Cite software

James Howison and Julia Bullard listed the following examples in descending reputations in their 2016 article Software in the scientific literature:

  1. citing publications that describe the respective software

  2. citing operating instructions

  3. citing the software project website

  4. link to a software project website

  5. mention the software name

The situation remains unsatisfactory for the authors of software, especially if they differ from the authors of the software description. Conversely, research software is unfortunately not always well suited to being cited. For example, others will hardly be able to cite your software directly if you send it to them as an email attachment. Even a download link is not really useful here. It is better to provide a persistent identifier (PID) to ensure the long-term availability of your software. Both Zenodo and figshare repositories accept source code including binaries and provide Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) for them. The same applies to CiteAs, which can be used to retrieve citation information for software.

Metadata formats

The FORCE11 working group has published a paper in which the principles of scientific software citation are presented: FORCE11 Software Citation Working Group by Arfon Smith, Daniel Katz and Kyle Niemeyer 2016. Two projects are currently emerging for structured metadata:


is an exchange scheme for general software metadata and reference implementation for JSON for Linking Data (JSON-LD).

Citation File Format

is a scheme for software citation metadata in machine-readable YAML format.



generates PROV data from the information in a Git repository. generiert PROV-Daten aus den Informationen eines Git-Repository.


simplifies the publication of research software by continuously retrieving existing metadata in Citation File Format, CodeMeta and Git.