I would like to spark a discussion on benefits of workflows and what the Platform and the Workflow group aspire to provide to the „end users“. In the Workflows jour fixe on 26th of November we shortly discussed whether it’s reasonable to implement a rather specific simulation as a workflow. The mentioned problem was that it’s not reasonable for an individual researcher to integrate one single, very specific simulation configuration into any workflow framework.
The ideal solution would be to identify a more general set of configurations, that can be implemented as a workflow / black box with some modifiable parameters. However, the problem continues in that it is in several circumstances not possible to deduce this general set of configurations and the variable parameters while actively researching a topic. You simply don’t know in the beginning that it is and only is parameters x and y you’re going to change to do all of your upcoming simulations. The meeting minutes for example state that „The benefit of the workflow environment is questioned for FEniCS workflows“. Please correct me, if I understood this specific problem wrong during the jour fixe.
I don’t think that this are issues, which are specific to the project which raised this concern, and FEniCS or some class of tools, that we would like to incorporate into workflows. I rather think this is one specific case of more general issues regarding the questions: What is a workflow or rather what do we (collectively) understand as a workflow? Why should anyone use any kind of workflow tool - what are the benefits? What do we (the platform, the Workflows working group, any one of the projects) specifically want to provide to the end user? Who even is the end user? Considering that inside the projects the group of end users and the group of people, who develop and provide the knowledge and implementations of workflows (or at least whom we want to do that), overlap or are the same, it is especially the question which benefits it is for them not to just run their simulations / experiments / calculations but also implement their „workflow“ into some framework?
In my experience it has been difficult to get a common understanding of what workflow really means with non-IT-affine colleagues. Let aside getting people to see what they could provide to „the workflows“ and how they could benefit from it. But I think it’s especially important to get buy-in from the colleagues, who use their tools on a daily basis, to commit to the idea that it’s helpful for others and for them to integrate their tools into workflows.