On the one hand it is wonderful that students can use commercial software and freeware to quickly plot graphs, do statistical analysis, do Monte Carlo simulations, perform quantum chemistry calculations, ....
In principle, this should lead to deeper and more sophisticated analysis and more time for reflection.
However, it seems to me sometimes the opposite is happening.
I increasingly encounter research students who seem to treat software as a magical "black box" and lack a basic understanding of the
- physical principles and equations the software is based on
- limitations and reliability of the software and the underlying equations
- need to perform systematic checks and comparisons with analytical results in well understood limits
I once heard of a respected condensed matter theorist who made all his students write their own software from scratch. Perhaps, this is a bit extreme but I can see why he did it.
So should there be limitations on how much software undergraduate students use in research? Should they have to pass a test before they get a "drivers license"? What might that test look like?