Scientific Software CenterProject Funding: Innovative Software for Modern Research

Press Release No. 126/2023
24 November 2023

DFG makes finance available for three projects on quality assurance of research software

The continuing development and long-term quality assurance of research software is the priority of three projects at Heidelberg University that were successful in a call by the German Research Foundation (DFG). One project is based in biomedicine, two others in geography. Participating are scientists in the respective disciplines as well as experts from the Scientific Software Center, which is based in the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing at Ruperto Carola. The DFG is making funding totalling approximately 1.2 million euros available for three years. The project teams involved will be able to improve the quality of available software and make it available to a wider group of users.

A challenge facing modern, digital research is that science increasingly depends on the use and development of customised research software, for which the necessary resources and structures are, however, often limited or lacking, explains Prof. Dr Jürgen Hesser, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing (IWR) and scientific coordinator of the Scientific Software Center (SSC). “Our success in the DFG call proves that Heidelberg University is excellently positioned when it comes to research software. As part of the funding as a University of Excellence, the SSC was established with the goal of advising and supporting researchers in all matters of software development,” says Prof. Hesser.

The goal of the biomedical project is to make software for storing and processing molecular findings available to a broader group of users. To achieve this, the existing codebase will be restructured and software access improved. By means of a system of incentives, the participating scientists want to recruit a community of developers who process problems arising and undertake maintenance jobs. The project “Establishing a knowledge graph community in biomedical science” is jointly handled by Dr Inga Ulusoy from the Scientific Software Center and Dr Sebastian Lobentanzer. Dr Lobentanzer is a postdoctoral researcher in the “Systems Biomedicine” research group headed by Prof. Dr Julio Saez-Rodriguez at Heidelberg University Hospital.

Adding various aspects to broaden the usefulness and reproducibility of research software for laser scanning data simulation is the focus of the project “Fostering a community-driven and sustainable HELIOS++ scientific software”. Dr Dominic Kempf from the SSC is cooperating with the 3DGeo research group of Prof. Dr Bernhard Höfle, located at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Geography. A software package was developed there to simulate measurements by means of laser scanning. The studies aim, in the coming three years, to guarantee a long-term, continuing maintenance of the research software.

Research software to analyse luminescence data used for age-dating is the subject of the project “REPLAY: REProducible Luminescence data AnalYses”. It aims to develop existing software solutions into an open software ecosystem that prioritises the reproducibility of results for luminescence-based geochronology. The emphasis is on consistently implementing what are called FAIR principles, intended to enable a sustainable use of research data and software. REPLAY involves collaborations between universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland under the leadership of Heidelberg University and Giessen University. In Heidelberg, the project is directed by Dr Sebastian Kreutzer, who works at the luminescence laboratory of the Institute of Geography. In Giessen it is headed by Dr Thomas Kolb, from the Department of Geography.

The Scientific Software Center develops scientific software to enable sustainable and reproducible research. Located at the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing, it is one of the first especially established centres for research software engineering in Germany. The SCC Research Software Engineers offer software development for projects in all research areas and train scientists with guidance, courses and mentoring programmes.

With the interdisciplinary call “Research Software: Quality Assured and Re-Usable”, the German Research Foundation seeks to improve the usability of existing research software and to contribute to long-term quality assurance.