Karthik Ram

As an open source software developer who is also an academic, I struggle quite a bit with getting my traditional peers and higher ups to make sense of software contributions. While developing and maintaining OSS is quite time consuming in and of itself, taking even more time to write a contrived journal article around a piece of software merely for academic credit is extremely frustrating and ridiculous. Arfon Smith and I have been brainstorming a new journal (yes, sigh) targeted squarely at research software engineers.

Ok, so what’d we come up with?

Enter the Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS). Any research software engineer developing software with a research application (the only scope limitation of the journal), will need to write a high level description of what the software does, along with brief descriptions of potential applications. This paper should be no more than 2-3 pages long and include a few influential citations. So the only noticeable change to a software engineer’s workflow will be to develop this paper.md as part of the software development process. That’s it!

Well, ok, there’s a bit more. A few other key requirements to get a paper accepted:

  1. It must have a valid open source license.
  2. It must include valid metadata following our JSON schema.
  3. The version of the software described in the paper must be deposited in a repository like Zenodo.

We anticipate that all of this should add about one hour of additional time to development.

What reviewers are looking for

What reviewers are NOT looking for

Our hope is that this will provide a mechanism for academic software developers to get formal credit for their work within their institutions, and perhaps more importantly, elevate the quality and usability of research software being released. Once the submission process becomes familiar, the practices we require should become a standard part of an academic engineer’s workflow.

More feedback welcome via email and technical issues related to the journal can be filed directly to the repository.

Update Nov 1, 2020: Since I’ve recently resurrected the blog, I figure I should update this article to reflect that there are now papers about rOpenSci’s software review , the inspiration for JOSS and one about JOSS itself .


My work on the software review was supported in part by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, award number 2016PG-BRI004.