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Summer Meeting Recap: Definition of Sustainable Software

The ESIP 2014 summer meeting's theme was “Linking It Together: Sustainable Software Advancing Science Data and Services”

From our view, a focus on software sustainability is meant to address challenges related to the development, deployment, and maintenance of reusable software (Katz et al. 2014) – but what ESIP, as a community, means by both software and sustainability remains somewhat unclear.

By software,  we mean the scripts, gists, Excel macros, compilers, libraries, source code, etc. necessary to create, process, manage and visualize data, as well as much of the statistical analyses that end users perform on those data products.

For our view, it seems more helpful focus on what software is important to ESIP's stakeholders rather than to work out some unique, or very rigid definition of what is and is not software.

In this context, sustainable should imply that software is developed, licensed, versioned, managed and archived in a way that facilitates the science it was meant to originally support without sacrificing the ability of others to extend, reuse and build upon its success in the future.

There is a natural tension in this definition between supporting the use of software in its current form, and the desire to both extend and preserve that software in the future.

We see this tension as cutting across many of the sessions that will be at ESIP's summer meeting, and we want to highlight three sessions that directly dealt with sustainability:

  1. Software Metrics : http://commons.esipfed.org/node/2381
  2. Building Community Around a Software Package : http://commons.esipfed.org/node/2412
  3. Attribution for software and source code : http://commons.esipfed.org/node/2330