Developing research software is a dynamic, agile and collaborative effort, involving a spectrum of contributions. Examples of contributions include project management, software engineering and reporting bugs. Each of these contributions has varying impacts on the software.
The objective of Software Authorship is to give a set of definitions, guidelines and criteria to distinguish authors from non-author contributors of the software. Because of the dynamic nature of software development and maintenance, contributors may transition to and from author status as the software evolves.
By defining authors and non-author contributors, appropriate credit and citation and be given when using the software.
SORTÆD recommends that software authorship be based on substantial contributions to:
In contrast to authorship of textual research outputs:
All those designated as authors should meet one of the three criteria for authorship, and all who meet one of the three criteria should be identified as authors. Those who do not meet one of the four criteria due to the insubstantiality of their contribution should be acknowledged as contributors (see below). These authorship criteria are intended to reserve the status of authorship for those who deserve credit.
The responsibility for identifying who meets the authorship criteria lies is part of the governance of the software project, which may choose to recognize authorship beyond the SORTÆD criteria.
If agreement cannot be reached about who qualifies for authorship, the legal owners of the software should be asked to investigate.
Contributions to software can be made in different roles. Depending on the type of the contribution, contributors can be eligible for authorship if the contribution is substantial (see above).
Contributors who do not meet the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged. The roles that constitute contributorship are detailed in the following.