Software Sustainability – Working with WWARN

Over the summer we defined several new Research Support specialisms, covering software selection, intellectual property, and software sustainability. These derive in part from our experiences in running OSS Watch, the national centre of expertise in open source software and open development.

Software Sustainability is all about delivering long-term value from investments in software, particularly where software is being developed as part of funded research activities. Researchers often need to build the software tools they need a part of their work on projects, but what happens after the project ends?

Our advice is – don’t wait to find out! Instead, its important to invest in sustainability  as early as possible – preferably right at the start of a project, or at least long enough before the project ends to ensure there are both the time and resources to develop a credible sustainability plan.

Over the summer we were contacted by WWARN – the World Wide Antimalarial Resistance Network – to talk about the sustainability of several pieces of software they had developed.

The WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) is led by Dr. Philippe Guerin, and is based in Africa, Asia and the Americas, with a coordinating centre and informatics in Oxford at the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health. A key part of WWARN is its platform for collecting and mapping reports of resistance to antimalarial drugs, and the web tools used for displaying this data on the WWARN website such as the WWARN Molecular Surveyor.

A screenshot of the WWARN Molecular Surveyor

A screenshot of the WWARN Molecular Surveyor

The WWARN team had put a lot of effort into these tools, and were keen to see how they could continue to be developed and used, either to support researchers looking at other diseases, or for completely different fields of research where there may be similar needs.

To do this, they needed to develop a strategy for sharing the software, engaging with new contributors from outside WWARN, and a model for governing its future development.

Mark Johnson and I from Research Support have been working with WWARN for several months now laying the groundwork for the release of the software and supporting outreach activities. WWARN have selected a license (BSD), put their source code on Github, created documentation, and developed an advocacy plan for increasing awareness of the project and attracting users and developers.

We hope that this effort will provide value for the WWARN project in terms of driving further improvements to the software, and ensuring it is viable long into the future.

We’re also keen to see adoption and use across Oxford – we’re sure WWARN aren’t the only researchers needing this kind of visualisation software, and the more groups that use it, the more sustainable the software becomes.

If you’re interested in using the software, post a message to the Maps Surveyor Google Group.

If you’re research group is planning to develop software, or has already done so and want to talk to us about sustainability, then contact us at researchsupport@it.ox.ac.uk.

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