See whether this sounds familiar: you build a piece of software to solve a research question. But when you move on to the next project, there’s no one to maintain it. As it ages, it becomes obsolete, and the next academic to tackle a similar problem finds themselves having to reinvent the wheel.
That’s what happened with WaterDetect, a tool for identifying water in satellite images. Mauricio Cordeiro, a geospatial data scientist and programmer at the Laboratoire Géosciences Environnement Toulouse in France, revived the moribund software at the start of his doctoral project, spending some four to six months getting it to work. Now in the final year of his PhD, Cordeiro still devotes considerable energy to the program. But after he graduates, he says he won’t have time to address issues that arise, and there is no one at his laboratory who can take on the project for him. “The problem continues,” he says.