[GRASS-PSC] Statement Michael Barton

Michael Barton Michael.Barton at asu.edu
Thu Jan 14 12:33:23 PST 2021

I am honored to be nominated to continue on the PSC.

By way of background, I have been a GRASS user and contributor for nearly two decades. When I first managed to compile GRASS on my Mac, I wrote a polite email to Markus Neteler asking about the possibility of a GUI. He wrote back a polite email explaining that this new open source project relied on volunteers to do such development. While uncertain about my ability to contribute the project, I tried anyway--learning and benefiting much. I have had a number of roles in the GRASS community and indeed ended us designing and coding several generations of GUI's, including the one now used. This work is now carried on by others younger and more talented than I am. Importantly, all of my contributions would not have been possible without the collaboration of other volunteers in this community. While I still do a little development work, my main contribution is to maintain the Mac binaries.

I use GRASS for socio-ecological research and dynamic modeling, and teach geospatial technologies with GRASS (in the USA, Germany, and Spain). Being a member of the international GRASS community has made me an ardent and vocal advocate of FOSS and open science. Promoting open scientific computation is key to the mission of the scientific network I lead, CoMSES.NET. I regularly point to GRASS as an exemplar open source software project, a bottom up, self-organized network of users and developers around the world who together create some of the most powerful and highest quality geospatial software available.

I will continue to participate in the GRASS developer and user communities, advocating for GRASS and FOSS, whether or not I am on the PSC. If selected, I am happy to continue to provide input, a historical perspective, and support the PSC as a researcher/educator/developer and as a Mac user of GRASS. My goals for GRASS center around making it more accessible so that more people can use it and contribute to the project. I am very happy to see the continued growth of the developer and user communities, especially the new generation of developers who are continuing the GRASS tradition of high-quality, cutting-edge software. I certainly support ongoing work to make the GUI more flexible and more usable, critically important for enabling a wide diversity of people to apply this sophisticated and powerful software. Along these lines, I would encourage incipient development efforts to provide a browser-based version of GRASS, available online as software-as-a-service. Also, in order to support transparent, scientific workflows, one suggestion I have is for an option that would automatically record the commands behind a series of GUI actions in a file that could be saved and shared. All the functionality to do this is already in place in GRASS. Finally, while preparing this statement, I went looking for an expression of the GRASS mission, and found that one is not available beyond "Bringing advanced geospatial technologies to the world". This is indeed laudable. But given the long and successful history, and worldwide use of GRASS, it would be of value for the PSC, with approval of voting community members, to articulate a more comprehensive GRASS mission statement to communicate the vision of this community to a global audience.

Michael Barton

C. Michael Barton
Network for Computational Modeling in Social & Ecological Sciences
School of Complex Adaptive Systems
School of Human Evolution & Social Change
Arizona State University

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