Dustin Heaton and Jeffrey Carver have just published a paper titled Claims About the Use of Software Engineering Practices in Science: A Systematic Literature Review:
Of the 189 papers originally identified, 43 are included in the literature review. These 43 papers contain 33 different claims about 12 software engineering practices... The claims that received the most support were: "The effectiveness of the testing practices currently used by scientic software developers is limited" and "Version control software is necessary for research groups with more than one developer." Additionally, many scientic software developers have unconsciously adopted an agile-like development methodology.
I think this is really useful work, both because it tells us what we do and don't know, and because it shows that questions like these can actually be answered. Recommended.
Originally posted at Software Carpentry.