Quality assurance in research software

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University of Alabama Libraries

Breakthroughs in research increasingly depend on complex software libraries, tools, and applications aimed at supporting specific science, engineering, business, or humanities disciplines. Collectively, we call these software, libraries, tools, and applications as research software. Research software plays an important role in solving real-life problems, scientific innovations, and handling emergency situations. So the correctness and trustworthiness of research software are of absolute importance. The complexity and criticality of this software motivate the need for proper software quality assurance through different software engineering practices. Software metrics, software development process, peer code review, and software testing are four key tools for assessing, measuring, and ensuring software quality and reliability. The goal of this dissertation is to better understand how research software developers use traditional software engineering concepts of software quality to support and evaluate both the software and the software development process. One key aspect of this goal is to identify how the four quality practices relevant to research software corresponds to the practices commonly used in traditional software engineering. I used empirical software engineering research methods to study the human aspects related to using software quality practices for the development of research software. I collected information related to the four software activities through surveys, interviews, and directly working with research software developers. Research software developers appear to be interested and see value in software quality practices, but maybe encountering roadblocks when trying to use them. Through this dissertation, beside current practices, I identified challenges to use those quality practices and provided guidelines to overcome the challenges and to improve the current practices.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Computer science