On the road to opening up research codes

News from committee
08/07/2021

Article written by Camille Maumet with contributions from all the members of GPLO, the Committee for Open Science’s ‘free and open source software group’.

In November 2018, the Committee for Open Science set up a ‘free and open source software group’, or the GPLO for short.

The creation of this group was based on a simple observation – that software is at the core of research and that open source practices are one of the founding elements of open science. The GPLO’s mission is to help the committee support the development of free and open software in scientific communities as such software is considered to be a pillar of open science.

The first two years of the group’s work were very rich and we are delighted to share our first results.

An analysis of software indicators for open science

The article “About the proposal for software indicators in the OSM” was published in September 2018 in response to the call for contributions about the indicators proposed for the European “Open Science Monitor”. It is based on our expertise with software and presents an in-depth analysis of the proposed indicators, shows their limitations, and suggests many essential improvements.

A GPLO opportunity note on the promotion of research-based software

This article was published in November 2019 under the title ‘Opportunity note: Encouraging a wider usage of software derived from research‘. It defines the main issues linked to promoting open source software from research and makes some general recommendations.

It describes the specific status of software which may be a tool for conducting research, a product of research and sometimes even an object of research and also highlights the importance of there being better recognition of software-related contributions to research.

The article sets out nine recommendations ranging from the definition of a software contribution (beyond simple “commits”) to our entry into international discussions of these issues.

Contribution to the French response to the UNESCO consultation on open science

In November 2020, UNESCO asked France to take part in a major consultation on open science. GPLO members contributed to proposals concerning the issue of software and several of these were retained in the official response.

In particular, we emphasized the importance for digital infrastructures to be based on free software and open protocols and the need to invest sustainable financial and human resources in the software building blocks that are essential for open science including their maintenance. We also underlined the fact that it is essential to address the specificity of the infrastructure for software and source code. Software is not just about data and it poses unique challenges, for example in terms of archiving. Also software derived from research just represents a slim top layer of a large set of components developed outside the academic world.

The suggestions were published in December 2020 in a document called Comments made by France on the First draft of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.

A study of software in higher education and research – a collaborative project led by Etalab

Finally we also worked with Etalab which is the department of the Inter-ministerial Directorate for Digital Affairs’ (DINUM) that drives the policy for open public sector data in France. This involved a major collaborative study of software in higher education and research which produced a list of specific recommendations.

The study was published by Etalab, the Committee for Open Science and Inno in February 2021.

Coming up next …

We are currently collaborating with Etalab to prepare an event for the autumn.

Our aim is to create a large community around the themes of free and open source software in open science. We are looking for people with very diverse profiles and skills, who can relay information to and from the Committee for Open Science. They may be associated with specific initiatives and can contribute by approving and supporting the work of the GPLO. You can send your application with a CV and a short covering letter now to this address.

If you are more generally interested in the GPLO’s activities, you can also consult our webpage https://www.ouvrirlascience.fr/the-free-and-open-source-software-group/ and follow our publications on the “Ouvrir la science” blog.