.py in the sky

Musings on Python, Astronomy, and Open Science

Are we acknowledging tools and services enough in Astronomy papers?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 5th .Astronomy meeting, which took place in Boston. For anyone not familiar with this series of conferences, the aim is to bring together researchers, developers, and educators/outreach specialists who use or are interested in using the web as a tool for their work (I like to think of it as an astro-hipster conference!).

One of the topics that comes up regularly at .Astronomy meetings is the question of credit: how do we, as scientists, get credit for work that is not considered 'traditional', such as (but not limited to) creating or contributing to open source software, outreach activities, or refereeing? Sarah Kendrew already summarized the discussions on this topic in her blog, so I won't repeat them here. However, given that I contribute to a number of open source projects (such as Astropy, APLpy, and many others) this got me wondering how often authors actually acknowledge the tools that they use in papers?

I previously played around with the NASA/ADS full-text search, but what I wanted was a way to be able to do this automatically for any keyword/phrase, and be able to see the evolution of acknowledgments over time. With the release of the ADS developer API (which Alberto Accomazzi presented on the Monday at .Astronomy), I finally had the tool I needed to do this! This was a fun post-dotastro hack, for which I now present the results below.