Software is a central part of modern science, and knowledge of its use is crucial for the scientific community with respect to reproducibility and attribution of its developers. Several studies have investigated in-text mentions of software and its quality, while the quality of formal software citations has only been analyzed superficially. This study performs an in-depth evaluation of formal software citation based on a set of manually annotated software references. It examines which resources are cited for software usage, to what extent they allow proper identification of software and its specific version, how this information is made available by scientific publishers, and how well it is represented in large-scale bibliographic databases. The results show that software articles are the most cited resource for software, while direct software citations are better suited for identification of software versions. Moreover, we found current practices by both publishers and bibliographic databases to be unsuited to represent these direct software citations, hindering large-scale analyses such as assessing software impact. We argue that current practices for representing software citations—the recommended way to cite software by current citation standards—stand in the way of their adoption by the scientific community, and urge providers of bibliographic data to explicitly model scientific software.

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Handling Editor: Rodrigo Costas

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