GitHub Gets Its Science On

There are a lot of reasons to use GitHub even if you’re not a software developer. For example, if you’re a scientist using the tool for collaborative research and data. 

See also: Seven Ways To Use GitHub That Aren’t Coding

In a Wednesday blog post, GitHub announced two new user interface updates to better accommodate the needs of researchers and scientists. 

“GitHub is being used today to build scientific software that’s helping find Earth-like planets in other solar systems, analyze DNA, and build open source rockets,” wrote Arfon Smith, leader of the GitHub Science Program. “Seeing these projects and all this momentum within academia has pushed us to think about how we can make GitHub a better tool for research.”

Until now, GitHub repositories couldn’t be cited—at least officially—in academic papers. That’s because they didn’t have Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) until now. A DOI is a unique numerical string that ties metadata and other information to an electronic document so it can be cited. 

The company worked with Mozilla Science Lab and two data archivers, Figshare and Zenodo, to make it possible to add a DOI to any repository. A new guide shows you how to do it. 

The other big change is that now scientists have the ability to make research accounts by tying an academic email address to a repository. The real benefit of a research account is that you can get a GitHub Education Discount, just like students and teachers do.

While it’s apparent that plenty of scientists use GitHub for development, these new changes might make GitHub a more welcoming place for scientists who are less computer savvy. Many people (often even those within GitHub itself) overlook the non-coding ways that GitHub makes a useful tool for collaboration, from editing papers to conducting research. 

At the very least, non-developers will have an easy, academia-friendly way to cite GitHub repositories in their papers.

Lead image by Flickr user Paris Buttfield-Addison, CC 2.0; science meme image courtesy of cheezburger.com

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