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Information for Researchers No. 85 | 8 November 2022
Research Software – Quality Assured and Re-usable

Call for Proposals to Increase the Usability of Existing Research Software

In addition to its funding programmes, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) provides funding in connection with the digital turn in the sciences and humanities to support projects that promote the quality assurance and long-term usability of research software. The aim of the call for proposals is to adapt existing research software that has the potential to be used in research well beyond its original context of development and make it accessible for further use and possible further development.

Background

Nowadays, the use of software is an integral part of research work in almost all disciplines. Typical areas of application include the generation, processing, analysis and visualisation of research data and, especially in the natural sciences and engineering, the control and execution of experiments. If software is developed for this purpose in the context of research, it is referred to as research software. Such software is often an integral part of research and has a significant influence on research results. Making research software available enables critical interpretation or reproduction of the results obtained for third parties, as well as enabling transfer to a new or broader research context (in the sense of FAIR4RS). In many cases, however, no steps are taken to ensure that use beyond the research project is possible at all (Fit for Re-Use) or even to secure independent quality assurance (Fit for Purpose).

In order to meet these challenges, the DFG is soliciting proposals whose central aim is to ensure the usability of research software. Projects applied for will aim to serve sustainable quality assurance of research software, thereby promoting its further development and maturation. In particular, the accessibility of the software by third parties and the quality of the software itself should be addressed.

Goals of the call for proposals

The primary goal of the funding is to increase the usability of existing research software as far as possible. By contrast, the predominantly new development of research software or its purely functional further development cannot be assigned high priority in the context of this call for proposals.

This interdisciplinary call for proposals pursues three sub-goals which together seek to raise the maturity level of research software so that it can also be used by researchers other than those developing it, and to simplify its further development. All sub-goals are to be addressed, but not necessarily in equal proportions.

  • Usability and impact:
    Create framework conditions so that research software developed for a specific task or research project is made available in such a way that it can also be used for other – similar – projects with specific adaptations.
  • Quality assurance:
    Document the steps of research software development in a way that enables verifiable reproduction of the development of the research software as well as retracing of the working methods and results.
  • Further development:
    Create structures and incentives that promote further development of the software by the community as well as by the involved research software engineers, thereby enabling the development of the software to be recognised as an achievement in the academic context.

Work programme

Please describe the current state of development of the existing research software and explain what progress is planned for quality assurance and improved re-use.

How do you intend to increase opportunities for use and impact?

Outline the measures that will be taken to increase the usability of your research software (e. g. modularisation of software components, improvement of software architecture (refactoring), enhancement of interoperability, provision of sample or test data sets). Also explain how the use and development of your research software can be established within the research community (e. g. by means of training materials, public relations, community engagement) and how you will provide information about the quality of the software (e. g. creating appropriate metrics, establishing a code review process).

How do you intend to improve quality assurance?

State which quality assurance techniques (e. g. validation, verification, tests, audits) and which quantifiable quality objectives (e. g. in terms of understandability, correctness, maintainability, timeliness, usability) are planned. Furthermore, describe which procedures and methods are planned to support and promote the quality assurance of the research software and the results achieved with it by the community (e. g. development of documentation standards for (software-intensive) experiments, definition and publication of transferable benchmark / test scenarios, establishment of functional and usability tests, external quality testing, etc.).

How do you intend to create conditions for further development?

Describe the maturity of the research software (e. g. based on code size, existence of documentation and test data sets, maintenance and contribution frequencies, licence, etc.) and the measures for further development (e. g. community management measures, training aspects with regard to methodological competence of software development, etc.).

How do you intend to refine the profile of a research software engineer?

Specify the role of research software engineers in your subject-specific community and the opportunities you intend to use (e. g. conference attendance, publications, participation in events to professionalise research software development) to enhance the reputation of collaborating research software engineers.

Requirements for proposal submission

The usual rules apply, as well as the general rules on eligibility to submit proposals under the Research Grants Programme.

The following requirements for describing the development status (see work programme) of a research software are to be fulfilled at the time of proposal submission:

  • Evidence of the relevance of a research software in the relevant research discipline, e. g. based on citation in academic publications by the primary developers
  • Awareness of the research software in the relevant academic community, e. g. based on mention in an academic publication by others than the primary developers or presentations of the software, e. g. at conferences or workshops
  • Description of possible dependencies of the research software on other software with regard to aspects such as functionality, IT security, usability, licensing
  • Environment analysis of the re-usability of existing tools has been carried out in order to demonstrate the relevance of a research software compared to other offers

Type and extent of funding

All modules available under the Research Grants Programme can be applied for within the framework of the call for proposals, see DFG form 50.01. The funds must be justified on a project-specific basis.

Under this call for proposals, funding can be applied for once for a period of up to three years.

Deadlines and submission of proposals

Please send a brief, non-binding Letter of Intent to the DFG by 10 January 2023. Please use the form for your Letter of Intent provided under “Further Information” (see link below).

Applications for funding must be written in English in accordance with the latest proposal submission guidelines and can be submitted via the elan portal up to and including 1 March 2023.

Further Information

Unless otherwise specified in this call for proposals, the rules of the Research Grants Programme apply. The guidelines relevant to proposal submissions are to be found at:

Please refer in particular to the Research Grants Programme Guidelines (DFG form 50.01), the Proposal Preparation Instructions – Project Proposals (DFG form 54.01) and the CV template (DFG form 53.200):

You will find the DFG’s elan portal for submitting full proposals here:

When entering details, select the call for proposals “Research Software 2023”.

See here for the white paper “The Digital Turn in the Sciences and Humanities”:

The FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles) can be found here:

Link to form for Letter of Intent:

For questions and advice, please contact:
Research inquiries:

Procedural inquiries:

Note:

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