[SciPy-dev] SciPy Foundation

Neil Martinsen-Burrell nmb@wartburg....
Mon Aug 3 09:29:35 CDT 2009

On 08/02/2009 04:09 PM, Gael Varoquaux wrote:
> On Sun, Aug 02, 2009 at 03:44:49PM -0500, Neil Martinsen-Burrell wrote:
>>   I think that there is a tendency for active researchers to
>>   underestimate the importance of undergraduate-level learning and I
>>   hope that in this discussion, we will keep in mind the singular
>>   importance of that young audience.
> That's all good and nice. I agree with you it is important, and I am very
> happy to hear people talking about this, because it makes me hope that we
> will be getting more help to do this.

As I have time to spare apart from the teaching and researching duties 
that I need to do to keep *my* job, I am glad to volunteer my time for 
this effort.  I have some things in mind for making Scipy accessible as 
a module within a Numerical Analysis or Scientific Computing course that 
I hope to work on within this calendar year.

> If I work my ass off on an IDE, or more simply a GUI frontend, it won't
> help me get more work done, which means shooting papers out, to be
> cynical, and, in a few years, I will most likely not be doing any
> scientific Python anymore. On the other hand, if I work on something that
> is useful for my day to day work, I get some traction at the lab, and my
> sleepless face is more easily forgiven. If I build an IDE that is of no
> use to our work, nobody cares, and for a good reason.
> This is not to say that we shouldn't be working on the IDE, I believe
> that I am one of the people that have actually written code to do this,
> but there is a lot of work to be done here, and working on making sure
> that we have a shell to do this, and interactive plotting, and good
> documentation is part of this work, and can be reused for direct research
> interests. Writing docs is also something that can help a lot, does not
> require extensive technical knowledge and takes a lot of time.

Indeed, you have highlighted one of the difficulties in depending on 
active domain scientists to create software projects: scratching one's 
itch is not selfish, but necessary for their career. As Joe mentioned 
about the Doc marathon funded through some of his grants, as his 
granting situation gets tighter, the funding that he is able to devote 
to SciPy development is drying up.  I think that this is a persuasive 
argument for the establishment of a SciPy Foundation which can provide 
the organizational structure to pay willing developers for some of the 
code which they develop. In doing so, we provide an alternative system 
of rewards (however small) from the scientific career track.

> Actually, I must point out that I am quite unhappy, because I am very
> tired, I have spent the week end fixing bugs on various open source
> projects (nipy and mayavi) and answering complicated users questions. I
> find that to be told that we are underestimating the importance of ease
> of use and ease of learning is unfair. This simply takes a lot of time
> and some of us are working on it.

I certainly appreciate your work fixing bugs on open-source scientific 
projects.  Thank you.  It was not my intent to say that anyone is 
"underestimating the importance of ease of use and ease of learning". 
My intent was to highlight an audience for Scipy that has significant 
importance for future uptake.


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