Creating New Niches

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

"Publish or perish" is the central credo of academic life: despite all the hoopla about the blogosphere and online what-not, the reality for most of us is that if our work doesn't get into a respected journal or conference, it doesn't count.

But what do you do if there isn't a home for your kind of work? People working in scientific computing have been struggling with this for at least a quarter century: while there are many places to submit the results of programs, there are very few places where you can publish a description of the program itself, even if building it took years and required one intellectual breakthrough after another. In contrast, if you design a new telescope, there are at least half a dozen places you could turn.

(This isn't just a problem in scientific computing, by the way: Software: Practice & Experience and The Journal of Systems & Software are the only academic venues I know for descriptions of real systems, which may be one of the reasons why so much of the software written in academia is crap—there's just no payoff for doing it right.)

I don't know if this situation is going to change, but one hopeful sign is a new journal called Geoscientific Model Development (which I found via Jon Pipitone). It's still early days, but I hope that giving people some kind of credit for talking about how they do things will encourage them to do those things better, and allow newcomers (like us) to get up to speed more quickly.

Dialogue & Discussion

Comments must follow our Code of Conduct.

Edit this page on Github