"Policy Recommendations to Ensure That Research Software Is Openly Accessible and Reusable"

There is now an opportunity to expand US federal policies in similar ways and align their research software sharing aspects across agencies.

To do this, we recommend:

  1. As part of their updated policy plans submitted in response to the 2022 OSTP memo, US federal agencies should, at a minimum, articulate a pathway for developing guidance on research software sharing, and, at a maximum, incorporate research software sharing requirements as a necessary extension of any data sharing policy and a critical strategy to make data truly FAIR (as these principles have been adapted to apply to research software [12]).
  2. As part of sharing requirements, federal agencies should specify that research software should be deposited in trusted, public repositories that maximize discovery, collaborative development, version control, long-term preservation, and other key elements of the National Science and Technology Council’s "Desirable Characteristics of Data Repositories for Federally Funded Research" [13], as adapted to fit the unique considerations of research software.
  3. US federal agencies should encourage grantees to use non-proprietary software and file formats, whenever possible, to collect and store data. We realize that for some research areas and specialized techniques, viable non-proprietary software may not exist for data collection. However, in many cases, files can be exported and shared using non-proprietary formats or scripts can be provided to allow others to open files.
  4. Consistent with the US Administration’s approach to cybersecurity [<14], federal agencies should provide clear guidance on measures grantees are expected to undertake to ensure the security and integrity of research software. This guidance should encompass the design, development, dissemination, and documentation of research software. Examples include the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s secure software development framework and Linux Foundation’s open source security foundation.
  5. As part of the allowable costs that grantees can request to help them meet research sharing requirements, US federal agencies should include reasonable costs associated with developing and maintaining research software needed to maximize data accessibility and reusability for as long as it is practical. Federal agencies should ensure that such costs are additive to proposal budgets, rather than consuming funds that would otherwise go to the research itself.
  6. US federal agencies should encourage grantees to apply licenses to their research software that facilitate replication, reuse, and extensibility, while balancing individual and institutional intellectual property considerations. Agencies can point grantees to guidance on desirable criteria for distribution terms and approved licenses from the Open Source Initiative.
  7. In parallel with the actions listed above that can be immediately incorporated into new public access plans, US federal agencies should also explore long-term strategies to elevate research software to co-equal research outputs and further incentivize its maintenance and sharing to improve research reproducibility, replicability, and integrity.


| Research Data Publication and Citation Bibliography | Research Data Sharing and Reuse Bibliography | Research Data Curation and Management Bibliography | Digital Scholarship |

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Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.