Dudley and Butte on Software Skills

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Via Titus Brown, a new PLoS paper titled "A Quick Guide for Developing Effective Bioinformatics Programming Skills" by Joel Dudley and Atul Butte. Their recommendations are:

  1. Programming languages
  2. Embracing open source
  3. Unix command-line skills
  4. Keeping projects documented and manageable
  5. Preserving source code with version control
  6. Embracing parallel computing paradigms
  7. Structuring data for speed and scalability
  8. Understanding the capabilities of hardware
  9. Embracing standards and interoperability
  10. Put a high value on your time

I think all these things matter, but:

  1. How many hours do the authors think are needed to acquire these skills? We've tried very hard to fit Software Carpentry into 25 hours of lecture and 50-100 hours of practical work because we recognize that every one of those hours is time students aren't spending doing science.
  2. Shouldn't testing be in the top 10? Or the top 5, or 3? These days, I care a lot more about how (and how well) someone tests than I do about their mastery of any particular programming language.

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