Software should be considered a legitimate and citable product of research. Software citations should be accorded the same importance in the scholarly record as citations of other research products, such as publications and data; they should be included in the metadata of the citing work, for example in the reference list of a journal article, and should not be omitted or separated. Software should be cited on the same basis as any other research product such as a paper or a book, that is, authors should cite the appropriate set of software products just as they cite the appropriate set of papers. Software citations should facilitate giving scholarly credit and normative, legal attribution to all contributors to the software, recognizing that a single style or mechanism of attribution may not be applicable to all software. A software citation should include a method for identification that is machine actionable, globally unique, interoperable, and recognized by at least a community of the corresponding domain experts, and preferably by general public researchers. Unique identifiers and metadata describing the software and its disposition should persist – even beyond the lifespan of the software they describe. Software citations should facilitate access to the software itself and to its associated metadata, documentation, data, and other materials necessary for both humans and machines to make informed use of the referenced software. Software citations should facilitate identification of, and access to, the specific version of software that was used. Software identification should be as specific as necessary, such as using version numbers, revision numbers, or variants such as platforms.
Software is a critical part of modern research and yet there is little support across the scholarly ecosystem for its acknowledgement and citation. Inspired by the activities of the OSIL working group focused on data citation, this document summarizes the recommendations of the OSIL Software Citation Working Group and its activities between June 2015 and April 2016. Based on a review of existing community practices, the goal of the working group was to produce a consolidated set of citation principles that may encourage broad adoption of a consistent policy for software citation across disciplines and venues. Our work is presented here as a set of software citation principles, a discussion of the motivations for developing the principles, reviews of existing community practice, and a discussion of the requirements these principles would place upon different stakeholders. Working examples and possible technical solutions for how these principles can be implemented will be discussed in a separate paper.platforms.