Online / 5 & 6 February 2022


When to invest in the UX of (scientific) open source

Software has become increasingly central to scientific research. Both software development and its use are essential activities for scientific teams. But investment in its production, maintenance, and adoption is often overlooked, and academia often fails to leverage best practices for software engineering from industry, the open source community, or elsewhere. Furthermore, investment in the user experience (UX) and usability of scientific software is largely an afterthought, if considered at all. As such, any future investment in UX is expected to have a disproportionately positive impact on adoption of scientific tools (i.e. broadening access) and on scientific discovery itself. Currently, the impact of this kind of investment (or lack thereof) is largely unknown.

Scientific software stands to benefit from the learnings and current practices in open source design. This talk will explore the unique workflows and incentives of research institutions (and other contexts in which scientific software is produced) and map them to current practices of open source design with the intention of bringing to light the opportunities to better understand how and when to invest in the UX of research software, how to grow expertise in UX, and how to cultivate norms on peer-production platforms toward good UX practices.


Elizabeth Vu