October 3, 2023
Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS)
This Notice is a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting input on best practices for openly sharing research software including source code, algorithms, scripts, computational workflows, and executables that were created during the research process or for a research purpose. This RFI will inform and frame the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) guidance regarding development, refactoring, implementation, and sharing of NIH-supported research software.
Robust research software is essential to the NIH’s vision to establish a modernized and integrated biomedical and behavioral data and computing ecosystem. The open sharing of research software improves transparency of NIH-supported materials ensuring accountability and confidence in biomedical and behavioral sciences by facilitating reproducibility through rigorous and transparent research as outlined in the NIH-wide Strategic Plan. The Final NIH Policy on Data Management and Sharing (DMS) outlines NIH’s requirements regarding plans to share scientific data. To share related software, tools, or code, in addition to the DMS policy, NIH released the NIH Best Practices for Sharing Research Software FAQs. Sharing research software also promotes software sustainability and contributes to the advancement of science by fostering collaboration among researchers across institutions and facilitating reuse of high-quality tools.
Sharing software in an “open” manner means that others can use, modify, and/or redistribute the code in accordance with an appropriate public license under which the software is released. Generally, this means releasing the software in a way that makes it easy to reuse under a license with very few restrictions aside from maintaining the openness of the original software and requiring attribution to the original software, or current version, and developer. The positive impacts of openly sharing research software are maximized when those developing the software follows community-established best practices.
The research software community is developing community-specific best practices related to research software sharing. The FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) For Research Software (FAIR4RS) Working Group, established by the Research Data Alliance (RDA), FORCE11, and Research Software Alliance (ReSA), is one example of a community effort to develop best practices and support research software sharing. The FAIR for Research Software Principles, published in 2022 suggest a potentially useful framework for robust research software development, management, sharing, and reuse. For example, the principles define research software as including “source code files, algorithms, scripts, computational workflows, and executables that were created during the research process or for a research purpose.” FAIR-BioRS is another example of a research software community effort to provide a set of concrete practices meant to make FAIR4RS principles actionable for biomedical researchers. These are just two examples of community-driven software sharing best-practices that may be useful for those wishing to develop and share research software.
The NIH is interested in helping those engaged in biomedical and behavioral research software development and sharing, implement emerging best practices into their work. Therefore, this RFI aims to identify existing research software sharing community best practices and learn where additional attention may be needed. It also seeks to determine the extent to which those developing research software share it, barriers to sharing, and how NIH can better support research software sharing.
NIH seeks responses to the following questions regarding research software sharing best practices.
All comments must be submitted electronically by visiting https://datascience.nih.gov/rfi-software and completing the response form, or by sending a PDF or Microsoft Word document containing responses to the questions above to softwareRFI@nih.gov. Responses from individuals actively involved in research software sharing and/or development, as well as organizations, are both highly encouraged.
Responses must be received by 11:59:59 pm (ET) on February 1, 2024.
Responses to this RFI are voluntary and may be submitted anonymously. You may voluntarily include your name and contact information with your response. If you choose to provide NIH with this information, NIH will not share your name and contact information outside of NIH unless required by law.
Responses may be compiled and shared publicly in an unedited version after the close of the comment period. Other than your name and contact information, please do not include any personally identifiable information or any information that you do not wish to make public. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. Other than your name and contact information, the Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements. This RFI is for informational and planning purposes only and is not a solicitation for applications or an obligation on the part of the Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for use of that information.
We look forward to your input and hope that you will share this RFI opportunity widely among your colleagues.
Office of Data Science Strategy