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 sourcecode is made openly accessible in addition to the corresponding research data.

Infrastructures are the technological foundation for collaborative and cross-organizational software development (e.g. GitHub, GitLab, Jupyter). Utilizing licences that are as open and standardized as possible (see e.g. this list of various licenses by the Free Software Foundation or this guide on choosing an open-source license by the Software Sustainability Institute) can enable both the application of software and the subsequent reuse or further development of program code. Thus, research software should be recognized as a separate publication type. The access to and the reuse of research software can be promoted by acknowledging the accomplishments of software development. To this end, the establishment of corresponding publication and citation strategies in scientific practice is essential. A variety of teaching and learning formats (e.g. cooperative university courses) as well as further training and education offers (e.g. software carpentry courses or Codecademy) are decisive for the future design of the interactions with research software. Although the appreciation of software’s importance in the scientific community is improving (e.g. EU Commission/ EOSC Executive Board report on “Scholarly infrastructures for research software”), there is a great demand for discussion and action in many domains (see e.g. Anzt et al., 2021) and across domains with respect to incentives and rewards (see e.g. Druskat et al., 2021).

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 (please note: available in German only) on this topic in March 2017 and published recommendations for Helmholtz centers in November 2017. The Task Group also developed model guidelines for the sustainable use of research software at Helmholtz centers, which was adopted by the Open Science working group 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 (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.