Computational Science

In a few weeks, I’ll be teaching a software engineering course to “computational scientists”: scientists (including mathematicians and statisticians) who use programming as an every-day tool. I’ve always found it interesting that there is so little support and teaching in good software practice for computational scientists. Even as somebody with an undergraduate and post-graduate degree in computing, almost all my practical programming skills are self taught.

Of course, I’m not alone in worrying about this. The software carpentry pages provide course materials for exactly this purpose. The person behind this, Greg Wilson also has some other cool materials and opinions on his web page. I especially liked this opinion paper (rant?) about how little computer scientists understand this problem.

Apparently, in a straw poll in Greg’s department (computer science), he found that on 3 of the 38 faculty were using version control or encouraging their post-docs and PhD students to do so. I bet my local CS department is just as bad or worse.

I start to wonder whether computer science and software engineering are only tangentially related disciplines. If this is the case, are computer science departments are the right place to look for advice and expertise about computational science?

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