Recognising the value of software: how libraries can help the adoption of software citation

Neil P Chue Hong, Jez Cope, Patricia Herterich, Daniel S. Katz, Simon Worthington

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Software is as integral as a research paper, monograph, or dataset in terms of facilitating the full understanding and dissemination of research. However - unlike books and journal articles - the infrastructure, guidance and incentives for citing and preserving software have been absent, and it can be unclear how research libraries and archives should support this. We present the current status of software citation in the researcher and publishing communities, summarise how libraries can build on the available guidance, and showcase existing efforts. Citing software helps: - support proper attribution and credit; - enable peer-review, validation, and reproducibility of findings; - support collaboration and reuse; and - encourage building on the work of others. Historically, support for software citation has been poor, resulting in human-readable citations that remain hidden and misrepresent the influence software has had in a field: e.g. astronomy (Bouquin, 2020). The FORCE11 Software Citation Implementation Working Group has been building on the Software Citation Principles (Smith, 2016), bringing together researchers, journal editors and publishers, research software engineers and repository managers to create guidance and processes for supporting different participants in the scholarly communication ecosystem (TFBPSR, 2020; Katz, 2021). The role of libraries in supporting software citation is twofold: providing support and training to develop researchers’ skills on the correct ways to include software in research output management plans, cite software and use reference managers (similar to existing guidance for other research objects); and providing infrastructure to help support software citation and open access to software, such as digital repositories, software registries, identifiers and catalogues (which includes collectively representing their researchers and testing that infrastructure). Increasingly, we see examples of research libraries, such as MIT Libraries (n.d.) publishing guides on how to cite software and Caltech Library (Morrell, 2018) developing support for depositing software, and repositories, such as Zenodo (Nielson, 2019), Software Heritage (2020) and the Astronomy Source Code Library (n.d.), giving instructions on how software stored in their collections should be referenced. To facilitate adoption, it is essential that this guidance is consistent, and the engagement of FORCE11 with networks such as LIBER is crucial. This is also an opportunity for research libraries to collaborate with research software engineering groups and research computing groups at their institutions, to provide broader support for open research, FAIR research objects, reproducibility and software preservation. ASCL. (n.d.). Citing ASCL code entries. Bouquin et al. (2020). Credit Lost: Two Decades of Software Citation in Astronomy. Katz et al. (2021). Recognizing the value of software: a software citation guide. MIT Libraries. (n.d.). Citing & publishing software. Morrell. (2018). Caltechdata Codemeta Integration. Nielson. (2019). Software citations now available in Zenodo. Smith et al. (2016). Software citation principles. Software Heritage. (2020). Citing software with style. TFBPSR. (2020) Nine Best Practices for Research Software Registries and Repositories: A Concise Guide.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2021
Event50th Annual LIBER Conference: Libraries and Open Knowledge: from vision to implementation -
Duration: 23 Jun 202125 Jun 2021


Conference50th Annual LIBER Conference
Abbreviated titleLIBER2021
Internet address


  • scholarly communication, software citation, citation, digital repositories


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