Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ISCB Member Feedback Sought on Revised Software Sharing Policy Statement

International Society for Computational Biology Revised Software Sharing Policy Statement

Draft approved by the ISCB board of Directors on February 14, 2008

Open for comment from the ISCB membership and bioinformatics community

Comment period closes April 15, 2008

I. Introduction
Bioinformatics software availability is extremely important to the field of bioinformatics. The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) is committed to the advancement of the understanding of living systems through computation. In support of that mission, we believe that research results should be shared with the scientific community so that they can be reproduced and built upon. Scientific research may include the development of software and algorithms. Therefore, ISCB is disseminating this statement to make recommendations on software availability policies for funders of bioinformatics research, for scientific journals that publish bioinformatics research, for bioinformatics researchers, and for their employers.

This statement has been revised from the original 2002 statement, incorporating feedback from the ISCB membership.

II. Recommendations

  1. Publishers, granting organizations, employers and researchers have a responsibility to uphold the core principle of sharing methods and results. If a researcher's software is necessary to understand, reproduce and build on scientific results, then the software should be made available. This principle is imperative for peer-reviewed scientific publications, recommended policy for granting agencies, and encouraged practice wherever individuals and organizations are committed to advancing science. ISCB supports the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences report, "Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Life Sciences."
  2. Grantors and publishers should require statements of software availability in grant proposals and research reports. These statements should clearly describe how to obtain the software, and terms of use. The statements should be specific about cost, source code availability, redistribution rights (including for derived works), user support, and any discrimination among user types.
  3. No single licensing or distribution model is appropriate for all research projects, and therefore should not be mandated by either publishers or grantors.

III. Implementation when software sharing is warranted

  1. In most cases, it is preferable to make source code available. We recommend executable versions of the software should be made available for research use to individuals at academic institutions.
  2. Open source licenses are one effective way to share software. For more information, see the definition of open source, and example licenses, at

For more information, see the previous posting which includes information about the original 2002 policy statement, member discussion, and useful links.
We invite the computational biology community provide comments on this blog, or to send email to

[Notes added 3/14/2008:
(1) An old version of the second sentence in section III-1 was erroneously included when this was first posted on 3/13/2008; it has been fixed now.
(2) The Board is releasing this proposed language for discussion by the ISCB membership; it will not become final until after the 1-month open discussion period, whereupon the Board may revise it further in response to ISCB member feedback.]