FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles)


FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles)

By Paula Andrea Martinez

FAIR for Research Software (FAIR4RS) WG
Group co-chairs: Michelle BarkerPaula Andrea MartinezLeyla GarciaDaniel S. KatzNeil Chue Hong, Jennifer Harrow, Fotis Psomopoulos, Carlos Martinez-Ortiz, Morane Gruenpeter

Recommendation Title: FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles)

Authors: Neil P. Chue Hong*, Daniel S. Katz*, Michelle Barker*; Anna-Lena Lamprecht, Carlos Martinez, Fotis E. Psomopoulos, Jen Harrow, Leyla Jael Castro, Morane Gruenpeter, Paula Andrea Martinez, Tom Honeyman; Alexander Struck, Allen Lee, Axel Loewe, Ben van Werkhoven, Catherine Jones, Daniel Garijo, Esther Plomp, Francoise Genova, Hugh Shanahan, Joanna Leng, Maggie Hellström, Malin Sandström, Manodeep Sinha, Mateusz Kuzak, Patricia Herterich, Qian Zhang, Sharif Islam, Susanna-Assunta Sansone, Tom Pollard, Udayanto Dwi Atmojo; Alan Williams, Andreas Czerniak, Anna Niehues, Anne Claire Fouilloux, Bala Desinghu, Carole Goble, Céline Richard, Charles Gray, Chris Erdmann, Daniel Nüst, Daniele Tartarini, Elena Ranguelova, Hartwig Anzt, Ilian Todorov, James McNally, Javier Moldon, Jessica Burnett, Julián Garrido-Sánchez, Khalid Belhajjame, Laurents Sesink, Lorraine Hwang, Marcos Roberto Tovani-Palone, Mark D. Wilkinson, Mathieu Servillat, Matthias Liffers, Merc Fox, Nadica Miljković, Nick Lynch, Paula Martinez Lavanchy, Sandra Gesing, Sarah Stevens, Sergio Martinez Cuesta, Silvio Peroni, Stian Soiland-Reyes, Tom Bakker, Tovo Rabemanantsoa, Vanessa Sochat, Yo Yehudi

(*) Lead authors with equal contributions

Impact: Adoption and implementation of the FAIR for research software principles will create significant benefits for many stakeholders, including increased research reproducibility for research organisations, better practices and more software usage for its developers, clarity for funders around their own policies and requirements for software investments, and guidelines for publishers on sharing requirements.

This work will be of value to software project owners, researchers, users of research data and software, the scientific community, research software engineers, software developers who publish their software, software catalogue maintainers, repository managers, software preservation and archival experts, policymakers who are responsible for defining digital policies, and organisations that create, modify, manage, share, protect, and preserve research software, funders of research, and others with an interest in the FAIR principles for research software.

DOI: 10.15497/RDA00065

Citation and download: Hong, N. P. C., Katz, D. S., Barker, M., Lamprecht, A.-L., Martinez, C., Psomopoulos, F. E., Harrow, J., Castro, L. J., Gruenpeter, M., Martinez, P. A., & Honeyman, T. (2021). FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles). Research Data Alliance. DOI: 10.15497/RDA00065



Research software is a fundamental and vital part of research worldwide, yet there remain significant challenges to software productivity, quality, reproducibility, and sustainability. Improving the practice of scholarship is a common goal of the open science, open source software and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) communities, but improving the sharing of research software has not yet been a strong focus of the latter.

To improve the FAIRness of research software, the FAIR for Research Software (FAIR4RS) Working Group has sought to understand how to apply the FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship to research software, bringing together existing and new community efforts. Many of the FAIR Guiding Principles can be directly applied to research software by treating software and data as similar digital research objects. However, specific characteristics of software — such as its executability, composite nature, and continuous evolution and versioning — make it necessary to revise and extend the principles.

This document presents the first version of the FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles). It is an outcome of the FAIR for Research Software Working Group (FAIR4RS WG).

The FAIR for Research Software Working Group is jointly convened as an RDA Working Group, FORCE11 Working Group, and Research Software Alliance (ReSA) Task Force.



