The Astropy Problem

Published in arXiv e-prints, 2016 | Open access with ArXiv

Muna, D.; Alexander, M.; Allen, A.; Ashley, R.; Asmus, D.; Azzollini, R.; Bannister, M.; Beaton, R.; Benson, A.; Berriman, G.B.; Bilicki, M.; Boyce, P.; Bridge, J.; Cami, J.; Cangi, E.; Chen, X.; Christiny, N.; Clark, C.; Collins, M.; Comparat, J.; Cook, N.; Croton, D.; Delberth Davids, I.; Depagne, É.; Donor, J.; dos Santos, L.A.; Douglas, S.; Du, A.; Durbin, M.; Erb, D.; Faes, D.; Fernández-Trincado, J.G.; Foley, A.; Fotopoulou, S.; Frimann, S.; Frinchaboy, P.; Garcia-Dias, R.; Gawryszczak, A.; George, E.; Gonzalez, S.; Gordon, K.; Gorgone, N.; Gosmeyer, C.; Grasha, K.; Greenfield, P.; Grellmann, R.; Guillochon, J.; Gurwell, M.; Haas, M.; Hagen, A.; Haggard, D.; Haines, T.; Hall, P.; Hellwing, W.; Herenz, E.C.; Hinton, S.; Hlozek, R.; Hoffman, J.; Holman, D.; Holwerda, B.W.; Horton, A.; Hummels, C.; Jacobs, D.; Juel Jensen, J.; Jones, D.; Karick, A.; Kelley, L.; Kenworthy, M.; Kitchener, B.; Klaes, D.; Kohn, S.; Konorski, P.; Krawczyk, C.; Kuehn, K.; Kuutma, T.; Lam, M.T.; Lane, R.; Liske, J.; Lopez-Camara, D.; Mack, K.; Mangham, S.; Mao, Q.; Marsh, D.J.E.; Mateu, C.; Maurin, L.; McCormac, J.; Momcheva, I.; Monteiro, H.; Mueller, M.; Munoz, R.; Naidu, R.; Nelson, N.; Nitschelm, C.; North, C.; Nunez-Iglesias, J.; Ogaz, S.; Owen, R.; Parejko, J.; Patrício, V.; Pepper, J.; Perrin, M.; Pickering, T.; Piscionere, J.; Pogge, R.; Poleski, R.; Pourtsidou, A.; Price-Whelan, A.M.; Rawls, M.L.; Read, S.; Rees, G.; Rein, H.; Rice, T.; Riemer-Sørensen, S.; Rusomarov, N.; Sanchez, S.F.; Santander-García, M.; Sarid, G.; Schoenell, W.; Scholz, A.; Schuhmann, R.L.; Schuster, W.; Scicluna, P.; Seidel, M.; Shao, L.; Sharma, P.; Shulevski, A.; Shupe, D.; Sifón, C.; Simmons, B.; Sinha, M.; Skillen, I.; Soergel, B.; Spriggs, T.; Srinivasan, S.; Stevens, A.; Streicher, O.; Suchyta, E.; Tan, J.; Telford, O.G.; Thomas, R.; Tonini, C.; Tremblay, G.; Tuttle, S.; Urrutia, T.; Vaughan, S.; Verdugo, M.; Wagner, A.; Walawender, J.; Wetzel, A.; Willett, K.; Williams, P.K.G.; Yang, G.; Zhu, G.; Zonca, A.

The Astropy Project ( is, in its own words, “a community effort to develop a single core package for Astronomy in Python and foster interoperability between Python astronomy packages.” For five years this project has been managed, written, and operated as a grassroots, self-organized, almost entirely volunteer effort while the software is used by the majority of the astronomical community. Despite this, the project has always been and remains to this day effectively unfunded. Further, contributors receive little or no formal recognition for creating and supporting what is now critical software. This paper explores the problem in detail, outlines possible solutions to correct this, and presents a few suggestions on how to address the sustainability of general purpose astronomical software.