Why write a Software Management Plan?
It is easy to concentrate on short-term issues when developing research software. Getting publications, collaboration with others and the demands of a daily research routine can all conspire to prevent proper planning for the development of research software. A Software Management Plan can help us to define a set of structures and goals to help us to understand what we are going to write, who it is for, how we will get it to them, how will it help them, and how we will assess whether it has helped them. They also help us to understand what processes, resources and infrastructure we need and how we can use these to meet our own goals, in the short, medium and long term. They also encourage us to think about the future of our software once our project or funding period ends, and what our plans for its long-term sustainability are.
As a Software Management Plan is principally for our project's own use, it is important that we develop our plan in conjunction with our project team and partners, as we are all responsible for following the plan.
What software can they be used for?
The Institute take a very broad view as to what research software is. It can include both scripts and programs and can be written in languages as diverse as bash shell, R, MATLAB, Python, Java, C, C++, or Fortran; and vary in scale from 100 lines to 10,000 lines of code. Software Management Plans can be used regardless of the scale of our software or the number of researchers developing it. A Software Management Plan can be used by a solo researcher writing a collection of R scripts to help with their research; a group of researchers deploying a RESTful web service implemented in Python for their project; or a multi-partner collaboration developing a 10,000 line computational fluid dynamics code in Fortran on a super-computing service for their research community.
Software Management Plans and funding
Until recently, including a Software Management Plan in a research software proposal was relatively uncommon. However, many of their elements are expected in quality standard research proposals. A Software Management Plan was a requirement for the EPSRC Software for the Future call of March 2014. So, a Software Management Plan provides content that can contribute towards writing research proposals too.
A checklist for Software Management Plans
We have formed a checklist for a Software Management Plan to help researchers write Software Management Plans:
Please cite as: The Software Sustainability Institute. (2016). Checklist for a Software Management Plan. v0.1. Available online: https://www.software.ac.uk/software-management-plans.
Write Software Management Plans with DMPonline
DMPonline is a flexible web-based tool provided by the Digital Curation Centre to help researchers create personalised Data Management Plans.
DMPonline can also be used to create personalised Software Management Plans:
- Sign up to DMPonline.
- When you have an account, log in.
- Click Create plan
- For "If applying for funding, select your research funder.", click Not applicable/not listed.
- For "To see institutional questions and/or guidance, select your organisation.", select "Software Sustainability Institute".
- For "Choose a template", you have two choices:
- A minimal Software Management Plan: A minimal, or outline, plan to encourage you to think about what you are going to write, who is it for (even if this is just you), how will you get it to them, how will it help them, and how you will assess whether it has helped them or not. This plan can be used when you are starting a project or help you write proposals for funding, for example.
- A full Software Management Plan: A full, or detailed, plan which complements the minimal plan. The first section of the full plan - About your software - has the same questions, advice and guidance as the minimal plan.
- Ignore "Tick to select any other sources of guidance you wish to see".
- Click Create Plan
- A "Confirm plan details" box will appear. Click Yes, create plan.
- You can now complete your plan. See DMPonline's Help page for information on how you can edit, share and export your plan.
Improving Software Management Plans
At present, our advice and guidance is a draft as we are now rolling it out for use and evaluation by researchers. We encourage researchers, funders and other stakeholders to get in touch with feedback on our Software Management Plan templates, advice and guidance; suggestions to what Software Management Plans should include; how they overlap with data management plans; and, how to promote their uptake.
Get in touch, help and support
You can provide feedack, suggestions and ask for help with using DMPonline for software management plans in two ways.
Either, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also find it helpful to look at the Digital Curation Centre's FAQ on DMPonline.
Use of our advice and guidance
Advice and guidance provided on writing Software Management Plans, particularly that relating to intellectual property, copyright, licensing and patents, is for informational purposes only. It is not, and nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not act in any way on the basis of the information without seeking, where necessary, appropriate professional advice concerning your own individual circumstances.
You are solely responsible for determining the appropriateness of any advice and guidance provided, and assume any risks associated with your use of this advice and guidance.
By using the Software Management Plan features of DMPonline, you consent to The Software Sustainability Institute contacting you about your experiences of using DMPonline to write Software Management Plans, the utility of Software Management Plans and how our advice and guidance can be improved.
Our advice and guidance has its origins in an original guide on Writing and using a software management plan written by the Neil Chue Hong of The Software Sustainability Institute, with input from Institute staff Rob Baxter, Steve Crouch, Mike Jackson, and Tim Parkinson, and acknowledgement to Kevin Ashley and the Digital Curation Centre for their work on Data Management Plans.
The advice and guidance have evolved in response to feedback from: Mario Antonioletti, Neil Chue Hong, Steve Crouch, Carole Goble, John Robinson, The Software Sustainability Institute; Peter Cock, The James Hutton Institute; Robert Davey, The Genome Analysis Centre; Mark Plumbley, Centre for Vision, Speech and signal Processing, University of Surrey; Chris Rawlings, Rothamsted Research.
We also acknowledge the valuable assistance and generosity of the Digital Curation Centre, particularly Sarah Jones and Marta Ribeiro, in extending DMPonline to support Software Management Plans.