The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)
Providing public access to research results
As a rule, researchers make all results available as part of scientific/academic discourse. In specific cases, however, there may be reasons not to make results publicly available (in the narrower sense of publication, but also in a broader sense through other communication channels); this decision must not depend on third parties. Researchers decide autonomously – with due regard for the conventions of the relevant subject area – whether, how and where to disseminate their results. If it has been decided to make results available in the public domain, researchers describe them clearly and in full. Where possible and reasonable, this includes making the research data, materials and information on which the results are based, as well as the methods and software used, available and fully explaining the work processes. Software programmed by researchers themselves is made publicly available along with the source code. Researchers provide full and correct information about their own preliminary work and that of others.
In the interest of transparency and to enable research to be referred to and reused by others, whenever possible researchers make the research data and principal materials on which a publication is based available in recognised archives and repositories in accordance with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Restrictions may apply to public availability in the case of patent applications. If self-developed research software is to be made available to third parties, an appropriate licence is provided.
In line with the principle of “quality over quantity”, researchers avoid splitting research into inappropriately small publications. They limit the repetition of content from publications of which they were (co-)authors to that which is necessary to enable the reader to understand the context. They cite results previously made publicly available unless, in exceptional cases, this is deemed unnecessary by the general conventions of the discipline.
Handling research software – case studies
Current procedures and best practice examples from theoretical chemistry and theoretical physics are mentioned here to illustrate the handling of research software, in particular with regard to enabling access to research results. The case studies concern both the use of software and its development.
Case 1: Researchers use purchased software
Only commercial software is used, both for the simulations and for the analysis and visualisation of data. Users do not have access to source codes. In their scientific publications, users provide full details of the software manufacturers, release dates and version numbers (incl. bug patches).
Case 2: Researchers use software provided by colleagues
Software is used that was provided by a colleague for a specific project. Only an executable programme was provided, no source code. In their publications, users make reference to the original work done by their colleague and the latter is thanked for providing the software in the acknowledgements.
Case 3: Researchers develop software for a commercial package
In the context of a cooperation agreement between a software company and a higher education institution, a working group develops simulation software that is needed both for the institution’s own research and for commercial exploitation. The research focuses on the development of innovative methods and algorithms. Publications refer to the “developer’s version” of the computer programme. After a time delay (e.g. one year), the software manufacturer makes the new software available as part of an official release version of the software package.
Case 4: Researchers develop and use their own software
Self-written software is used, both for the numerical simulations and for the analysis and visualisation of the data. On request, the software is made available to colleagues, possibly only as an executable programme, i.e. without source code. Publications include extensive debate of the algorithms and mathematical equations used.
Case 5: Researchers develop open source software
A group of researchers develops and uses software under an open source licence, e.g. the GNU General Public License Version 3 (GPLv3). Publications include extensive debate of the algorithms and mathematical equations used. Software that is constantly evolving is secured when used for a publication by archiving the source code (e.g. via Zenodo) and indicating the version number.
The comment belongs to the following categories:
GL13 (General) , GL13 (Practical examples)