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A package for reproducible geophysical data processing

What is Madagascar?

Madagascar is an open-source software package for multidimensional data analysis and reproducible computational experiments. Its mission is to provide

  • a convenient and powerful environment
  • a convenient technology transfer tool

for researchers working with digital image and data processing in geophysics and related fields. Technology developed using the Madagascar project management system is transferred in the form of recorded processing histories, which become "computational recipes" to be verified, exchanged, and modified by users of the system.

Design Principles

  • Madagascar is a modern package. Started in 2003 and publicly released in 2006, it was developed entirely from scratch. Being a relatively new package, it follows modern software engineering practices such as module encapsulation and test-driven development. A rapid development of a project of this scope (more than 300 main programs and more than 3,000 tests) would not be possible without standing on the shoulders of giants and learning from the 30 years of previous experience in open packages such as SEPlib and Seismic Unix. We have borrowed and reimplemented functionality and ideas from these other packages.

  • Madagascar is a test-driven package. Test-driven development is not only an agile software programming practice but also a way of bringing scientific foundation to geophysical research that involves numerical experiments. Bringing reproducibility and peer review, the backbone of any real science, to the field of computational geophysics is the main motivation for Madagascar development. The package consists of two levels: low-level main programs (typically developed in the C programming language and working as data filters) and high-level processing flows (described with the help of the Python programming language) that combine main programs and completely document data processing histories for testing and reproducibility. Experience shows that high-level programming is easily mastered even by beginning students that have no previous programming experience.

  • Madagascar is an open-source package. It is distributed under the standard GPL open-source license, which places no restriction on the usage and modification of the code. Moreover, access to modifying the source repository is not controlled by one organization but shared equally among different developers. This enables an open collaboration among different groups spread all over the world, in the true spirit of the open source movement.

  • Madagascar uses a simple, flexible, and universal data format that can handle very large datasets but is not tied specifically to seismic data or data of any other particular kind. This "regularly sampled" format is borrowed from the traditional SEPlib. A universal data format allows us to share general-purpose data processing tools with scientists from other disciplines such as petroleum engineers working on large-scale reservoir simulations.

Where to get more information about Madagascar

The primary source of information is the web site:

Additional information:

users' mailing list ("RSF-user"):

developers' mailing list ("RSF-devel"):

development blog:

Compiling, Building, Installing and Testing

See the INSTALL.txt document for build instructions.


While being written from scratch, Madagascar borrows ideas from the design of SEPlib, a publicly available software package, maintained by Bob Clapp at the Stanford Exploration Project (SEP). Generations of SEP students and researchers contributed to SEPlib. Most important contributions came from Rob Clayton, Jon Claerbout, Dave Hale, Stew Levin, Rick Ottolini, Joe Dellinger, Steve Cole, Dave Nichols, Martin Karrenbach, Biondo Biondi, and Bob Clapp.

Madagascar was started, under the name RSF (Regularly Sampled Format) by Sergey Fomel in 2003. Since then, many other people have contributed to it. See the AUTHORS.txt file for an incomplete list.

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