Timothy Johnson

Emacs as a Tool for Modern Science Written By Timothy Johnson

Emacs as a Tool for Modern Science

Late last week my publication on the use of emacs within chemical R&D came out of early access. The full article can be found here. I wanted to use this space to address some of the comments I’ve seen posted about the early access version that went up in October.

First of all - it has been great to see the positive reception this has had. This has been picked up by a few people, many of whom I follow - including John Kitchen and Irreal. The only down side? This paper was not meant for them!

Let me be clear - my goal with writing this was two fold. 1) I wanted those who understand these types of work flow to have something to point to if management where reticent to allow either the time investment or flexibility around software choice or, 2), to get some of my peers to see a tool that they have never seen or heard of - grounding it in terminology they could relate to.

In science we communicate via the literature. That is why this is a paper - I’d hoped peers would be receptive to ideas framed in this very structured way. I am not sure if this has been successful. There have been exceptions, but many I’ve spoken to have been bemused at my passion for this text editor. Not getting to the powerful work flows it unlocks. I do not blame them. Emacs is hard and it takes time. There are plenty of other things vying for that time and it’s a hard sell. After all - will they see the benefit I have? Is it worth spending this time and commitment up front? Is it really better than the tools they have had before?

So I fall back to my first point - I hope that this paper can be used as justification for those interested in this approach to get approval from their organisation. It can be done and it can be done in R&D.

So reference away - and reach out if you get stuck. I believe strongly this is important for individuals and science at large. As we train the next generation of scientists, and during the course of professional development, it is imperative that individuals reflect on, and take control of, the digital tools used to plan, conduct and share work. So explore, break things and learn - it’s the only way we will make progress.