The Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM)
APSIM is internationally recognised as a highly advanced simulator of agricultural systems. It contains a suite of modules which enable the simulation of systems that cover a range of plant, animal, soil, climate and management interactions. It is undergoing continual development, with new capability added to regular releases of official versions over time. Its development and maintenance is underpinned by rigorous science and software engineering standards.
The APSIM Initiative
The APSIM initiative (AI) was established in 2007 to promote the development and use of the science modules and infrastructure software of APSIM.
The AI records a shift in focus in how APSIM is managed. APSIM development, maintenance and commercialisation are now the responsibility of the AI and so are now separate from the research-oriented Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit (APSRU). After many years of successful collaboration, APSRU is now an informal collaborative network based out of Toowoomba, Australia.
The Foundation Members of the AI are CSIRO, the State of Queensland and The University of Queensland. AgResearch Ltd., New Zealand became a party in 2015 and other organisations may apply to join at any time.
The AI is managed by a Steering Committee, with a Reference Panel providing advice on matters relating to APSIM development, in particular Science Quality and Software Development.
Objectives of the APSIM Initiative:
The AI enables developments in agricultural systems modelling to be captured more rapidly and effectively within the APSIM infrastructure, regardless of membership. Specifically the Objectives are to:
1. Create a joint venture of research bodies that wish to lead and contribute to the ongoing development and use of APSIM;
2. Co-develop and manage APSIM as a high quality, world class research tool in its field and;
3. Ensure that APSIM is developed by the facilitation of broadly based collaborative science.
To achieve these objectives the AI provides:
- An open and transparent 'APSIM Community Source Framework' (a modified Open Source Framework) facilitating broadly based collaborative science;
- Best practice Software Development and Maintenance;
- Science quality control;
- Free public good licensing (for R&D, extension and educational use);
- Commercial licensing (authorised by the AI Steering Committee)
- APSIM Training (as a fee for service activity)
- APSIM Support (via a web based support forum)
Improvements to APSIM
In addition to encouraging entrepreneurial R&D, The APSIM Initiative has a key objective of ensuring the ongoing development of APSIM through the facilitation of broadly based collaborative science. This is achieved through the 'APSIM Community Source Framework', the intent of which is to develop a high-quality and enduring agricultural production systems modelling platform, with global reach.
What is the 'APSIM Community Source Framework'?
The 'APSIM Community Source Framework' is a forum of interested APSIM users (persons and organisations) that informs and interacts with the AI, the original owners and developers of APSIM, to assist in its ongoing development and use.
In exchange for free access to APSIM, licensed users may develop improvements and in turn relinquish ownership of these improvements to the AI. At its discretion, the AI may adopt the improvements and include these in APSIM.
The AI provides for distribution of modifications, promotes central control for quality assurance purposes, and considers structured innovation relevant to APSIM and its users.
This means that licensed users may access and modify APSIM source code, however all modifications to APSIM must be submitted to the AI and be subject to the Reference Panel evaluation and approval process before inclusion into official APSIM releases.
Role of the Reference Panel:
The Reference Panel's (RP) role is to encourage collaboration and innovation of both science and software development within APSIM, and to oversee, approve and manage all APSIM change and development activities. The RP advises the Steering Committee on technical and commercial matters and has certain delegated responsibilities under the AI. In particular the RP is responsible for:
1. Science Quality:
Overseeing and approving all science modifications to APSIM including new science functionality. This function reviews all science changes to APSIM, being cognisant of the wider APSIM functionality and advises the Steering Committee on acceptance or rejection of proposed science changes.
2. Software Engineering:
Overseeing and approving all software changes and development activities dealing with APSIM, including release management, reengineering source code and actively improving software process, reviewing all source code modifications and changes and advising the Steering Committee on acceptance or rejection of same. The Guiding Principles for RP operations are outlined in the AI Agreement.
Process for Incorporating Improvements into APSIM