Archiving and Citing Research Software

Daina Bouquin

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


This is the bare minimum.


We can't sustain software

if we can't even cite it.

I don't want researchers to have to think about this.

I want them to have a legacy.


Software will be the foundation on which future generations must build new knowledge.


Your work is someone's heritage.



Copernicus, N. (1543). Nicolai Copernici Torinensis De revolutionibus orbium cœlestium libri vi. Norimbergae: Apud Ioh. Petreium.

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unpublished = the software is made available by a hosting organization that does not commit to long term preservation (e.g. GitHub, personal website)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


Different expectations = Different archival requirements


  • What gets archived?
  • Who gets credit?
  • Who gets access?


Who does this work?

You cannot assume archival repositories know what to ask you for.


They need to learn what you need.

Systems need to change.

People who write software

need to decide what matters.

Citation File Format

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


more than citation metadata

SSI/Jisc Guidance for Software Deposit

Jackson, M. (2018b). Software Deposit: What to deposit (Version 1.0).



Example: Jupyter Notebooks

Bouquin, D., Hou, S., Benzing, M., Wilson, L. (2019). Jupyter Notebooks: A Primer for Curators (Version v1.0).

But they didn't cite their own software.


We have the chance to define new norms.

Authors are specifically requesting people cite something other than the code even when they have archived their code.

Other Issues from Astronomy Land

Software DOIs don't guarantee native software citation

complicated / conflicting author instructions

  • You control your metadata.

  • You are your own cataloger.

software authors

  • Cite archived software directly

  • 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

Article Authors

  • Look for preferred citations
    • Look everywhere
  • If you cannot find a preferred citation, do your best at unambiguous, native software citation
    • If the preferred citation is not to the software, cite the software and the other thing
  • Consider the version that you are citing
    • Who are you trying to give credit?
  • 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 

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

Thank You

Archiving and Citing Research Software

By Daina Bouquin

Archiving and Citing Research Software

Presented at the Software Sustainability Institute's 2019 Collaborations Workshop in Loughborough, UK.

  • 40
Loading comments...

More from Daina Bouquin