The Astrophysics Source Code Library

The Astrophysics Source Code Library is a free on-line reference library of astrophysical source codes  used to generate results published in or submitted to a refereed journal. The library housed on the discussion forum for Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) at http://asterisk.apod.com/viewforum.php?f=35.

Front Page of the ASCL Forum

Front Page of the ASCL Forum

The library cites three main benefits to astronomers:

1. Increased Falsifiability

    Perhaps a crucial error was made in the coding of a sound idea. ASCL presents a way for authors to bolster their results by demonstrating the integrity of their source code(s). Conversely, ASCL presents a way for readers to bolster their confidence in published results by checking details of the source code(s).

2. Increased Communication

    Perhaps an author finds it difficult to describe completely in the text of a paper how the results were obtained. ASCL creates a way for authors to present more detailed information about how their computations were carried out.

3. Increased Utility

      Perhaps an author has created a code that (s)he feels is itself useful to other astrophysicists. ASCL creates a way for these authors to disseminate a source code of significant utility to astrophysicists”

To date, over 200 codes have been added to the libary, which provides a description of  each code, and links to the source and papers describing it.  The library also provides  links to a very helpful list of software engineering papers that will be of interest to astronomy developers.

Disclosure: I am a member of the ASCL Advisory Board.

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3 Responses to The Astrophysics Source Code Library

  1. some questions about origins: how long have you been engaged in this effort? i find an evolutionary sequence from ascl.net to a wikiversity page to now being embedded in this message forum. any why this forum? thanks. – gus

  2. astrocompute says:

    Gus: Thanks for your questions. I have only recently become engaged with this effort. I include below a history of ASCL provided Alice Allen, the primary editor, which I hope answers your questions:

    “Dr. Nemiroff, one of the two creators and editors of APOD and a professor at Michigan Technological University, started ASCL in 1999 (at ascl.net). He also started the APOD discussion forum Starship Asterisk* (in 2004).

    Last year, Nemiroff asked for one or more volunteers to move the codes on the old site to Asterisk. Two Asterisk volunteers started on the project in May, and the new site (at Asterisk) went into production in July. Alice Allen (owlice) is the primary editor of the ASCL.

    The wikiversity page was created by someone not involved with the ASCL; it’s similar to a Wikipedia page in that it captures information available elsewhere. It acknowledges the ASCL and pointed to the old site; Allen edited the wikiversity page several times to change the URLs that were pointing to the old ascl.net library to point to the code entries on the new site as she worked through the codes that were originally on the old ASCL site.

    So the evolutionary sequence is absolutely from ascl.net to the Asterisk Engineering Deck.

    As to why the ASCL is housed on the Asterisk forum, there are many good reasons, among them:

    The infrastructure at Asterisk already existed when Nemiroff decided to revamp the old ASCL.
    The forum has a lot of nice features that make it useful for such a library; the software is familiar to many, easy to use, has good search capability, and allows subscribing to threads and/or forums (so if you want to know when someone has posted to the Montage thread, for example, you can subscribe to that thread). One does not have to be a member of Asterisk to view or comment on the ASCL.
    The forum is connected to APOD; indeed, Asterisk is the discussion forum for APOD. As many astronomers and astrophysicists look at APOD, APOD can provide ongoing marketing for the ASCL and remind scientists of the resource by providing a link to the ASCL periodically. For an example, see the link below the explanation on the APOD page here: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110228.html

    The revamped ASCL has been and is being expanded; the ASCL has grown from 37 codes (from the old site) in July of last year to house 261 codes as of this writing, with nearly that many currently in the pipeline for inclusion. Starting this year, the ASCL has been posting a list of new codes by month; see here to find links to the information: http://asterisk.apod.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=22980.”

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