Open source tools and packages such as NumPy, SciPy and scikit-image are used in research for analysing and processing data. However, such tools are often not cited in the publications that result from their use. This issue is highlighted by Juan Nunez-Iglesias, a research scientist at the University of Melbourne, in a recent blog post.
In academia, citations are a currency, proving that your work has been useful for others. They contribute significantly to the success of funding applications and career progression. As Nunez-Iglesias highlights, code on the other hand, is not normally recognised as a valuable output by universities or funding bodies – so code developers often write papers describing their software, facilitating its citation. Nunez-Iglesias points out that most open source software developers are practising scientists in academia, not industry: citations are crucial for these contributors, but this is often overlooked by those using the software.
Nunez-Iglesias emphasises that the lack of citation of papers for open source tools is symptomatic of a wider problem: open source software is chronically undervalued. In a second blog post, he stresses that a structural change is required that recognises the importance of such software in science. He hopes that drawing attention to this issue will prompt a cultural change, ensuring that in the future, open source developers get the recognition that they deserve.