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Scientists use software to analyze, visualize, or simulate processes or data. While they may also use much of the same software applications that everyone else uses, software designed for science is the focus of topics in this category.

Software applications intended to be used in teaching or learning science will be listed in the Education & Training category, or one of its subcategories, however.

It is generally recognized that there are four main branches of science. These are the applied sciences, formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences, each of which includes several sub-branches, and perhaps even further divisions. Overlapping is common, as well.

Scientific software has a large computational component and is usually used to model physical phenomena and to provide data to support observational findings. This might include software designed to calculate loads on bridges, provide weather predictions, image the structures of bones for surgical procedures, process images from ground-based telescopes, or model subsystems at nuclear-generating stations.

A recent study conducted by the Statistical Consulting Service at the University of Toronto found, to no surprise, that different fields of science use and develop software in different ways. On a whole, however, scientists spent far more time developing and using scientific software than they had anticipated when they entered the field.

Most scientific software is either used by very large numbers of people (more than 5,000) or by a very small number of people (1-2). On an average, scientists spent about 30% of their time developing software to be used in their work, and about 40% of their time using scientific software.

Nearly 50% of scientists use scientific software exclusively on desktop or laptop computers, and more than 80% spend 60% or more of their time using a desktop computer. Despite the emphasis on supercomputers in science, nearly 80% of scientists have never used scientific software on a supercomputer, and fewer than 2% spend 50% of their time or more using supercomputers.

Scientific software developers most often work in small teams and do not have degrees in computer science. Scientific software often starts small and grows from there, with developers following a code and fix development model. They do a lot of R&D in their scientific programming, although most of their projects are either delivered late or have no fixed delivery date. More than 40% do not use object-oriented methods of modeling their software.

Since a large percentage of scientific software is developed by scientists rather than programmers, they frequently use programming languages that are not optimal for the task at hand, largely because they claim not to have the time to learn yet another programming language. Formal software engineering training is limited, and documentation is often described as inadequate for anyone who wasn't involved in the programming.

Of course, if half of the scientific software is developed by non-programmer scientists, that would mean that the other half was developed by programmers, or by programmers, in consultation with scientists.

Any currently operable software designed for use in any of the fields of science is appropriate for this category, or one of its subcategories.





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