First JOSS review!

Several months ago, I stumbled upon the journal they call Joss. Well, actually, JOSS - the Journal of Open Source Software, "a developer friendly, open access journal for research software packages". It's a completely free, open-source and open-access alternative to established, for-(often-a-lot-of)-profit journals such as those by Reed-Elsevier or Springer.

And a few days ago, I've been called into service to review VlaPy, "1D-1V Vlasov-Poisson(-Fokker-Planck) Plasma Physics Simulation Tool". While I'm digging into that code, I thought I'd write something up about JOSS in general!

JOSS, as a software-centric journal, is mostly managed via GitHub. Reviewers sign up here (which is a link I'd like to recommend that you follow!). It's mostly meant to solve one issue:

Research software attribution

Acknowledgement and funding for developing and maintaining research software tends to be sparse. Remember the black hole image from last year? To quote Andreas Mueller on Twitter:

To counteract that, scientific developers tend to chase exciting new results that accompany new releases of their software. However, that often leads to "more software" instead of "better and more stable software".

As for attribution, citations are everything in the current (rather flawed, in my opinion - I'm not ready with a pull request just yet, though) system of evaluation of scientific work. Package authors tend to try to write books about their works that are then cited. This seems to have improved in the recent years, but I distinctly remember that most __citation__ atributes for packages in the Pythonosphere were books a while ago. Getting software that "just works" and simplifies your life published, from what I've heard, can be difficult if not accompanied by a "novel" result.

JOSS is sort of a hack on this system - it allows for software to be thoroughly reviewed and appreciated for its own merits. Of course, it's not a permanent solution; but I'm going to leave deliberating on another one for another time :)