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Leiden Research Software Accord

Published onMar 21, 2024
Leiden Research Software Accord


Research Software Management is a critical area of consideration in promoting research quality, accessibility, safety, as well as digital sovereignty and academic freedom. Research Software was one of the four pillars of Leiden University’s Open Science Program, and remains a focal point of the Regieorgaan Open Science NL from NWO. Leiden University envisioned supporting structures to encourage the development and reuse of Research Software throughout its faculties.

Responsible and sustainable management of Research Software has direct benefits throughout our research organisation, as well as for others: software can be shared, made discoverable, reused, published, cited, and result in recognition for the people and communities who contribute to its development. Research Software Management workflows promote documentation, allowing people to better understand and build upon code. Licensing and citation practices ensure that rights and attribution are distributed in an intentional and careful manner. Long term preservation of Research Software is consequential for research to remain actionable and useful beyond its initial conception.


Research Software is an emerging term that signifies “source code files, algorithms, scripts, computational workflows and executables that were created during the research process or for a research purpose” (Gruenpeter et al., 2021). Research Software can be delineated from other forms of software through its composition and intent. “Software components (e.g., operating systems, libraries, dependencies, packages, scripts, etc.) that are used for research but were not created during or with a clear research intent should be considered software in research and not Research Software” (ibid.). Through its development, implementation, and maintenance, Research Software “embeds research knowledge and represents complex theoretical constructs that cannot be easily described in a paper” (Druskat et al., 2023) and is thereby recognised as both an outcome of research and a research output. 


This document ratifies Research Software as a primary research output. Particular markers of quality as outlined herein will ensure continued progression in the university’s research mission. Simultaneously, the objective of this document is to streamline processes that permit people to manage, share, and valorise Research Software.   


The development and management of Research Software is enacted by researchers and support staff, e.g. Research Software Engineers, Data Stewards. Those individuals are responsible for the following actions to ensure that their Research Software meets the quality standards of research outputs: 

  1. Versioning

    a. Research Software is versioned, and ideally tracked in an explicit system for version control, to support software integrity.

    b. Versioned records of dependent packages are also recorded to ensure the reproducibility of Research Software.

  2. Documentation

    a. Research Software is accompanied by appropriate documentation, including metadata and instruction for use.

    b. Leiden University should provide tools and templates for creating Management Plans for Research Software. The extent of the Management Plan for Research Software is dependent upon the purpose and use of the particular work of software. See NWO’s Practical Guide to Software Management Plans (Martinez-Ortiz et al., 2023) for a national template.

  3. Licensing

    a. The principle investigator of the research project in which Research Software is developed includes an explicit license that communicates the terms of use.

    b. People engaged in the management and reuse of Research Software respect the terms and conditions of the software license.

  4. Citation

    a. Research Software reuse necessitates comprehensive attribution.

    b. We recommend the use of a distinct, machine-readable, citation file, rather than depositing citation information alongside the source code. 

  5. Publication and Registration — Leiden University encourages the publication of Free Software. In order to publish Research Software openly, due diligence must be paid to the following:

    a. The publication of Research Software does not violate terms of Privacy and Security by exposing sensitive or personal information.

    b. The principle investigator of the research project in which Research Software is developed assesses the possibilities of commercial exploitation.

    c. Research Software is registered in an appropriate directory.

Supervisors and supporting team roles are responsible for the following elements of Research Software management: 

  1. The supervision and authorisation of a Management Plan for Research Software. 

  2. Training in the composition and management of Research Software, when required. 

  3. Adherence to intersecting research policies at Leiden University, where appropriate.


In order to realise the ambitions and expectations of a comprehensive Research Software program set forth in this document, the following supplemental materials should be created.

  1. A Research Software Management Plan will expound upon actions needed for responsible Research Software Management when considering the class or type of Research Software in question. The Research Software Management Plan will also further contextualise the processes and procedures of Research Software Management to meet the context of the discipline and field of research. 

  2. Citation Guidelines will provide clear recommendations for the elements and formatting that ensure the legible citation of Research Software.

  3. Licensing Recommendations will demystify and endorse licenses specifically serving the domain of Research Software. This document will provide guidance on the type of license that might be appropriate for a particular instance of Research Software. 

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