Research software now easy to cite on GitHub

Posted by j.laird on 24 August 2021 - 2:00pm

Screenshot of citing a repository
Image from Nat Friedman's Tweet

Researchers can now easily cite the software they use with GitHub’s new built-in citation support, giving proper credit and recognition to those who develop research software.

Researchers can now get the recommended citation for software on GitHub, through its support for the Citation File Format (CFF). If a code repository contains a CITATION.cff file, GitHub will provide the citation ready to use in a publication. Two other tools have announced support for CITATION.cff files: Zenodo will import the information automatically for a software release, and Zotero will add the software citation to a researcher’s reference collection.

This is a significant step forward in the visibility of software as a research object and we at the SSI are proud to have supported this work since its inception through funding and collaboration. From SSI Fellow Robin Wilson writing a blog on introducing the concept of citation files back in 2013, through a session at the WSSSPE5.1 workshop that summarised the need for a standard format for CITATION files, to support for Stephan Druskat and Rob Haines to develop the Citation File Format and Ruby-CFF library used in the GitHub feature.

SSI’s Director, Neil Chue Hong, a co-author of CFF and co-chair of the FORCE11 Software Citation Implementation working group, said: 

The SSI has been working for a number of years on policies, standards and tools for software citation, to improve credit and recognition for those who develop research software. Initiatives like the Citation File Format, and the support for it from GitHub, Zenodo and Zotero will encourage visibility and adoption of software citation by the mainstream of researchers by removing barriers to citing software directly. 

Arfon Smith, Staff Product Manager at GitHub and co-author of the Software Citation Principles, said: 

The ability of researchers to be acknowledged for their open source contributions depends upon the ability of others to easily cite their work when they make use of it. We want to make these experiences easier for researchers and developers alike.

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