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For Better Science Software

A philanthropic organization started by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt is to provide $40 million over five years to build a Virtual Institute for Scientific Software, Science reports.

The aim of the institute is to provide university researchers with the expertise of professional software engineers, who often do not work in academia as they can command a larger paycheck in the private sector, it adds. Currently, Science notes, a lot of scientific research relies on programs written by grad students and postdocs, who might not have the know-how to scale it up.

According to the philanthropy, Schmidt Futures, VISS is to start as a network of four centers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Washington. Science adds that the centers will each have $2 million a year to hire software engineers to provide their services to the university community.

"When I heard about this initiative, I was like, 'Oh, this is gonna be great!' because I can easily see the need in my lab," Nancy Allbritton, dean of engineering at UW, tells Science.

Schmidt Futures notes that the centers will first focus on earth science and astrophysics.