The ASCL is participating in the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting that started yesterday in Honolulu, Hawai’i. We have two events, both on Sunday, January 5:
Best ways to let others know how to cite your research software
January 5; Poster 109.12
Software citation is good for research transparency and reproducibility, and maybe, if you work it right, for your CV, too. You can get credit and recognition through citations for your code! This presentation highlights several powerful methods for increasing the probability that use of your research software will be cited, and cited correctly. The presentation covers how to create codemeta.json and CITATION.cff automagically from Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL ascl.net) entries, edit, and use these files, the value of including such files on your code site(s), and efforts underway in astronomy and other fields to improve software citation and credit.
The Future and Future Governance of the Astrophysics Source Code Library
January 5, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM; HCC – Room 301B
Over the past ten years, the Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL, ascl.net) has grown from a small repository holding about 40 codes with hand-coded HTML pages maintained by one person to a resource with citable entries on over 2000 codes with a modern database structure that is user- and editor-friendly maintained by a small group of volunteers. With its 20th anniversary now behind it, it’s time to look at the resource and its governance and management. Does its current structure best serve the astro community? What changes would you like to see to its governance? We don’t know the answers to these and other questions! Please join us for an open discussion on the resource and what a new governance model for the ASCL might be.
I am involved in several efforts, in addition to the ASCL, to improve recognition and credit for software authors; one such effort is the FORCE11 Software Citation Implementation Working Group (SCIWG), in which several software registries and repositories are involved. These resources, along with others not part of the SCIWG, have formed a Repository Best Practice Task Force, which has held monthly conference calls this year to collaboratively develop a list of best practices for such resources. This has also been an excellent vehicle for enabling people who run these resources to share information about managing software registries and working with software authors, researchers, and journal editors to improve software citation.
Thanks to funding from the Sloan Foundation, members of this Task Force and other software resources are coming together in a Scientific Software Registry Collaboration Workshop to demonstrate unique aspects of our respective services, discuss challenges and share solutions to common issues that arise in managing our resources, finalize a list of best practices for our resources, and work cooperatively to speed adoption of the CodeMeta and/or Citation File Format standards. The workshop has been organized by the Caltech Library and ASCL, and takes place at the University of Maryland (College Park) this coming Wednesday and Thursday (November 13-14). It includes presentations by software registry managers and subject matter experts, break-out sessions for collaborative work, and group discussion.
I’m happy to say we are able to provide remote access to most of the plenary portions of the workshop through Webex; links on the workshop agenda identify the sessions available over Webex. As the workshop has an element of unconferencing, it’s possible that additional portions of the workshop will be suitable for Webex and if so, we will update the agenda accordingly. In addition, we will have someone live-scribing the event; a link to the Google Doc for these notes will be added to the agenda webpage before the workshop begins.
A major focus of this workshop is to discuss and finalize the best practices that have been identified so far in our monthly conference calls. A draft list of the practices (PDF) is available for download below; these are the practices we will be working on in break-out groups during the workshop. Links to the Google Docs we will be using for these breakout sessions are listed on the agenda; this offers another way for anyone interested to see the work being done in this meeting.
I have wanted to meet with others doing work similar to that I do on the ASCL for a long time, and am very grateful to Tom Morrell, Mike Hucka, and Stephen Davison from Caltech Libraries for partnering with me to organize this workshop, and to Josh Greenberg at the Sloan Foundation for thinking this workshop was a good idea and funding the project. My thanks to all of them!
Draft list of Best Practices for research software registries (pdf)
This presentation covers research on software authorship and citation, which we carried out between July and September 2019. We examined codes authored by three or fewer people (“short author list” codes) and codes authored by institutional teams, to determine how many codes in the ASCL can be attributed to one of these categories. Utilizing ADS data, we measured the number of citations per authorship category. We carried out further research to determine whether we could infer software usage and code usage statistics from the number of citations to code description papers. Our research shows that citations to code description papers are not a reliable proxy for software usage.
P. Wesley Ryan, Astrophysics Source Code Library
Download poster (PDF)
I’ve set a goal of bringing the number of entries missing preferred citation information to under 1000, though that might be just beyond possible. When I started this process, there were 1284 entries without a preferred citation; I’ve examined the software sites and documentation of 150+ of these codes so far and have found explicit citation information for just over 14% of these.
In general, we include a preferred citation in an ASCL record when a code’s site or documentation explicitly states what should be cited (“cite [code] with this [ASCL entry/article/DOI/etc.]”). We don’t assume a paper listed under “References” or “Articles” is intended to be for citation, though that may be the intent of some authors listing them, as some list these papers because a code is built upon others’ work, or these papers include research that used the software.
In some cases, a particular software has no citations to the ASCL record and numerous citations (> 25, let’s say) to a code description paper even though the download site or repo does not specify how the software should be cited. Allowing this “apparent established practice” of citation to substitute for an explicit statement and listing the description paper as the preferred citation seems fair to me, and valuable to those who want to do the right thing by citing a software package but don’t find guidance for how to do so on the code’s site.
We very much prefer that authors provide explicit information on their preferred citation for their programming work, but where they don’t, and where there is an apparent established practice of citation, we will now list that citation method as the preferred citation in the ASCL entry. So far, this inferred information has been added to 15 ASCL entries.
Do you want to discuss different software citation methods before selecting a preferred method? Did I get your software’s preferred citation wrong or miss it entirely? If so, please let me know via email or the Suggest a change link at the bottom of your code’s ASCL entry.
At lunch yesterday, I was asked in what year the earliest code ASCL has was written (or was first created). I didn’t know off the top of my head, but thought probably in late 70s. (The earliest I ever pursued was from the 60s, IIRC, & though I found an working email address for the woman who wrote it, which was amazing in itself, she no longer had the code, alas.)
But the question got me to wondering, so in a quick look, here’s what I found: three codes that were initially created in 1978:
All of these have undergone further development and are still in use, as indicated by citations to them in papers published this year.
Are these the most long-lived codes we have? Are there codes that were started even before 1978 that are still in use? Probably. Maybe part of the Starlink (ascl:1110.012) code base? Something else?
If you know of one or can find one in the ASCL with a history that goes back further than 1978, please let us know in the replies.
UPDATE, August 21, 2019
Yes! There is one code that goes back even further, to 1972. Warrick Ball (@warrickball), a postdoc at the University of Birmingham (U.K.), replied on Twitter that the stellar evolution code STARS (ascl:1107.008) got its start in 1971, and the 1972 article which describes the code is listed in the ASCL entry for it. The code is still in use and was cited earlier this year. There’ll be dark chocolate heading Dr. Ball’s way as soon as the weather cools off; kudos to him for finding the answer to this question!