The source code of computer programs used in scientific research often goes unreported, says LiveScience. "Far too many pieces of code critical to the reproduction, peer-review and extension of scientific results never see the light of day," Harvard University postdoctoral fellow Andrew Morin tells LiveScience.
In this week's Science, Morin and his colleagues say that policy changes by funding agencies, journals, and research institutions are needed to rectify this problem, which they call "inconsistent with accepted norms in other scientific domains." They suggest that funding agencies establish clear policies to promote code sharing and that journals require source code to be available upon publication. Further, open-source software licenses allow for the sharing of code while protecting intellectual property.
"If I knew there was a publication requirement for my code, I probably would have done things like comment it better, kept better track of it, and generally put a bit more thought and effort into my code — which would have certainly helped me and others later on when I inevitably tried to reuse or share it, even if just with others in my own research group," Morin tells LiveScience.