Open Research Software

With the advancing digitalization of research and teaching, the number of software solutions emerging at scientific institutions with the purpose of gaining scientific knowledge is ever increasing. While open science calls for accessibility and reuse of scientific results, in many research areas, this can only be ensured if source code is made openly accessible in addition to the corresponding research data.

For the replicability and reproducibility of scientific results, referencing and making accessible the respectively employed or developed software is essential. In many cases, the provision of corresponding software is of great importance for the replicability of data analyses as well as for the re-use of the research data in question. The Helmholtz Open Science Office addresses these challenges under the heading open research software.

At the Helmholtz Centers, various research software initiatives are currently being implemented. Since 2016, the Task Group Research Software of the Working Group on Open Science in the Helmholtz Association has been dedicated to the accessibility and re-use of research software in the context of Open Science. The Helmholtz Association Open Science working group adopted a position paper on this topic in March 2017 and published recommendations for the implementation of guidelines and directives for the handling of scientific software at the Helmholtz Centres in a first version in November 2017. After further discussion of these recommendations in the Helmholtz Association, a model guideline for the sustainable use of research software at the Helmholtz Centres was developed, which was adopted by the Open Science Working Group together with the revised recommendations in November 2019.

With the launch of the Software Services Cluster of the Helmholtz Federated IT Services (HIFIS) platform within the Helmholtz Incubator Information and Data Science in 2019, the goal is to create a powerful IT service platform that connects knowledge from all Helmholtz centers. Both the working group and the HIFIS platform are dedicated to the sustainable use of research software in the Helmholtz Association, which documents a high overlap in personnel between the actors. To further advance the topic in Helmholtz in a coordinated manner, the Task Group Research Software and the Software Services Platform of HIFIS have formed the Forum Research Software in the Helmholtz Association since 2020. Currently, the Forum is initiating a Helmholtz-wide process to support the further implementation of policies for research software.

To advance the topic of research software beyond the Helmholtz Association, the ad hoc Working Group “Research Software” of the “Digital Information” Initiative of the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany has been set up. The Alliance Initiative developed guidelines to using research software in 2018 and a position paper in 2020 (please note: available in German only). Further work on this topic is being conducted in the work package “Digital tools — software and services” of the Alliance Initiative.