Acknowledging Scientific Software

Daina Bouquin

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


because you want credit for your work


because you care about your work

I don't want you to have to think about citation.

I want you to have a scientific legacy.


Your work will be the foundation on which future generations build new knowledge.


Your work will be their heritage.

Code is speech.

Software Citation Principles


  • Software should be considered important

  • Normative, legal attribution and credit should be given to software authors

  • Software should be identified using machine actionable, globally unique, interoperable identifiers

  • Identifiers should point to specific versions of software

  • Software metadata should be persistent

  • Citation should enable access to the software itself

How do we actually do this?


FORCE11: Software Citation Implementation Working Group


published = permanently archiving it and creating a resolvable identifier

(e.g. by Zenodo, figshare, institutional archival repositories)


unpublished = the software is made available by a hosting organization that does not commit to long term preservation (e.g. GitHub, personal website)

Publishing Software

"published software"


"archived software"

oh god

Best thing to cite

Citation File Format

human- and machine-readable file format that provides citation metadata for software.


more than citation metadata

You need to care to do this properly.

It's not easy yet.

Authors are specifically requesting people cite something other than the code even when a software DOI for the code exists.

Issues from Astronomy Land

These things can be cited in addition to the code, rather than as stand-ins for the code

Software DOI doesn't guarantee a native software citation

complicated / conflicting author instructions

  • You control your metadata.

  • You are your own cataloger.

software authors

  • You need to cite software correctly.

  • No one else will catch mistakes.

  • You are your own copy editor.

article authors

  • You need policies that can be enforced.

  • You need to provide examples.


Things you can do

right now

Software Authors

  • Mint a software DOI
  • Create a CFF file
  • License your data and code explicitly
  • Update and check your metadata
    • Check it again
  • Link documentation to the source code directly
  • Ensure your preferred citations/any instructions about attribution enable native software citation
  • If you have many versions of software, decide who the authors are for each version*

* get a freaking ORCiD

Article Authors

  • Look for preferred citations
    • Look everywhere
  • If you cannot find a preferred citation, follow the F11 guidance and make sure you're doing your best at native software citation
  • Consider the version that you are citing
    • Who are you trying to give credit?
  • Follow publisher policies, if there isn't one follow F11 principles
  • Put software citations in the references section
  • Cite your own code in a software paper
    • ​tells others how you want it cited


  • Make a software citation policy
  • Provide examples 
    • ​What to do
    • What not to do
  • Make expectations clear as to how much editorial review will be dedicated to checking software citations 
    • Everyone assumes you will fix it
  • If you accept software papers recommend authors create metadata files and mint a DOI 

Thank You

Acknowledging Scientific Software

By Daina Bouquin

Acknowledging Scientific Software

Presented at the Society for Industrial Mathematics 2019 meeting on Computational Science and Engineering in Spokane, WA.

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