Centre for Sustainable Software Engineering

Organization profile

Modern societies are highly dependent on complex, large-scale, software-intensive systems that increasingly operate within an environment of continuous availability, which are challenging to maintain and evolve in response to the inevitable changes in stakeholder goals and requirements of the system. Similarly, scientific and engineering research is highly dependent on software. Its importance in driving forward advances in research in the field of computational science and engineering has resulted in calls for it to be classified as a first-class, experimental scientific instrument. However, software as a research instrument has not reached a level of maturity compared with the conventional tools of empirical and theoretical science. Research software is principally developed by end-user developers who have a limited understanding and application of fundamental software engineering concepts, principles, and techniques, combined with a "code-first" approach to development. This results in research software with suboptimal software design, if any, accidental complexity, technical debt, code smells, and an increase in the risk of software entropy. The consequence of this approach is a pathway to stagnation, decay, and the long-term decline of essential research software investment. It has been widely recognised that the future of scientific and engineering enterprise requires a resilient eco-system of software. As a result, there is a pressing need for new tooling to fit today’s emergent and dynamic environments, where software is explicitly designed for continuous maintainability and extensibility without incurring prohibitive technical debt and negative impacts.on the dimensions of sustainability, i.e. environmental, economic, society, individual and technical.

The Centre operates at the intersection of two ASRIs: Autonomous Systems, and Industrial Internet of Things and Systems Engineering. Its initial scope is to advance software engineering methods to identify technical and architectural debt in a range of application domains but is expected to be expanded in the course of the Centre’s operation. The initial set of domains include Fluctuating Finite Element Analysis (FFEA) for biomolecular simulation, GPU-enabled magnetohydrodynamic simulation, and Particle tracking simulation. FFEA enables dynamic simulations of large protein assemblies based on low-resolution structural information from biophysical tools such as cryo-electron microscopy, which are currently revolutionising experimental structural biology. This is of significant benefit to UK communities supported by CCPBioSim, CCP5, and CCP-EM. GPU-enabled magnetohydrodynamics enables simulations of linear and non-linear wave propagation in gravitationally strongly stratified magnetised plasma. This will benefit the Solar Astrophysics, Space Weather and Plasma Physics communities, which is critical to modelling space weather and for predicting the occurrence of solar weather phenomena. Particle tracking simulation for high-energy accelerators is essential to the design and operation of facilities such as Diamond, the European Spallation Source, and the HL-LHC. Improved accelerator performance at synchrotron sources benefits a wide range of users including chemists, biologists, engineers etc. studying structure at scales from the molecular to the microscopic.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Our work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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