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HIFIS Software Survey 2020 - A community perspective
HIFIS Software Survey from a community perspective
In the beginning of 2020, the HIFIS Software Survey was conducted to learn about current software development practices
within Helmholtz and to assess the demand for specific services to support researchers in their day-to-day work.
One aim was to draw a picture of the "typical" research software developer, to identify the pains and gains of software
development, and to get an idea of how HIFIS services can fill this gap.
Seventeen of the 19 Helmholtz centers participated in this survey, providing 462 individual responses. With more than
42.000 employees within Helmholtz we can say that at least 1% are concerned with software development (and care about
empirical social research). Here you can find an overview of each center's contribution to our survey and the relative
number of employees:
FIG1: Center distribution
Well done, DKFZ!
And here an overview about the research domains of our respondents:
FIG2: Domain distribution
Now, let's have a look who stands behind the groundbreaking software products made by Helmholtz:
The median software developer 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 are at work,
mostly Python (76.7%), C++ (45.6%), or R (28.3%) - for details see [this blog post on programming languages](REFERENCE).
Software is typically developed in a team with 2-5 other developers for a user base of 2-10 persons.
These results support earlier observations that software development is fundamental to researchers' work and the
following figure illustrates how closely research and software development are related:
FIG3: SWDev vs. research
The more time they 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!
Given the strong link between software development and research, we wanted to know whether researchers felt
sufficiently supported at their centers.
FIG4: Support satisfaction
The answer was a classical Jein. While half (50.7%) of the respondents seemed satisfied with the status quo, the
other half of the respondents (49.3%) 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,
we let them choose from a list of predefined services.
FIG5: Proportion support activities
In order to get a more detailed picture of what could be improved, we also included a few open response questions asking
respondents about their wishes and suggestions for a good software development support and their
preferred kind of learning, for instance. Word frequncy analysis + code frequency analysis
FIG6: Clouds
This confirms that in addition to training and consulting offerings a central, easily accessible infrastructure is urgently
needed. Another aspect is the recognition and regulation open science practices and open source development. It was
frequently (% of all) mentioned that indicating a strong demand of cultural change, which
a bottom-up community driven movement.
In particular from a community perspective, it is there important to have a closer look at the status quo of cross-center
collaboration and open science standards within Helmholtz. Our survey included questions about sharing and publishing
own software as well as referencing software in publications. The results are mixed.
---
title: "HIFIS Software Survey 2020 - A community perspective"
date: 2020-12-04
authors:
- dolling
- dworatzyk
layout: blogpost
title_image: default
categories:
- report
tags:
- survey
- community
excerpt:
"
To provide better services we tried to understand the challenges of software development from the researchers' perspective.
Data from 467 respondents of the HIFIS Survey 2020 were analyzed to allow for a first overview of software
development practices within Helmholtz and to identify central starting points for further improvements.
"
---
In the beginning of 2020, the HIFIS Software Survey was conducted to learn about current software development practices
within Helmholtz and to assess the demand for specific services to support researchers in their day-to-day work.
One aim was to draw a picture of the "typical" research software developer, to identify the pains and gains of software
development, and to get an idea of how HIFIS services can fill this gap.
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
(and care about empirical social research).
Here is an overview of each center's contribution to our survey and the relative number of Helmholtz employees per center:
# FIG1: Center distribution
{:.treat-as-figure}
![Fig 1: Center distribution]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/center-distribution.svg)
Well done, DKFZ!
We received responses from each of the six main research domains:
![Fig 2: Domain distribution]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/domain-distribution.svg)
Now, let's have a look who stands behind the groundbreaking software solutions made by Helmholtz:
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).
Software is typically developed in a team with 2-5 other developers for a user base of 2-10 persons.
These results support what has been suspected earlier, namely, that software development is fundamental to researchers' work.
The following figure illustrates how closely research and software development are related:
![Fig 3: Software development vs. research experience]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/swdev-vs-research.svg)
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!
Given the strong link between software development and research, we wanted to know whether researchers felt sufficiently supported at their centers.
![Fig 4: Support satisfaction]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/support.svg)
The answer was a classical Jein. While half (50.8%) of the respondents seemed satisfied with the status quo,
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,
we let them choose from a list of predefined services.
![Fig 5: Support activities]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/support-activities.svg)
In order to get a more detailed picture of what could be improved, we also included a few open response questions asking
respondents about their wishes and suggestions for a good software development support and their
preferred kind of learning. Word frequency analysis + code frequency analysis
![Fig 6: Word and code cloud]({{ site.directory.images | relative_url }}/posts/2020-12-23-hifis-survey-results-community/clouds.svg)
This suggests that in addition to training and consulting offerings a central, easily accessible infrastructure is urgently needed.
Another aspect is the recognition and regulation of open science practices and open source development.
It was frequently (% of all) mentioned by respondents that there is a strong
As such cultural change is supposedly best mediated through a strong community promoting standards of sustainable software development, it is,
in particular from a community perspective, important to have a closer look at the status quo of cross-center collaboration and software development practices within Helmholtz.
Our survey included questions about sharing and publishing own software as well as referencing software in publications.
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.
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.
Code comments, README files and installation instrucions are regularly provided by most respondents, user manuals, requirement specification and technical doucmentation sometimes,
while release notes, contributor guides and developer guides are almost never provided.
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 reusability
In conclusion we can say that in addition to providing training and infrastructure, HIFIS software services
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