computing and write software at places I haven't heard from yet.
There are many organizations promoting and improving scientific software practices. I've only done a quick sweep through the field and found plenty. I may expand this list in the future with updated findings. Whether you are looking for grants or a community of like-minded individuals, you can get started with this overview. Or just be amazed like me that such organizations exist at all.