AAS 223, day 2

I arrived (delayed) at AAS today, just in time to give my short talk on code sharing in the code-sharing panel (slides here) chaired by Alice Allen (builder of the ASCL). In that session, Tollerud (Yale) gave a nice talk about how development started and is sustained on astropy.

So many things came up in the hearty, long discussion (a rare treat at AAS sessions, which are often passive), I can't do justice. However, from the audience, Archibald (McGill) and others weighed in the trade-offs between releasing code as-is and releasing useful code; the latter is often time-consuming and isn't necessarily worth the time. The panelists were on the side of releasing code even if it is not useful but there is no doubt that trade-offs exist. Ferguson (STScI) and others elucidated a tension between Tollerud's point that it was good, in astropy, to get people to join forces and write code with consistent, reusable structure, and my point that everyone should just put their code out there no matter what. We resolved it by noting that you can't get a slick project together like astropy if you haven't already seen people put their code out there warts and all. Indeed, astropy is built from refactorings of various less-than-perfect original code releases. Lovegrove (UCSC) and others discussed export restrictions; there was general unhappiness with their all-encompassing vagueness.

At the end of the session, Hanisch (STScI) suggested that the AAS Working Group on Astronomical Software should maybe become a division and expand its scope, to having meetings and sessions, and providing training, and policy, and so on. That's a great idea. Cruz (CUNY) thinks the first event perhaps should be something on unit testing!


  1. Could you please explain a bit more about the issues with export restriction on scientific software? To those to the other side of the pond.

    Thanks for the slides! They are inspiring


    1. Yes: There are "ITAR" restrictions on thing thought to be associated with US military or defense knowledge or technology, and the definition is absurdly expansive. These things cannot be shared with any non-US-national.