Better software

A national facility for cultivating and improving research software to support world-class research

Software is fundamental to research: 7 out of 10 report their work would be impossible without it.

From short, thrown-together temporary scripts to solve a specific problem, through an abundance of complex spreadsheets analysing collected data, to the hundreds of software engineers and millions of lines of code behind international efforts such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Square Kilometre Array, there are few areas of research where software does not have a fundamental role.

The Institute is a leading international authority on research software sustainability, working with researchers, funders, software engineers, managers, and other stakeholders across the research spectrum. The use of software in research continues to grow, and the Institute plays a key role in helping the research community to help itself. We have built a network of over 60 Fellows from across research disciplines, championed research software and software career paths to stakeholders, worked with over 50 projects to improve their codes, written guides on all aspects of software sustainability read by over 50,000 people, and organised training events for thousands of learners. Our mission is to cultivate better, more sustainable, research software to enable world-class research (“Better software, better research”).

The Institute is based at the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton, and draws on a team of experts with a breadth of experience in software development, project and programme management, research facilitation, publicity and community engagement.

The importance of sustainability

Sustainability means that the software you use today will be available - and continue to be improved and supported - in the future.

Better science through superior software

Our work is focussed around four themes we believe are fundamental to doing research correctly in the digital age. These are related to our manifesto.

The first of these is Skills and Training: creating a capable research software community by enabling access to software development training for all researchers and teaching them methods to advance their research.

Recognition and Reward promotes and contributes to systems of credit for good software development and reuse practice.

Career Paths recognises and champions the varied job roles associated with research software; with a primary focus on the academic sector but suggesting industrial practice where applicable.

Finally, Reproducible Research promotes the fundamental place of software in supporting confidence in the research process and its results.

Taken together, these enable the efficient and effective use of software to tackle both the grand challenges that push the boundaries of human knowledge to day-to-day research software tasks.

Expert knowledge

We work with research groups from all disciplines, which gives us a broad understanding of the problems researchers face when using software. We use this expertise to ensure that you make the right choices about the software you use - and avoid the pitfalls.

We can help you gain the skills you need through our guides and other resources, or through training and collaboration. We can evaluate software based on your requirements, or you can review the software yourself with the help of our online tools.

We keep you up to date through our blog, which features guest authors on a range of software and research topics.

More information

For more information, see our introductory powerpoint slides or our flyer.