Today's interview is with Dr. Davor Cubranic, a statistician who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. Davor recently ran a workshop for faculty and grad students in statistics that covered many of the same ideas as Software Carpentry.
Tell us a bit about your organization and its goals.
I work in the Department of Statistics of a large research university. Our goals are production of research papers, often in collaboration with researchers in other departments, such as life sciences, engineering, or forestry.
Tell us a bit about the software your group uses.
Primarily R, with some C/C++, Matlab and SAS. A few groups use version control (Subversion, with some thought given to migrating to distributed version control systems). I'm probably the only one using automated tests (with RUnit testing framework for R). A number of researchers use ESS, an Emacs front-end to statistical packages.
Tell us a bit about what software your group develops.
In-house development for our own use, although it is typically made publicly available over the web. I suppose some statistical packages we develop might be used as components in other researchers' software, but I'm not familiar with any specific cases of this.
What can you tell us about your course?
It was a two-hour workshop on lightweight software engineering practices that help improve the quality of the research software we create, and so indirectly improve the quality of the research itself. This is the first time I gave such a workshop, and there was considerable interest in it. I hope to grow it into a more extensive course that would borrow from Software Carpentry, but using tools, languages, and problems that are more familiar to members of our department.
How do you tell what impact the course has had?
I don't know yet.
What are your plans for future work?
Grow the workshop in duration and number of topics covered, and make it a regular fixture of the orientation given to incoming students every September.