A key challenge of science policy is to achieve sustained benefit from scientific grantmaking. In this presentation, James Howison will provide a framework for thinking about sustainability in scientific software projects, based on empirical studies of development and use of software in science.
The framework starts by asking: what is it that causes sustainability problems? Over time, software declines in scientific usefulness, driven by four factors: a moving scientific frontier, technological change, friction in building software, friction in using software, and, least appreciated, change in the software ecosystem sounding a component. These factors drive a need for work; in response, we can try to suppress the drivers, try to reduce the amount of work needed, or attract sufficient resources able to undertake the work needed to sustain scientific usefulness.
Howison will analyze three systems by which projects obtain resources: commercial markets, grant-making, and community-based peer-production. I will conclude with recent results from a study into pathways to sustainable peer production in NSF grant-funded projects.