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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.
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