2021-01-15-survey-results-community.md 7.27 KB
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---
title: "HIFIS Software Survey 2020 - A community perspective"
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date: 2021-01-15
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authors:
    - dolling
    - dworatzyk
layout: blogpost
title_image: default
categories:
    - report
tags:
    - survey
    - community
excerpt:
    "
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    Data from 467 respondents of the HIFIS Survey 2020 were analyzed to give an overview of research software 
    developers and their day-to-day work at Helmholtz. The information will help us to better understand the challenges 
    of software development from the researchers' perspective and to learn about how Software Services could better 
    support them. 
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    "
---

In the beginning of 2020, the HIFIS Software Survey was conducted to learn about current software development practices 
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within Helmholtz and to assess the demand for specific services to support researchers in their day-to-day work. 
For the community team, it was particularly important to get a better grasp of who and to better understand their needs of 
One approach to the data was to draw a picture of the "typical" research software developer, to evaluate support currently provided
and to identify more specific challenges that should be addressed in our future work.
 
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### Software made by Helmholtz
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Seventeen of the 19 Helmholtz centers and 3 external researchers participated in this survey, providing 467 individual responses. 
With about 42.000 employees within Helmholtz we can say that at least 1% are concerned with software development 
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(and yet found the time to fill in our survey - thank you!). 
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Here is an overview of each center's contribution to our survey and the relative number of Helmholtz employees per center:

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![Fig 1. Center distribution]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig1-center-distribution.svg)
![Fig 2. Domain distribution]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig2-domain-distribution.svg)
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We reached most Helmholtz centers except for two and received responses from each of the six main research domains. 
Compared to their relative size in terms of headcount, some centers contributed over-proportionately to 
the HIFIS survey. Well done, DKFZ!

Now, let's have a look who stands behind the excellent software solutions made by Helmholtz:
Software is typically developed in a team with 2-5 other developers for a user base of 2-10 persons.
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The median software developer in our survey has 8 years of research experience, 9 years of software development experience, 
spends 49.5% of the working time on software development, and uses 3 different programming languages at work, 
mostly Python (76.7%), C++ (45.6%), or R (28.3%) - for details see 
this [blog post on programming languages](https://software.hifis.net/report/2020/11/27/survey-results-language-vcs).
These results support what has been suspected earlier, namely, that software development is fundamental to researchers' work. 
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The following figure illustrates how closely research and software development are indeed related: 
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![Fig 3. Software development vs. research experience]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig3-sw-dev-vs-research.svg)
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The more time survey participants spent on research related work, the more experienced they were in terms of software development. 
The question which role software development plays in research could then be answered: an important one!

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### Current support
Given the strong link between software development and research, we wanted to know whether researchers felt sufficiently 
supported at their research centers regarding software development and training.
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The answer was a classical Jein. While half (50.8%) of the respondents seemed satisfied with the current state, 
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the other half of the respondents (49.2%) reported that they needed more support.   
Clearly, we wanted to know which kind of support they needed. So we asked them. 
To find out which support activities they were most interested in and which services we should focus on in the future, 
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we let them choose from a list of predefined services.
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![Fig 4. Support satisfaction]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig4-support-satisfaction.svg)
![Fig 5. Support activities]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig5-support-activities.svg) 
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In order to get a more detailed picture of what could be improved, we also included a few open response questions asking 
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respondents about their wishes and suggestions for a good software development support and their preferred kind of learning. 
Word and code frequency analysis gave a fairly clear picture of the respondents' needs:
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![Fig 6. Word and code cloud]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig6-word-and-code-cloud.svg)
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As expected, basic and advanced training courses, consulting offerings, in particular on software licensing, 
and a central, easily accessible infrastructure, were at the top of the wish list.
An additional aspect, that was not directly addressed by our survey, was the recognition and regulation of open science 
practices and open source development.
It was frequently mentioned by respondents (% of all mentions) that they experience a lack of social and professional 
recognition for accomplishing tasks that contribute to the and ... . 
 
### Sustainable Software Practices
The building of a strong community that promotes and commits to common standards of sustainable software development, 
including findability, re-usability, maintainability, extendability, citability
raise awareness and mutual support
In particular from a community perspective, it is important to have a closer look as to what extent best practices
of sustainable software development are already established in the Helmholtz Association.
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Our survey included questions about sharing and publishing own software as well as referencing software in publications.
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![Fig 7. Status quo of sustainable software development]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2021-01-08-hifis-survey-results-community/fig7-sustainable-sw-dev.svg)

Results show that most respondents share their code regularly with the own research group, 
sometimes with the research organization and research community but never with the general public.
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They publish their code regularly on internal platforms or public code sharing platforms like GitHub but never on a research repository or a software package index.
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Code comments, README files and installation instructions are regularly provided by most respondents, user manuals, requirement specification and technical documentation sometimes, 
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while release notes, contributor guides and developer guides are almost never provided.

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Sharing the code and citability -> 
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Licensing
While this suggests that there is at least , it is surprising that most respondents do not license their code
Visibility of research software and reproducibility of results ok but increase in re-usability  
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### Conclusion
In conclusion, we can say that in addition to providing training and infrastructure, HIFIS software services
raising the awareness for and 
which enable the collaboration between institutes, centers and research communities in the first place. 
An always remember: Sharing is caring!