Output Status: 
Recommendations with RDA Endorsement in Process
Review period start: 
Friday, 11 June, 2021 to Sunday, 11 July, 2021
Group content visibility: 
Public - accessible to all site users
Primary Domain/Field of Expertise: 
Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Medical and Health Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Humanities
Domain Agnostic: 
Domain Agnostic
PDF icon FAIR4RS_Principles_v0.3_RDA-RFC.pdf781.84 KB
  • Keith Russell's picture

    Author: Keith Russell

    Date: 14 Jun, 2021

    Hi all,

    Thank you for a really interesting translation of the FAIR principles for software. I like the solutions for addressing the fact that Accessible, Interoperable and (Re-)Usable are different things for software. One thing I wondered about is whether it would be worth explicitely mentioning use of software for specific analysis and therefore include links to Identifiers of articles and data sets. I think you do already cover that to some extent under Interoperable, but might it be worth a mention under Provenance?

    I noted one unfinished line "would not have responsibility for making the depende....."

    But again, really interesting and great work.




  • Joachim Wuttke's picture

    Author: Joachim Wuttke

    Date: 14 Jun, 2021

    »To support a wide range of reuse scenarios, the license should be as
    open as possible« [R1.1] - Adoption of this rule would preclude voluntary choice of the GPL.

    Many researchers consciously choose the GPL. The aporia here is about how to support reuse. Is software reuse at large supported best by allowing inconditional use of our creations? Or by the reasonable and fair demand that those who reuse our code also allow reuse of their extensions?

    Whatever your stance on this, you should make it explicit, and not advise against the GPL without proper explanation.

  • Limor Peer's picture

    Author: Limor Peer

    Date: 15 Jun, 2021

    Thank you for producing a very comprehensive and clear document. I'm pleased to see language in this version that refers to the shared responsibility for applying FAIR4RS Principles -- I think it's important to emphasize that while the primary responsibility lies with software creators and owners, it often falls to those tasked with quality review and stewardship (who are really the first users) to follow through. I suggest also referencing this issue, and the need to build capacity for this type of work, in the section on the path to adoption. Thanks again for great work!

  • Yo Yehudi's picture

    Author: Yo Yehudi

    Date: 21 Jun, 2021

    These principles are very clear and well laid out - two small comments, both about possible examples of the principles:

    A1 talks about protocols to access software. I wasn't sure if this meant something like git or https, or whether it meant a defined process document on a website, or something else. Maybe it meant all of those? :)


    Similarly, F4: Metadata are FAIR and indexable. I couldn't decide based on this if publishing a software artifact as a ZIP on zenodo, with embedded .cff might becompliant with this rule, or if perhaps I am supposed to upload the cff itself to a repo somewhere.... or maybe something else? I broadly understand the _intention_ of this rule but struggled a little to understand the specifics about how one might meaningfully comply.

    Other than that I thought the rules were really clear and wasdelighted to see the note about overloading accessiblity as a term :) it's too little loved as it is and I dread seeing it dropped in favour of FAIR accessibility.

  • Nicola Soranzo's picture

    Author: Nicola Soranzo

    Date: 24 Jun, 2021

    Thanks for working on this important topic! I haven't had the time to read it through yet, but just noticed a copy-paste typo at page 23: "F4. Metadata are FAIR and is
    searchable and indexable." should be "F4. Metadata are FAIR and are searchable and indexable."

    Also a question: for "R1.1. Software must have a clear and accessible license.", did you consider the license proliferation issue? This affects the reusability of the software when used as a dependency for other softwares (see also https://opensource.org/proliferation-report ), so it may be a good idead to recommend choosing, when going for an open source license, one of the "popular licenses"  listed at https://opensource.org/licenses .

  • Tek Raj Chhetri's picture

    Author: Tek Raj Chhetri

    Date: 24 Jun, 2021

    Thank you for producing the comprehensive document. I have a few comments (or suggestions).

    1. The document emphasises rich metadata and talks about maintaining metadata even after the software is no longer available (A2). Further, it also mentions that the metadata should be both human and machine-readable. -- How about making use of Linked Data (or Linked Open Data) (https://www.w3.org/egov/wiki/Linked_Open_Data, https://www.w3.org/standards/semanticweb/data) for metadata? This also enables discoverability, as discussed in F4.
    2. I1, software reads, write and exchange data- The data could be of any type, i.e. personal and non-personal. Laws like GDPR, however, restrict how these data are exchanged or processed. The document also talks about transparency (at the beginning- aims), so I was wondering if we should also adopt (or address) the issues that may arise due to laws like GDPR (probably in future)?
    3. In I1, the document also talks about APIs documentation which should be again both human and machine-understandable. I think we can refer to Swagger API documentation as an example.


    Great work!




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