Managing Research Software Projects: Discussion

When Not to Use Version Control

…try to explain the notion of compiling a document to an overworked physician you collaborate with. Oh, but before that, you have to explain the difference between plain text and word processing. And text editors. And markdown/LaTeX compilers. And BiBTeX. And Git. And GitHub. Etc. Meanwhile he/she is getting paged from the OR…

…as much as we want to convince ourselves otherwise, when you have to collaborate with those outside the scientific computing bubble, the barrier to collaborating on papers in this framework is simply too high to overcome. Good intentions aside, it always comes down to “just give me a Word document with tracked changes,” or similar.

Google Docs excels at easy sharing, collaboration, simultaneous editing, commenting and reply-to-commenting. Sure, one can approximate these using text-based systems and version control. The question is why anyone would like to…

The goal of reproducible research is to make sure one can…reproduce…computational analyses. The goal of version control is to track changes to source code. These are fundamentally distinct goals, and while there is some overlap, version control is merely a tool to help achieve that, and comes with so much overhead and baggage that it is often not worth the effort.

Arjun Raj

Normal humans don’t work like programmers expect them to because programmers haven’t built tools that would let them.