EOSC Report: “All Research Software should be Open Source”

Scholarly Infrastructures for Research Software

Published on: 18/12/2020

A report from the Architecture Working Group of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) recommends that all research software should be made available under an Open Source license by default.

On 7 December, the Task Force on Scholarly Infrastructures of Research Software, part of the Architecture WG of the EOSC Executive Board, published their report ‘Scholarly infrastructures for research software’.

The Task Force arrives at a clear and distinct policy recommendation: “all research software should be made available under an Open Source license by default, and all deviations from this default practice should be properly motivated”. In terms of specific actions, the task force recommends including this clause in all future research funding programs.

This rhymes with the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science from November, where it was stated that “to fully achieve the potential of Open Science, all research software should be made available under an Open Source license by default, and all deviations from this default practice should be properly motivated. We recommend including this clause in all future research funding programs.”

More broadly, these recommendations are signs of the recent developments in open science and open access. Software is moving to be considered a “research artifact”  in the same way other research outputs like publications and data are. As the report states, software “has become another medium for people to share knowledge. In the case of research, software delivers knowledge using programming languages the same way publications deliver knowledge using natural languages.”

In addition to the openness of software as a research output, the report points to the importance of the openness of the software used for research infrastructures, such as EOSC.

Moreover, as stated by the Task Force’s chair Roberto Di Cosmo “software source code in the research world is quite different from research data for a number of reasons”. He means that “it is not surprising that the popular FAIR Principles for research data do not fit [software source code] well, as they were not designed for it.” In order to tackle this, the report  outlines four key concrete issues that need to be solved “to make software a first-class citizen in the scholarly world”:

  • Archiving software that has been developed up until now to ensure research software artifacts are not lost
  • Referencing software to ensure research software artifacts can be precisely identified
  • Describing software to easily discover and identify research software artifacts
  • Crediting properly the authors of software

EOSC is a common infrastructure for open science started in Europe, but works world wide.