Following the common workshop on “Software Sustainability: Quality and Re-Use” in 2017, the collaborating infrastructures CESSDA, CLARIN and DARIAH have established the European Research Infrastructure Software Engineers‘ Network (EURISE Network). The Network organised its follow-up workshop on “Software Sustainability within Research Infrastructures” on 12-13 March 2019 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
The event provided a platform for sharing experiences and knowledge gathered from working in three infrastructures delivering services to the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Presentations given by all of the infrastructures showcased the various individual approaches and challenges. Although the different consortia architectures have led to distinct developments, an unsurprising number of similarities remain. The most common one, in a practical sense, was the ongoing and often neglected need to focus on training and knowledge building.
The workshop also brought into focus the implications of software as research output. Related issues addressed were that of software publication, preservation, reusability and reproducibility.
The EURISE network created the Technical Reference as a first building block towards a common alignment of infrastructure understanding after the first workshop in 2017. It is intended as a blueprint for software engineers to use as a first point of reference when starting a development project and provides a list of practical considerations and collection of best practices to kickstart development. A lively discussion took place in Utrecht this year on how to enhance the Technical Reference. Several attendees favoured the idea of turning it into a more widely-accepted list of common base criteria. Further discussions are planned in the near future under the Network’s umbrella.
Other topics touched on during the workshop were existing frameworks to address technical requirements for participation in the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), as well as how to build business models to ensure sustainable service operation after the initial funding phases have ended.
This was complemented by presentations from the EGI foundation on the implementation of IT service management in federated infrastructures using the FitSM standard and an introduction to the ongoing work of the WISE community on security best practices. In light of the upcoming EOSC as central point of access to digital research in the 21st century, technical alignment and interoperability will be key. Appropriately mature infrastructure operation will become a fundamental requirement faced by research infrastructures and of which they will have to provide evidence.
The two days of discussions at the workshop made clear that technical and procedural frameworks are needed as a solid foundation for the operation of research infrastructures. In this regard, the solutions and approaches presented already fulfil most immediate needs. Once they are accepted and in place, the focus must shift to the human aspect of sustainability.
Day-to-day business often focuses on creating functionality and output that is visible to the end user, while internal adherence by its staff to best practices is mostly invisible. Management structures of the research infrastructures must lay correct emphasis on internal best practice and keep staff up-do-date on procedural requirements. This can only be successful if everyone involved is aware of the difficulties and possible solutions. To this end, appropriate training material and learning opportunities are required and this will become a larger part of the EURISE Network’s activity.
About the EURISE Network:
The infrastructures CESSDA, CLARIN and DARIAH develop and provide services by and for the research community of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. While their individual foci address different scholarly needs of the various disciplines, the underlying technological challenges of distributed digital infrastructures are very similar. The EURISE Network was established to facilitate collaboration in this area and to align technological strategies among the infrastructures and with the wider Research and Software Engineering community and their intersection in particular, https://eurise-network.github.io/.