• Report

Sharing research models: Using software engineering practices for facilitation

Citation

Bryant, S., Solano Mora, E., Cantor, S., Cooley, P., & Wagener, D. (2011). Sharing research models: Using software engineering practices for facilitation. (RTI Press Publication No. MR-0022-1103). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press. DOI: 10.3768/rtipress.2011.mr.0022.1103

Abstract

Increasingly, researchers are turning to computational models to understand the interplay of important variables on systems' behaviors. Although researchers may develop models that meet the needs of their investigation, application limitations—such as nonintuitive user interface features and data input specifications—may limit the sharing of these tools with other research groups. By removing these barriers, other research groups that perform related work can leverage these work products to expedite their own investigations. The use of software engineering practices can enable managed application production and shared research artifacts among multiple research groups by promoting consistent models, reducing redundant effort, encouraging rigorous peer review, and facilitating research collaborations that are supported by a common toolset. This report discusses three established software engineering practices—the iterative software development process, object-oriented methodology, and unified modeling language—and the applicability of these practices to computational model development. Our efforts to modify the MIDAS TranStat application to make it more user-friendly are presented as an example of how computational models that are based on research and developed using software engineering practices can benefit a broader audience of researchers.

Author Details

Stephanie Bryant

Stephanie P. Bryant, MS, is a member of the Bioinformatics Group at RTI International, specializing in software development, distributed systems, and high-performance computing.

Erick Solano Mora

Eric Solano, PhD, who has been with RTI International since 1999, is a data scientist and model analyst with extensive experience in mathematical models, statistical methods, data mining, data-driven projects, database technologies, software engineering, software development, geographic information systems, decision support tools, operations research, and optimization.

Susanna Cantor

Susanna Cantor, BS, a member of RTI’s Research Computing Division, specializes in system, software, and project documentation, and process and configuration management.

Phillip Cooley

Philip C. Cooley, MS, Senior Fellow in bioinformatics and high-performance computing, is a principal scientist with more than 50 years of experience developing computer models for the study of environmental health and infectious and chronic disease. Cooley has designed and implemented a series of influenza transmission models for the study and management of pandemic flu. He has also designed a model to study the double burden of malnutrition in Indonesia. His current research includes an assessment of statistical methods for biomarker explorations in the context of genome-wide-analysis studies.

Diane Wagener

Diane K. Wagener, PhD, was a senior epidemiologist in RTI’s Statistics and Epidemiology program and the Principal Investigator of the Models of Infectious Disease Agents (MIDAS) Informational Technology Resource at RTI International.