The Rise of GitHub in Scholarly Publications

Authors : Emily Escamilla, Martin Klein, Talya Cooper, Vicky Rampin, Michele C. Weigle, Michael L. Nelson

The definition of scholarly content has expanded to include the data and source code that contribute to a publication. While major archiving efforts to preserve conventional scholarly content, typically in PDFs (e.g., LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, Portico), are underway, no analogous effort has yet emerged to preserve the data and code referenced in those PDFs, particularly the scholarly code hosted online on Git Hosting Platforms (GHPs).

Similarly, the Software Heritage Foundation is working to archive public source code, but there is value in archiving the issue threads, pull requests, and wikis that provide important context to the code while maintaining their original URLs. In current implementations, source code and its ephemera are not preserved, which presents a problem for scholarly projects where reproducibility matters.

To understand and quantify the scope of this issue, we analyzed the use of GHP URIs in the arXiv and PMC corpora from January 2007 to December 2021. In total, there were 253,590 URIs to GitHub, SourceForge, Bitbucket, and GitLab repositories across the 2.66 million publications in the corpora.

We found that GitHub, GitLab, SourceForge, and Bitbucket were collectively linked to 160 times in 2007 and 76,746 times in 2021. In 2021, one out of five publications in the arXiv corpus included a URI to GitHub.

The complexity of GHPs like GitHub is not amenable to conventional Web archiving techniques. Therefore, the growing use of GHPs in scholarly publications points to an urgent and growing need for dedicated efforts to archive their holdings in order to preserve research code and its scholarly ephemera.


GitHub Repositories with Links to Academic Papers: Open Access, Traceability, and Evolution

Authors : Supatsara Wattanakriengkrai, Bodin Chinthanet, Hideaki Hata, Raula Gaikovina Kula, Christoph Treude, Jin Guo, Kenichi Matsumoto

Traceability between published scientific breakthroughs and their implementation is essential, especially in the case of Open Source Software implements bleeding edge science into its code. However, aligning the link between GitHub repositories and academic papers can prove difficult, and the link impact remains unknown.

This paper investigates the role of academic paper references contained in these repositories. We conducted a large-scale study of 20 thousand GitHub repositories to establish prevalence of references to academic papers. We use a mixed-methods approach to identify Open Access (OA), traceability and evolutionary aspects of the links.

Although referencing a paper is not typical, we find that a vast majority of referenced academic papers are OA. In terms of traceability, our analysis revealed that machine learning is the most prevalent topic of repositories. These repositories tend to be affiliated with academic communities. More than half of the papers do not link back to any repository.

A case study of referenced arXiv paper shows that most of these papers are high-impact and influential and do align with academia, referenced by repositories written in different programming languages. From the evolutionary aspect, we find very few changes of papers being referenced and links to them.