Are virtual machines good for reproducibility and open science?

+10 votes
asked Aug 5, 2015 in Open Science by Daniel Standage (420 points)

Virtual machines (VMs) provide a way for scientists to package not only scientific software, but also data, external dependences, and even entire operating system configurations, facilitating a faithful and exact reproduction of a particular computing environment used to derive a particular result.

Are VMs and other container systems used in this way actually a net positive for open science? If the scientific software used to compute a result can only be replicated in a very particular computing environment, is it useful and reliable?

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