Digital data cannot be read, analysed or visualised without software. Research software is defined as software that is developed and used for this purpose. This ranges from established software with many users to just a few lines of code for personal use. It does not matter whether the software was developed by an individual researcher or by a team. However, individual solutions are not generally stored in the long-term, despite the fact that they are required in order to reproduce research results reliably.
Collectively, measures that aim to enable software to function in the future are described as ensuring research software sustainability. This leads to reliable research, improves retrievability, and increases the profitability and usability of research data. This can be very complex. In addition to the software itself, the operating requirements must also be documented.
In order to ensure reproducibility the exact version of the software used to produce the results must be known. While data tends to be static in nature, the software used during a project is usually developed further. For this reason, it is sensible to use software repositories for self-developed software. Repositories also allow you to save a change history and sometimes enable specific versions to be referenced via persistent identifiers.
Compared to publishing research findings or research data, publishing self-developed software has another advantage: if it is published in open access software repositories, other people can not only use the software but also help to develop it. Users can offer authors their changes or modifications for integration into the software through pull requests or by transferring patches.
The following tools are available to help you draft software management plans:
- Check list by the British Software Sustainability Institute: http://www.software.ac.uk/sites/default/files/images/content/SMP_Checklist_2016_v0.1.pdf
- DMPonline by the British Digital Curation Centre
You can use DMPonline to create a minimal or full software management plan. Please follow the step-by-step instructions provided by the Software Sustainability Institute in the section ‘Write Software Management Plans with DMPonline‘. It is free to use. Once you have created a plan you can export it in different formats for various purposes, such as to integrate it into project applications.