By Kirsty Pringle, SSI Project Manager
We are excited to launch a new publication– the SSI Midterm Review– which draws together some of the achievements of the Software Sustainability Institute since its foundation in 2010. The document comprises 12 case studies that demonstrate the key role that the SSI has played in improving research culture, revolutionising access to software training and working with our collaborators to develop policies that better recognise and support the vital role of software in research.
Read the SSI Midterm Review.
The third phase of the Software Sustainability Institute was funded in 2018 with a £6.5M grant across five years. All eight research councils within UKRI came together to fund the Institute, a first for UK research funding and a reflection of its truly interdisciplinary nature. Often one of the conditions of a long grant is a formal review midway, in the case of SSI3 this should have taken place right in the middle of the pandemic but it was shifted towards the end of our funding period. To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have taken the time away from our normal activities to prepare a review document if it hadn’t been a condition of our funding, but in taking a step back from our day to day work we were able to reflect and think about what the SSI has achieved and, once you start collecting the evidence, there is a lot to cover!
The document contains 12 case studies that illustrate the broad work of the SSI, the first three summarise activities that the SSI is well known for (i.e. the Fellowship Program, the foundation of the Research Software Engineering movement and Collaborations Workshop), others highlight the key role that SSI has played in increasing access to software training (not just delivering and developing training ourselves but empowering others to do the same), and finally other case studies summarise the role of SSI working both nationally and internationally to improve software policy (e.g. the Software Citation Principles).
In gathering evidence, we reached out to many of the people we have worked over the years to better understand how we have influenced them, for each case study it was easy to find people willing to share their experience. One Fellow shared how the program had affected their outlook:
“It gave me new hope for the way science can be” - Software Sustainability Institute Fellow
Many participants on training courses liked the way the courses were addressed their needs:
“I have learned so much! Great to have a software sustainability course tailored to researchers!” - Research Software Camp participant
A consultancy customer who worked with our software team to improve their code commented:
“I understood very quickly that the service was here to help, not to judge me.” - Software Health Check participant.
While preparing the document we became aware of recurring themes of trust and community throughout each activity. Back at the beginning of the SSI, the decision was made to be as collaborative as possible (summarised in our motto “collaborate, don’t compete”). Reflecting now we see that this strategy has been core to the success of the Institute, it has resulted in not only building extensive networks in which the SSI is a trusted and respected partner but has also allowed us to work across many more fields than would have otherwise been possible, greatly increasing our impact and benefit to the research community.
Going forward, we are building exciting plans for the future, but some things will remain the same. We will continue to build and extend these collaborations to be a trusted voice in helping to create improvements in research software across the whole research domain.
Read the SSI Midterm Review.
History of the Research Software Engineering movement
Research Software Camps
Research Software Healthchecks