The FAIR principles are being developed for research software

Published: 2021-08-31

The efforts to develop principles for how to make research software accessible and reusable are progressing. One of the groups that have come far in their work is FAIR4RS. In a webinar last Monday, they presented some of their results in ”FAIR Principles for Research Software”.

Software code

The webinar was organised by the Swedish and Danish RDA (Research Data Alliance) nodes. The purpose of the event was to focus on the fundamental differences between data and software, to present the results from the RDA FAIR4RS (FAIR for Research Software) Working Group, and to share experiences from the Nordic collaboration on FAIR and software. FAIR is an abbreviation of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. These principles are essential to make data and software easy for researchers to find, reuse, and share.

The guidelines need to be adapted

Leyla Jael Castro from FAIR4RS said that although the FAIR principles are mainly focused on data, they can be applied to all forms of digital objects, including software. However, they need to be adapted to be useful for software, which the RDA working group is working on (see ”FAIR Principles for Research Software”).

—There are some rather big differences between data and software. Software changes quickly, it’s more transient and ‘alive’ compared to data. The functionality of the software may remain the same even if the code has changed several times, said Leyla Jael Castro.

Even though the differences between data and software may be big, FAIR4RS has aimed to make the FAIR principles for research software as connected as possible to the FAIR data principles. On 23 September, the group will have a webinar with further discussions about the FAIR principles for research software, and their work with them. The results will also be presented at the RDA Plenary this November.

Training and mentorship

Monday’s webinar included a couple of examples of Nordic collaborations around FAIR and software. One of these projects was CodeRefinery, who mainly work with training and mentorship in the field. This project has hosted several training opportunities on developing software that is reproducible and reusable. Since 2016, more than 1,600 people, mostly doctoral students and researchers, have taken part in the organisation’s workshops.

—Our surveys show that most of our participants come from the natural sciences and technology, so we will strive to attract social science and the humanities, said Radovan Bast from CodeRefinery.


Read more about the FAIR principles for research software here:

Towards FAIR principles for research software", Lamprecht et al., Data Science, vol. 3, no. 1, 37-59, 2020.
Five recommendations for FAIR software”.