Source control is not just for software engineers. Using the tools that coders have written to support their work can make a computational biologist’s life massively easier. You’ll find that having a versioned, trackable backup of your analytic scripts is a lifesaver, over and over again.
There are several version control tools out there – we find that distributed source-control tools like Git work best for teams.
- Backups. If you are checking code into a git repository, you have at least one other location for your code. Dropping your laptop into the river doesn’t *have* to be a disaster.
- Collaboration. Working with other people is hard enough without stepping on each other ‘s toes while making edits. Git’s merging capabilities are excellent, and will help you figure out who did what, when, and whose changes should remain in the final document.
- Reproducibility. When you look back at that analysis you did last year, do you know what code you used to run it? Git does. Just ask it! Then you can tell your team why your results are different from last time.
Try it with your writing too – you’ll find that having your manuscript draft safely stashed away in a repository adds a lot of peace of mind.
There is plenty of great documentation out there on using these tools. Here are a few to begin with.