citing softwareBy Will Usher, Senior Researcher: Infrastructure Systems Modeller, University of Oxford

Plagiarism is a serious issue, and we are all familiar with the horror stories of students unceremoniously ejected from courses for copying essays. Any undergraduate degree worth its salt teaches students how to cite work correctly, acceptable bounds on quotation and how to attribute ideas and concepts to their sources. But in the growing world of open-source research software, best practices have yet to be universally understood, as I recently found out.

During my PhD at University College London, I became involved in the heady enthusiasm of the Research Software Programming group, attending and then helping out at Software Carpentry workshops. As a consequence, I was keen to apply my new knowledge of Python, version control and software development to my research. As luck would have it, I discovered an existing Python library on Github, which implemented several Global Sensitivity Analysis routines I could make use of. As I used the library, I started adding bits and pieces, and so by the end of the PhD I had made a considerable contribution to the package.

It's probably safe to say that SALib (sensitivity analysis library) is the go-to Python library for the unfortunately still-far-too-niche use of global sensitivity analysis in modelling, and our…

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You are invited to participate in a survey on software licensing designed to investigate how well software developers understand common open-source software licences. Prof. Gail Murphy and graduate student Daniel Almeida are looking for software developers that have built, or are currently building on, open-source software in their projects - and we are particularly interested in hearing from people building open-source software for research.

Participating in the anonymous online survey will take approximately 30 minutes. If you are interested in participating, please visit the survey.

If you have any questions, please contact

By Mike Jackson, Software Architect, the Software Sustainability Institute

Choosing an open-source licence can be a daunting and time consuming prospect. A new online resource, tl;drLegal should make life a little bit simpler!

tl;drLegal provides plain-English summaries of popular open-source licences, allows the licences to be searched according to features of interest (what users can, cannot and must do), allows the implications of combining licences to be explored and provides a simple tool to auto-generate attribution documents in HTML so you can give credit where it's due to the open-source software you use.

For more on choosing open-source licences, please also check out our guide on Choosing an open-source licence.

And, in case you were wondering what tl;dr stands for, it's too long didn't read!.

OldBailey.jpgBy Neil Chue Hong and Tim Parkinson.

You've written some software as part of your research, and you would like others to be able to use it. You've made sure your code is ready for release so there's only one thing left to do: choose a licence.

Why write this guide?

There are so many useful resources on the web when it comes to open-source licensing that it can be confusing. This guide highlights the best resources that provide clear information about choosing a licence for software.

Although the following information might appear overwhelming, it's important to make a choice (even if it is to choose a commercial, closed-source licence). If you don't have a licence for your software, it is effectively unusable by the whole research community, and those potential collaborators will turn to someone else's software.

The detail may well be overwhelming, but your choice will normally come down to one of a few popular licences. To provide more specific advice, we will look at providing a guide with more detailed guidance for researchers working in the UK.


This guide is intended to highlight resources which may be useful to those developing research software. It was not produced by lawyers, and is not legal advice. The Software Sustainability Institute is not…

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Furious2.jpgBy Mike Jackson

When writing software, you’re writing something that others will use. And in these days of off-the-shelf components, you may be using or bundling other peoples’ software too. This handy guide describes some simple, yet proven, ways in which you can successfully make the life of your users an absolute misery, incur the wrath of your fellow developers and make software lawyers salivate.

Why write this guide?

Sometimes it's good to see a problem from a fresh perspective. We've wound up Mike Jackson into an absolute frenzy and asked him to write an anti-guide. Here's what not to do when writing software.

Don’t use version numbers

You know what version was released on what date, don’t you? Of course! Why would a user need this information? After all, when they ask for help you can always take two or three e-mails to try and identify which of the releases they are using. Working with your users in this way helps you bond. It allows you to spend a fun couple of days together, desperately trying to solve a problem only to find that your user is using software released three years ago that you no longer support.

