I hope that you all know that MEE publishes applications paper, which we make freely available for everyone to read, and the software is (of course) downloadable too.

A couple of times over the last few weeks we have been asked to update some of the software code in the Applications. This presents us with a problem: whilst the occasional update is OK, if we commit to adding every update that is released, as could end up spending significant time putting up updates, which is inefficient all round. On the other hand we obviously want to provide access to the latest, best, software.

So, what to do? Should we allow all updates, only some (e.g. bug fixes), or none at all? We need a policy on this, so everyone knows the situation, but we have not decided what the policy should be. Now, we could come up with something half-baked on our own, but we thought it would be better to ask for some help, so we can come up with a plan that will suit everyone.

There are a number of issues:

  1. As a journal, MEE needs to have some level of permanence and stability: when you cite something you need to be confident that it’s the same when someone reads the citation.
  2. Permanence and stability of links is also important: if we link to a page we want to be reasonable confident it will still be there in 5 years time.
  3. We don’t want to be constantly changing code on the website: it could take up a lot of our time, and we aren’t set up to be a software repository like SourceForge.
  4. There are different levels of changes: from bug fixes through minor tweaks to total re-writes of the code. We don’t have to deal with them in the same way, but we should obviously be consistent.

So, what exactly should we do? How can we balance our desire to provide a stable record with providing access to up to date code? My current thought is that we should provide bug fixes, but perhaps not bigger changes. But we should also provide links to data repositories, and provide access that way. My worry with this is that the web pages we link to should be stable, so they don’t disappear 6 months after we put the link up.

I just googled “OpenBUGS”, and the first link I got was to the now-defunct Helsinki pages that I set up years ago – luckily I was prodded to put in a link to the newer pages (and – even better – those pages are current). How can we ensure our links remain current for some time (several years, at least) after an application is published? Or do we have to worry about this?

I’m sure these questions have been raised before, and other journals have found their own solutions. If you have any thoughts, or links, or wise words then please comment and help us reach the right decision.