As conducting research across disciplines becomes more computer-driven, scientists increasingly need to develop code, software and other computational tools to help them get through various elements and stages of their research. Research shows that 38 percent of researchers spend a day per week on coding. That’s a significant group that spends a large chunk of their time developing software.
Meanwhile, academic recognition is still very much based on publication records, and the work done to develop software tools is often not recognized in the same way as the scientific advancements that are made using these same tools. If this is your situation, how do you explain to your funding body the importance of your work? It would help if your work would be published along with all the other scientific achievements.
Academic recognition for software
Dr. Eleonora Presani (@HEPPublisher), a publisher at Elsevier, said she spent a lot of her time coding in her previous role as particle physicist at CERN. “Software developers in science have always struggled to get academic recognition for their work,” she explained. “They rarely advance their academic career based on the code they wrote to contribute to science, even though this software often has a fundamental impact on research.”
She pointed out that while some researchers spend most of their time developing software, they will publish just the final results that are obtained with that software. In the end, funding bodies and university boards judge them on that tip of the iceberg, rather than on the rest of their output, which remains “hidden.” That’s because software development has not traditionally been treated as a full academic undertaking.
This is why Elsevier created SoftwareX. SoftwareX provides a dedicated publishing home for all software that fundamentally impacts the research process but traditionally would not be acknowledged or reported on systematically as part of the academic publishing infrastructure.
“With the launch of SoftwareX, we aim to make software a full academic publication,” said Dr. Presani, who is the journal’s publisher at Elsevier. “That way not only does software get the credit it deserves, but it also helps researchers alike – the software you need may have been already written. We believe that publishing software should be an integral part of scientific publications.”
Sharing software with the wider scientific community
It’s not just about getting the recognition for software as scientific publication. By making software an academic publication, it will also be systematically peer reviewed, organized, curated, indexed and shared through research databases. This will enable the wider scientific community to find, evaluate, credit, reuse or build on valuable software development that has been done previously.
Many of today’s scientific breakthroughs would not have happened without the availability of research software. It is therefore surprising to see that research software, despite the huge impact it may have on a wide research community, traditionally is not published, and hence is not citable and not available to other researchers to build on. With the launch of SoftwareX we will change this, providing a central outlet and home for this work.
To help make software more easily discoverable, the software articles will include a short description of how the software has already been used, its impact and its potential re-use in different disciplines. Furthermore, articles published in SoftwareX will display software metadata such as the version, operating system, programming language and the license under which the software is published. All software will be available from the journal’s repository on GitHub.
SoftwareX is multidisciplinary and accepts submissions from within and across subject domains. It specifically seeks submissions representing domain-independent software that may impact more than one research domain.
Open access and open source
SoftwareX is a fully open access journal. All articles published will be immediately and permanently free for everyone to read, download, copy and distribute. Reuse is defined by the CC BY license. All software published in SoftwareX will be open source. An overview of all the licensing options for your software can be found on the journal homepage.
- Kate Keahey, PhD, Argonne National Laboratory, USA
- Frank Seinstra, PhD, Netherlands eScience Center, the Netherlands
- David Wallom, PhD, Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK
The first articles
Video: Get your software published on SoftwareX
Elsevier Connect Contributor
Tobias Wesselius is the marketing communications manager for SoftwareX and is also responsible for marketing a portfolio of journals in the environmental sciences. He has a background in psychology and communications, and he recently ran the Rotterdam Marathon.