9 February 2022

New Tool Launches for Astronomy Software Users

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The American Astronomical Society (AAS) and partnering organizations Zenodo and the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) today announced the launch of the Asclepias portal and broker, resources that connect software tools with scientific results to make research progress in astronomy faster, more open, and more reproducible.

Astronomers rely on scientific software to analyze data sets and model complex astrophysical objects and phenomena. But as the collection of astronomy-related software grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for scientists to discover relevant packages for data analysis, determine which software version was used in a specific study, or provide credit to the developer of the software used for a scientific discovery.

Splash screen for the Asclepias ProjectAsclepias combines different platforms to make these tasks possible. The project, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, provides a connection point between the AAS, a community of astronomers who rely on a broad set of software packages to conduct their science; Zenodo, an open-access software repository where developers can upload their software projects; and ADS, a citation platform that allows astronomers to easily obtain references for different versions of software packages and track how the software is used and interlinked over time.

"Software has become critical to the advancement of science, but finding ways for astronomers to discover and reference the software that makes their science happen is challenging," says Mubdi Rahman (Sidrat Research), a member of the project team. "Asclepias was born out of this need to distribute, find, and track software as it is used in astronomy."

Asclepias’s front end is an online search tool that allows users to query the system for specific software packages or search by keyword. Astronomers looking for the software tools used to analyze Hubble Space Telescope data, for instance, need only input "Hubble Telescope" in the search form to discover the different software packages used for this purpose in past studies.

In the background, the newly launched Asclepias broker connects astronomy software packages on Zenodo with citations on ADS, providing links between scientific research articles and the specific software versions used to conduct the research.

Though Asclepias could ultimately serve as a model of software and research interconnectivity for other scientific disciplines, astronomy provided an ideal testbed for this concept. "The AAS is the natural group to gather community forces to work on software citation and discovery," explains Julie Steffen, AAS Chief Publishing Officer. Managing mountains of observed and simulated data, astronomers are heavy users of scientific software for analysis and modeling. This has motivated ongoing efforts by the AAS to encourage the preservation and citation of software in astronomical research literature.

"Software citations are important because they represent a key incentive in boosting open science practices," says Alexandros Ioannidis of Zenodo. "It’s a way of giving credit where credit is due, rewarding those who make their software open and accessible." The use of open software is critical for researchers to be able to reproduce and verify scientific results.

"Over time, Asclepias will provide new insight into how astronomical software is used and evolves," adds Rahman. "Asclepias marks a first step toward enabling truly reproducible science and integrating software as a critical component of scientific research."

For more information on Asclepias, be sure to attend a special session that will be hosted at the 240th meeting of the AAS in June 2022; details will be announced at a later date.


Haley Wahl headshot
Haley Wahl
AAS Media Fellow
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Susanna Kohler, Editor, AAS Nova
Susanna Kohler
AAS Communications Manager & Press Officer
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Mubdi Rahman
Sidrat Research
+1 416-893-1890
Julie Steffen
AAS Chief Publishing Officer
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The Asclepias Project is a joint effort of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System, Zenodo, and Sidrat Research, funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to AAS.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community.

Zenodo is a general-purpose open-access repository developed under the European OpenAIRE program and operated by CERN. It allows researchers to deposit research papers, data sets, research software, reports, and any other research-related digital artifacts.

The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) is a digital library portal for researchers in astronomy and physics, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under a NASA grant. The ADS maintains three bibliographic collections containing more than 15 million records covering publications in astronomy and astrophysics, physics, and general science.