The UK Research Software Survey 2014 by Simon Hettrick et al. found that 56% of researchers develop their own software to generate, process or analyse results (see here). It is difficult, however, to find out who are these researchers and what’s the purpose of the code that they are writing. So it may happen that someone in another department has expertise or a wrote a piece of software in which you may be interested, but you will never have a chance to learn about this.
On the other hand, it is usually relatively easy to find out about research publications produced by your colleagues. Many universities use CRIS (Current Research Information Systems) such as Pure, Eprints, and others, to collect this information and present it on their websites, an example of which is the St Andrews research portal.
A solution that we are suggesting is to use CRIS to record details about software outputs in the same way like it is used to record details about papers, datasets, conference talks, and other activities. This would allow to learn how many researchers are involved in developing software for their research, and will help to campaign for the recognition of Research Software Engineer roles at local and national (through the UK Research Software Engineer Association) levels.
During the Hackday at the Collaborations Workshop 2019 Louise Brown (Nottingham), Paddy McCann (St Andrews) and I produced the first version of the guidance on reporting research software in CRIS, with detailed instructions for two popular systems: Pure and RIS. We called it Code4REF because we think that reporting research software in CRIS is a prerequisite to reporting it in REF.
The guidance is available at the Code4REF website. If you develop research software, please consider recording it in your institution’s CRIS. If you use one of the systems not yet covered there, we will be very grateful for adding a new guidance to the Code4REF project via our GitHub repository.
I will be speaking about Code4REF at RSEConUK 2019. If you will be there, please come to my talk “How to learn which software is developed in your institution?” to learn more and discuss a further grassroots campaign based on Code4REF.