Test-driven development

Test-driven software development has much in common with reproducible research. Here’s an excerpt from a talk by Kent Beck, one of the most visible proponents of test-driven development. He says test-driven development isn’t about testing.

Testing really isn’t the point. The point here is about responsibility. When you say it’s done is it done? Can you go to sleep at night knowing the software that software you finished today works and will help and isn’t going to take anything away from people?

You could say similar things about reproducible research. RR is about responsibility, really finishing a project rather than sorta finishing it. Can other people build on top of your work with confidence? Can you build with confidence tomorrow on the work you did today?

Software unit tests exist not only to verify that code is correct, but to insure that the code stays correct over time. These tests act as tripwires. The hope is that if a future change introduces a bug, a unit test will fail. Again similar remarks apply to RR. With RR, you’re not just interested in producing a result. You’re also giving some thought to producing a variation on that result with minimum effort and maximum confidence in the future when something changes.

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