Don’t bother with a licence

There’s no need to have a licence in your download bundle, installer, or user document, nor is there any need for your users to accept terms and conditions before they download your software. It takes too much time to implement this, and you have more important work to do.…

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By Shoaib Sufi,Community Lead.

This is the second blog post highlighting the activities of the Institute over the last month. Today it's the turn of the Community team to talk about their work.

It’s been a busy time as ever in the Community team. We have interesting blog posts published from community members, informative workshops in the pipeline, and some exciting upcoming news about the team. Read on to find out more.

Community updates

We published an informative and reflective blog post by Institute Fellow Mike Croucher of Walking Randomly fame. Mike speaks about the dangers of thinking your software is correct and what you can do to feel more confident that it is. And if you have seen 2001 you know bad code can be quite dangerous...

Fellow Boris Adryan reported on his trip to promote "Better Software, Better Research" to Eclipsecon 2015 and gives an introduction to the Eclipse Science group which aims to make science software interoperable and interchangeable.

At the Institute we are very interested in open science and open data so in the spirit of openness we made the…

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How to license your software and meet funders’ expectations for sharing research data?

Takes places on Monday 14 September 11am to 3pm (it's open to all) at the Computer Lab, University of Cambridge.

Do you know your options for software licensing? Have you heard of new funders’ requirements for software sharing? This workshop is your chance to get expert advice on these and other questions about software licensing. Speakers include Neil Chue Hong, the Director, and Shoaib Sufi, the Community Leader from the Software Sustainability Institute.

Please take a look at the workshop page for more information and to register.

A special workshop on how to choose the right open licence for code and data will take place at this year's EGI Conference, in Lisbon on Tuesday May 19th at 11.00.

The workshop will address the at times contradictory advice presently available from a range of online sources. This advice will be compared and contrasted with the experiences of developers, who will provide a series of 10 minute presentations on a variety of related subjects.

Some of the areas that will be covered include liability clauses in European jurisdictions, liability, the provision of e-infrastructure, research misconduct, tensions between IT security and scientific transparency, and sustainability.

EGI 2015 will take place at the University of Lisbon's ISCTE-IUL school of business and will take place in its main auditorium and adjoining rooms. Based in the centre of Lisbon, the venue is close to a number of hotels and major travel links.

If you would like to attend the workshop or wish to give a presentation please register for EGI 2015, and submit your abstract via the event's Indico pages.

EGI Conference 2015 poster

There are a growing number of web pages offering advice on how to choose an open license for data or code. The advice they give is partly conflicting. As part of the EGI Conference 2015 in Lisbon, on Tuesday 19th May at 11:00, a workshop is being held to bring together the authors of such pages and others with expertise in this area to clarify the choices of license available.

The workshop will compare experience and insights, and so inform future recommendations on choice of license. The development and publication of software, databases, and web services within the BioMedBridges project will provide use cases to inform the discussion. The workshop will consist of a series of short (ten minute) presentations, each preferably on a single issue.

Among the issues to be discussed are:

  • Making a limitation of liability clause that is effective in European jurisdictions;
  • The appropriate apportionment of liability between data user, data provider, and database administrator;
  • How the provision of e-infrastructure can change the opportunities and risks of research misconduct;
  • Server-side scripts: the tension between IT security and scientific transparency;
  • Licenses for web services;
  • Relationship between choice of license and choice of the business model for sustainability.

The EGI conference in Lisbon runs from 18-22 May 2015.

The Software…

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Lindat license selector interface

By Mike Jackson, Software Architect.

Back in January, I blogged about tl;drLegal, an online resource to help us choose a suitable open-source licence. In the same spirit, the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics at Charles University in Prague provide the Lindat license selector​ to help select open licenses for both software or data.

Through a short set of questions, the Lindat license selector can help guide you to a license that both meets your software and data sharing requirements while satisfying any existing constraints on any software or data you have exploited.

Furthermore, Lindat itself is open-source, available on GitHub under an MIT license. However, if you like to ponder your licence options at in a more leisurely way, then please check out our guide on Choosing an open-source licence.​


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