Poster Open Access

Research Software Directory - Putting the F in FAIR software

Maassen, Jason; Spaaks, Jurriaan H.; Klaver, Tom; Verhoeven, Stefan; Bakker, Tom

van Nieuwpoort, Rob; van Hage, Willem

The Netherlands eScience Center [1] is the Dutch national center of excellence for the development and application of research software. We provide a combination of in-cash and in-kind funding to Dutch research projects that require a both academic research and software development to solve their research challenges.

We firmly believe that open software is just as important to open science as are open access publications and open data. Without open software, the “instrument” that produces the published results from the data is missing.

In our view, the FAIR principles [2] should therefore also apply to software; it needs to be findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable. Software is not the same as data however, as it requires a complex environment to operate in: compilers, libraries, configuration files, operating systems, etc. It needs to be maintained to fix bugs and to adapt it to changes in its environment. In this respect, software is more volatile than data.

As an organization, we want to show that we have a positive impact on the projects that we do. This is a challenge because our contributions are mostly in the form of software. For many scientific domains it is not commonplace to cite software, even when that software is crucial to the research being presented. Because getting credited is not typically within our control, we decided to investigate alternative ways of demonstrating impact of software.

This poster presents the Research Software Directory [3,4], a content management system that is tailored to software. At the time of writing, it collects data from GitHub, Zenodo, Zotero (our organization-wide reference manager), CITATION.cff files (for machine readable citation data), Medium (our institute's blog), and more. What little input it requires from our engineers, can be provided through a web form.

Using this information, we create a ‘product page’ for each software package on the Research Software Directory. Each software package is presented within its research context, which may include links to scientific papers, projects, presentations, etc. In addition, it also shows a social context: who are the developers, how active is the development, and are there any tutorials, blogs, videos, etc. Importantly, each product page also clearly states how to cite the software package in papers.

Besides providing a qualitative assessment of software impact, the Research Software Directory also improves findability of software packages, for example by providing metadata that helps search engines understand what the software is about, but equally importantly, by providing humans with the necessary context to understand the software's purpose. After all, discovery of a software package is often not so much about finding it, but knowing that you found it.



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