With the ever increasing size of scientific collaborations and complexity of scientific instruments the software needed to acquire, process and analyze the gathered data is gaining in complexity and size too. Unfortunately the role and career path of scientists and engineers working on software R&D and developing scientific software is neither clearly established nor defined in many fields of natural science. In addition the exchange of information between scientific software development and computer science departments at universities or computing schools is scattered and de-fragmented into individual initiatives.

Creating a virtual institute

To address the above issues we propose a new effort on an European level, which concentrates on strengthening the role of software developers in natural sciences, acts as a hub for exchange of ideas among different stakeholders in computer science and scientific software and forms a lobbying forum for software engineering in natural sciences on an international level.

The main idea of the institute is to tap into the research knowledge of computer science departments and software engineering schools and make it available for natural science developments. The institute shall obtain, curate and disseminate the so obtained knowledge. Furthermore it aims to:

  • Enable R&D resulting from collaborations of computer science and natural science

  • Establish a career path for scientists and engineers working in software and computing in natural science. e.g. in HEP the recognition of software work and finding / retaining experts is a major concern.

  • Cross-fertilize knowledge between different science domains and make the acquired knowledge available across domain boundaries.

  • Act as a lobbying organisation and raise awareness of software and computing in natural science.

The interaction between software and computing in natural science and core computer science research at universities and engineering schools is mostly happening on an ad-hoc basis and by chance between individuals of the respective fields. Those interactions are most welcome and should continue by all means.

The initiative of SIDIS aims to establish a supporting environment for interactions between natural science and computer science which shall foster closer and better structured collaboration between the two fields. In addition the institute aims to

  • Enable concrete R&D work resulting from the collaboration of computer science and natural science.
  • Establish a career path for scientists and engineers working in software and computing in natural science.
  • Gather, curate and disseminate the acquired knowledge across science domains.
  • Act as lobbying organisation and raise awareness for the need of software and computing in natural science.

We see the following parties to be stakeholders in the context of a SIDIS institute:

  • Natural science research labs and university institutes employ people working in science collaborations and communities and provide the necessary infrastructure to develop and operate scientific instruments.
  • Computer science and software engineering university departments and schools provide core software computing research which can further be used in natural science collaborations.
  • Scientific collaborations and science communities operate current and develop for future natural science research experiments. They provide input on research topics they need to solve within their communities.
  • National and international funding agencies provide the means to sustain the efforts of the institute on the long term.

A close collaboration between computer science and natural science will result in several advantages for various the stakeholders:

  • Computer scientists get access to large amounts of data gathered by natural science experiments. This data could be the actual scientific data gathered for the research purpose but also "accompanying" data such a log files, usage statistics, etc.
  • In several science labs and communities special programs for student work exist such as Master and PhD programs. Computer scientists will get access to supervision possibilities of students in such programs e.g. via R&D work.
  • Natural science collaborations and communities profit from input on latest research in specific computer science fields which can be applied in R&D work within their experiments.
  • Funding agencies profit of the increased efficiency in research work achieved by the collaboration of natural science and computer science but also cross-fertilisation between natural science fields.
  • Researchers and engineers gain access to new communities and institutions which will enlarge their possibility for visibility (e.g. via trainings, seminars, etc) and employment.

During the phase of (proto)SIDIS we aim to reach out to people and institutes that support this idea and would like to join such a collaborating environment. At the same time (proto)SIDIS is used for conceptualizing the idea and structure for a possible future SIDIS institute.

Guiding Principles

The institute will not be located on a specific place but a distributed connection of university insitutes, research labs, etc. A small core team will take care of coordinating the acitivites, but even this team can be distributed. Activities of the institute will be carried out in various places throughout the community.
The institute will concentrate on fundamental research in computer science at universities and engineering schools with the possibility to apply it in concrete R&D activities in natural science fields.
The focus on fundamental research will enable the applicability of results in multiple natural science domains and also allow cross-fertilization between those domains.
By nature the institute will engage with collaborators and partners in various countries such as university computer science departments, software engineering schools, natural science communities and experiments.

Towards the SIDIS institute

In the current phase of conceptualization of the institute we aim to follow to achieve the following mile-stones before establishing the final institute:

  • Workshops, seminars
  • Support letters from collaborating institutes
  • Discussion with funding agencies on the setup
  • Setup

A one page statement on "A plan to set up an institute for software in data-intensive sciences" is available at https://zenodo.org/record/3492208#.Xihn2S2ZNdh

Socio-economic factors we value

The institute will support and promote activities which aim at gender balance in STEM fields whenever possible, e.g. enable child care at its events, scheduling of meetings within core working hours, etc.
The activities of the institute will incorporate awareness for environment friendly behavior, e.g. promote environment friendly travel when possible, remote participation to events, etc.

As a baseline the institute promotes free and open source software licensing to allow free usage and redistribution of its research results.