A few weeks after my work was published in a conference, I received an email from a research group from another university asking me to provide my source code. The email was very polite and explained the reasons for the request, i.e. the direction of their research. There was really no reason to deny them. However, yesterday (ca. 6 weeks after the first request), I received a similar request from another group asking for the same code to conduct research in the same field as the first group. (To clarify, I'm in CS, but both groups work in statistics) I see no reason to deny them either.

But should I explicitly state that the code was already asked for and provided to another research group? If so, should I also notify the first group?

I found myself in uncharted territory since I haven't expected anyone to be interested in that code, let alone to receive two requests. Also, this situation has potential to escalate into misunderstanding(s), if information is withheld or provided, but misinterpreted.

PS: I haven't talked yet to my adviser, as he is on vacation and I really don't intend to bother him with this matter.

4 Answers 4


One possible course of action could be to make the code publicly available on your website, or some public repository system, e.g. github. That gives you no control over the distribution, but provides other important things like public appreciation and (in case of github) widely recognised timestamp.

Since this is your code, you have the right to promote yourself by mentioning that it is widely used. However, it may be not a good idea to share the information about someone else's current research interests, without asking them first. Some areas can be very competitive, and it is better to be safe than sorry. You could ask your "users" if they agree to be mentioned as such.

  • 13
    Sharing the code on some public repository system is certainly the best course of action from a research (!= politics or financial) standpoint. Jul 17, 2014 at 17:34
  • 5
    Also means that any changes (say a bugfix or improvement of some kind) is available to all parties with no extra effort on your part.
    – OJFord
    Jul 17, 2014 at 22:27

There is no reason to inform anyone of anything. Any (non-collaborating) researcher contacting you should reasonably expect that other researchers could ask you the same question, including requests to share code. (This is not true of collaborating researchers, from whom you may want to request permission before sharing code.)

Do note that in some research settings you may not want to share code. I would definitely consult with your advisor.

  • 8
    +1 Sharing your code without consulting your advisor is really a bad idea.
    – Alexandros
    Jul 17, 2014 at 18:38

If one choose to share code, generally one should do it with relative unselectively (ie. sharing on GitHub as others proposed, or just on your own site) or in form of collaboration.

In the first case everyone who is looking for your code and agree with some basic rules, Terms of Use, etc essentially granted to use it, and it is not your business beyond that what they use it for. It is possible to tell groups that others using this, too, but telling about others project without their explicit consent is very unethical. In my field, I know only one professor who actively introduce groups to each other who are intent to do similar research to encourage them to collaborate, but this is a very shaky field and the default is the no see, no hear, no tell. In the second case you are collaborating with one or the other group. If they are overlapping in research, you shouldn't collaborate with both, and I think hinting that you are already working on a similar topic with someone is the ethical way. Off course, you still can give the code both of them, but without collaborating and sharing data with one side.

Disclaimer: I am not in computational science, but in computational chemistry, so there can be differences in local habits.


Going off of what Dmitry Savostyanov said. You could publish it to github or on your website and then send an email BBCing all the parties who have expressed interest. This way you can inform everyone of the new code location and hint that multiple people have asked for it without explicitly telling anyone anything.

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