Recognising research software as a first-class output of research

The Challenge

Software is pervasive in modern life and Australia's research sector is no different. Most researchers say their work simply wouldn’t be possible without the use of software.
Despite this, software is largely an invisible part of research. Produced quickly within fixed funding windows, it often struggles to be maintained beyond that initial time frame.

Software is not recognised as a first-class research output in the same way our journal papers and datasets are. Yet it deserves to be.

Until now, there has never been a national focus on driving that culture change, or a simple framework with defined goals that address the core changes required.

The Response

The ARDC sees software as a research enabler. We’ve established a national agenda to recognise research software as a first-class research output. We’re achieving this collaboratively by engaging widely with Australia’s research sector.

“The agenda provides a common framework to drive the culture change needed to recognise research software as a first-class output of research. It lays the groundwork for the ARDC and research community to lift recognition of research software as a first-class output of research, through action to see, shape and sustain research software.”

Tom Honeyman, Software Program Manager, ARDC

Who will benefit?

A robust national agenda will mean:

  • research software authors will be able to access the skills, support and recognition they need to build meaningful and fulfilling careers
  • research software users will be able to readily access well-maintained, fit-for-purpose software
  • staff who support research software creators will benefit from the policies and procedures their institutions adopt.

Our engagement

We’ll be partnering with a broad range of stakeholders across research and industry to drive the ARDC’s activities initiated by the agenda. Get in touch if you’d like to work together on common aims.

Past Engagement:

We worked alongside the research community to develop the agenda through participatory community engagement. The draft National Agenda for Research Software in Australia was released for community feedback in June 2021, available at
https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4940273.

Between June and October 2021, we held individual and group consultations with stakeholders about the draft agenda to measure interest, prioritise actions and hear new ideas. Priorities identified during this process drove further consultations and development of an implementation plan.

In July 2021, we held open invitation consultation events for:

In October 2021, we presented an early indication of agenda validation outcomes, including a high-level overview of ARDC validation activities, at:

Also in October 2021, we presented a poster summary of the agenda at eResearch Australasia.

Between November 2021 to February 2022, feedback was collated and incorporated into the final release of the agenda.

The Outcome

This project will lead to a common understanding of the challenge, priorities and actions we all need to take to achieve recognition of research software as a first-class output of research.

This is captured in a final version of the National Agenda for Research Software released March 2022.

Subsequent activities

The ARDC Research Software program has started to act on the outcome of the validation process:

  • The Visible Research Software Interest Group is open to all those interested in making research software citable, published and FAIR. Join now.
  • A report estimating the scale of new software arising from research in Australia will be delivered in the first half of 2022
  • A report considering national informatics needs for research software arising from research in Australia will be delivered in the first half of 2022.
  • Webinars and other events informed by the validation phase of the agenda will be delivered on an ongoing basis.

Please subscribe to the ARDC newsletter to be notified of additional events or outcomes related to the Research Software Agenda.

Past Events and Resources

Initial activities arising from the agenda have already begun:

How to get involved

If you would like to be part of shaping Australia’s research software agenda, please contact us.

Key Resources

Read the ARDC National Agenda for Research Software, published 29 March 2022
Read an article about the Agenda, Launching a draft research software agenda for Australia.
Learn about the new FAIR principles for research software and how they are incorporated into our draft agenda.
See “Research software is essential for research data, so how should governments respond?” for an overview of research software activity around the world, produced by the Research Software Alliance (ReSA).