An environment for sustainable research software in Germany and beyond: current state, open challenges, and call for action

F1000Res. 2020 Apr 27;9:295. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.23224.2. eCollection 2020.


Research software has become a central asset in academic research. It optimizes existing and enables new research methods, implements and embeds research knowledge, and constitutes an essential research product in itself. Research software must be sustainable in order to understand, replicate, reproduce, and build upon existing research or conduct new research effectively. In other words, software must be available, discoverable, usable, and adaptable to new needs, both now and in the future. Research software therefore requires an environment that supports sustainability. Hence, a change is needed in the way research software development and maintenance are currently motivated, incentivized, funded, structurally and infrastructurally supported, and legally treated. Failing to do so will threaten the quality and validity of research. In this paper, we identify challenges for research software sustainability in Germany and beyond, in terms of motivation, selection, research software engineering personnel, funding, infrastructure, and legal aspects. Besides researchers, we specifically address political and academic decision-makers to increase awareness of the importance and needs of sustainable research software practices. In particular, we recommend strategies and measures to create an environment for sustainable research software, with the ultimate goal to ensure that software-driven research is valid, reproducible and sustainable, and that software is recognized as a first class citizen in research. This paper is the outcome of two workshops run in Germany in 2019, at deRSE19 - the first International Conference of Research Software Engineers in Germany - and a dedicated DFG-supported follow-up workshop in Berlin.

Keywords: Academic Software; Research Software; Software Infrastructure; Software Licensing; Software Training; Sustainable Software Development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Forecasting
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Software*

Grant support

The authors thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for funding a meeting (Rundgespräch, grants LO 2093/3-1 and SE 1758/6-1) during which the initial draft of this paper has been created. We are particularly grateful for the support from Dr. Matthias Katerbow (DFG). This work was additionally supported by Research Software Sustainability grants funded by the DFG: Aggarwal: 390886566; PI: Zesch. Appel: 391099391; PI: Balmann. Bach & Loewe & Seemann: 391128822; PIs: Loewe/Scholze/Seemann/Selzer/Streit/Upmeier.Bader: 391134334; PIs: Bader/Gabriel/Frank. Brusch: 391070520; PI: Brusch. Druskat & Gast: 391160252; PI: Gast/Lüdeling. Ebert: 391137747; PI: Marschall.Flemisch & Hermann: 391049448; PIs: Boehringer/Flemisch/Hermann.Hohmann: 391054082; PI: Hepp. Goth: 390966303; PI: Assaad. Grad & Weeber: 391126171; PI: Holm. Kutra: 391125810; PI: Kreshuk.Mehl & Uekermann: 391150578; PIs: Bungartz/Mehl/Uekermann. Peters-Kottig: 391087700; PIs: Gleixner/Peters-Kottig/Shinano/Sperber. Raters: 39099699; PI:Herwartz. Reina: 391302154; PIs: Ertl/Reina. Muth & Renard: 391179955; PIs Renard/Fuchs. Ropinski:391107954; PI: Ropinski. Alexander Struck acknowledges the support of the Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity. Image Space Material funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany´s Excellence Strategy – EXC 2025. We acknowledge support by the KIT-Publication Fund of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.