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

  • Anzt, Hartwig1, 2
  • Bach, Felix1
  • Druskat, Stephan3, 4, 5
  • Löffler, Frank3, 6
  • Loewe, Axel1
  • Renard, Bernhard Y.7
  • Seemann, Gunnar8
  • Struck, Alexander5
  • Achhammer, Elke9
  • Aggarwal, Piush10
  • Appel, Franziska11
  • Bader, Michael9
  • Brusch, Lutz12
  • Busse, Christian13
  • Chourdakis, Gerasimos9
  • Dabrowski, Piotr Wojciech14
  • Ebert, Peter15
  • Flemisch, Bernd16
  • Friedl, Sven17
  • Fritzsch, Bernadette18
  • And 24 more
  • 1 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
  • 3 Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany
  • 4 German Aerospace Center (DLR), Berlin, Germany
  • 5 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 6 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
  • 7 Hasso Plattner Institute, Digital Engineering Faculty, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • 8 University Heart Centre Freiburg Bad Krozingen, Freiburg, Germany
  • 9 Technische Universität München, München, Germany
  • 10 Universität Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany
  • 11 Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Halle (Saale), Germany
  • 12 Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
  • 13 Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 14 Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 15 Saarland Informatics Campus, Saarbrücken, Germany
  • 16 University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 17 Berlin Institute of Health, Berlin, Germany
  • 18 Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 19 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft e.V., München, Germany
  • 20 Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
  • 21 Universität Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 22 Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany
  • 23 European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 24 Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
  • 25 Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, Berlin, Germany
  • 26 Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum für Informationstechnik Berlin (ZIB), Berlin, Germany
  • 27 FIZ Karlsruhe - Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 28 University of Goettingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 29 University of Münster, Münster, Germany
  • 30 Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany
  • 31 Ulm University, Ulm, Germany
  • 32 Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  • 33 Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, München, Germany
  • 34 Leibniz University Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  • 35 Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  • 36 Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Quedlinburg, Germany
Published Article
"F1000 Research, Ltd."
Publication Date
Jan 26, 2021
DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.23224.2
PMID: 33552475
PMCID: PMC7845155
PubMed Central


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.

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