Research software has become a central asset in academic research. It optimizes existing and enables new research methods, implements and embeds research knowledge, and constitutes an essential research product in itself. Research software must be sustainable in order to understand, replicate, reproduce, and build upon existing research or conduct new research effectively. In other words, software must be available, discoverable, usable, and adaptable to new needs, both now and in the future. Research software therefore requires an environment that supports sustainability. Hence, a change is needed in the way research software development and maintenance are currently motivated, incentivized, funded, structurally and infrastructurally supported, and legally treated. Failing to do so will threaten the quality and validity of research. In this paper, we identify challenges for research software sustainability in Germany and beyond, in terms of motivation, selection, research software engineering personnel, funding, infrastructure, and legal aspects. Besides researchers, we specifically address political and academic decision-makers to increase awareness of the importance and needs of sustainable research software practices. In particular, we recommend strategies and measures to create an environment for sustainable research software, with the ultimate goal to ensure that software-driven research is valid, reproducible and sustainable, and that software is recognized as a first class citizen in research. This paper is the outcome of two workshops run in Germany in 2019, at deRSE19 - the first International Conference of Research Software Engineers in Germany - and a dedicated DFG-supported follow-up workshop in Berlin.
Introduction: Multi-scale computational models of cardiac electrophysiology are used to investigate complex phenomena such as cardiac arrhythmias, its therapies and the testing of drugs or medical devices. While a couple of software solutions exist, none fully meets the needs of the community. In particular, newcomers to the field often have to go through a very steep learning curve which could be facilitated by dedicated user interfaces, documentation, and training material. Outcome: openCARP is an open cardiac electrophysiology simulator, released to the community to advance the computational cardiology field by making state-of-the-art simulations accessible. It aims to achieve this by supporting self-driven learning. To this end, an online platform is available containing educational video tutorials, user and developer-oriented documentation, detailed examples, and a question-and-answer system. The software is written in C++. We provide binary packages, a Docker container, and a CMake-based compilation workflow, making the installation process simple. The software can fully scale from desktop to high-performance computers. Nightly tests are run to ensure the consistency of the simulator based on predefined reference solutions, keeping a high standard of quality for all its components. openCARP interoperates with different input/output standard data formats. Additionally, sustainability is achieved through automated continuous integration to generate not only software packages, but also documentation and content for the community platform. Furthermore, carputils provides a user-friendly environment to create complex, multi-scale simulations that are shareable and reproducible. Conclusion: In conclusion, openCARP is a tailored software solution for the scientific community in the cardiac electrophysiology field and contributes to increasing use and reproducibility of in-silico experiments.
The SuLMaSS project  will advance, develop, build, evaluate, and test infrastructure for sustainable lifecycle management of scientific software. The infrastructure is tested and evaluated by an existing cardiac electrophysiology simulation software project, which is currently in the prototype state and will be advanced towards optimal usability and a large and active user community. Thus, SuLMaSS is focused on designing and implementing application-oriented e-research technologies and the impact is three-fold: - Provision of a high quality, user-friendly cardiac electrophysiology simulation software package that accommodates attestable needs of the scientific community. - Delivery of infrastructure components for testing, safe-keeping, referencing, and versioning of all phases of the lifecycle of scientific software. - Serve as a best practice example for sustainable scientific software management. Scientific software development in Germany and beyond shall benefit through both the aforementioned best practice role model and the advanced infrastructure that will, in part, be available for external projects as well. With adding value for the wider scientific cardiac electrophysiology community, the software will be available under an open source license and be provided for a large share of people and research groups that can potentially leverage computational cardiac modeling methods. Institutional infrastructure will be extended to explore, evaluate and establish the basis for research software development regarding testing, usage, maintenance and support. The cardiac electrophysiology simulator will drive and showcase the infrastructure formation, thus serving as a lighthouse project. The developed infrastructure can be used by other scientific software projects in future and aims to support the full research lifecycle from exploration through conclusive analysis and publication, to archival, and sharing of data and source code, thus increasing the quality of research results. Moreover it will foster a community-based collaborative development and improve sustainability of research software.