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The Smelly Eight: An Empirical Study on the Prevalence of Code Smells in Quantum Computing

Souto, A. ; Camara, R. ; Chen, Q.

The Smelly Eight: An Empirical Study on the Prevalence of Code Smells in Quantum Computing, Proc IEEE 45th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), Sidney, Australia, Vol. , pp. - , May, 2023.

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1109/ICSE48619.2023.00041


Quantum Computing (QC) is a fast-growing field that has enhanced the emergence of new programming languages and frameworks. Furthermore, the increased availability of computational resources has also contributed to an influx in the development of quantum programs. Given that classical and QC are significantly different due to the intrinsic nature of quantum programs, several aspects of QC (e.g., performance, bugs) have been investigated, and novel approaches have been proposed. However, from a purely quantum perspective, maintenance, one of the major steps in a software development life-cycle, has not been considered by researchers yet. In this paper, we fill this gap and investigate the prevalence of code smells in quantum programs as an indicator of maintenance issues. We defined eight quantum-specific smells and validated them through a survey with 35 quantum developers. Since no tool specifically aims to detect quantum smells, we developed a tool called QSmell that supports the proposed quantum-specific smells. Finally, we conducted an empirical investigation to analyze the prevalence of quantum-specific smells in 15 open-source quantum programs. Our results showed that 11 programs (73.33%) contain at least one smell and, on average, a program has three smells. Furthermore, the long circuit is the most prevalent smell present in 53.33% of the programs.