[Python-Dev] Official citation for Python

Wes Turner wes.turner at gmail.com
Thu Sep 13 00:41:26 EDT 2018

Do you guys think we should all cite Grub and BusyBox and bash and libc and
setuptools and pip and openssl and GNU/Linux and LXC and Docker; or else
it's plagiarism for us all?


On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, Stephen J. Turnbull <
turnbull.stephen.fw at u.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:

> Chris Barker via Python-Dev writes:
>  > But "I wrote some code in Python to produce these statistics" --
>  > does that need a citation?
> That depends on what you mean by "statistics" and whether (as one
> should) one makes the code available.  If the code is published or
> "available on request", definitely, Python should be cited.  If not,
> and by "statistics" you mean the kind of things provided by Steven
> d'Aprano's excellent statistics module (mean, median, standard
> deviation, etc), maybe no citation is needed.  But anything more
> esoteric than that (even linear regression), yeah, I would say you
> should cite both Python and any reference you used to learn the
> algorithm or formulas, in the context of mentioning that your
> statistics are home-brew, not produced by one of the recognized
> applications for doing so.
>  > If so, maybe that would take a different form.
> Yes, it would.  But not so different: eg, version is analogous to
> edition when citing a book.
>  > Anyway, hard to make this decision without some idea how the
>  > citation is intended to be used.
> Same as any other citation, (1) to give credit to those responsible
> for providing a resource (this is why publishers and their metadata of
> city are still conventionally included), and (2) to show where that
> resource can be obtained.  AFAICS, both motivations are universally
> applicable in polite society.  NB: Replication is an important reason
> for wanting to acquire the resource, but it's not the only one.
> I think underlying your comment is the question of *what* resource is
> being cited.  I can think of three offhand that might be characterized
> as "Python".  First, the PSF, as a provider of funding.  There is a
> conventional form for this: a footnote on the title or author's name
> saying "The author acknowledges [a] <purpose of grant such as travel>
> grant [grant identifier if available] from the Python Software
> Foundation."  I usually orally mention them in presentations, too.
> That one's easy; *everybody* should *always* do that.
> The rest of these, sort of an ideal to strive for.  If you keep a
> bibliographic database, and there are now quite a few efforts to crowd
> source them, it's easier to go the whole 9 yards than to skimp.  But
> except in cases where we don't need to even mention the code, probably
> we should be citing, for reasons of courtesy to readers as well as
> authors, editors, and publishers (as disgusting as many publishers are
> as members of society, they do play a role in providing many resources
> ---we should find ways to compete them into good behavior, not
> ostracize them).
> The second is the Python *language and standard library*.  Then the
> Language Reference and/or the Library Reference should be cited
> briefly when Python is first mentioned, and in the text introducing a
> program or program fragment, with a full citation in the bibliography.
> I tentatively suggest that the metadata for the Language Reference
> would be
>     Author: principal author(s) (Guido?) et al. OR python.org OR
>         Python Contributors
>     Title: The Python Language Reference
>     Version: to match Python version used (if relevant, different
>         versions each get full citations), probably should not be
>         "current"
>     Publisher: Python Software Foundation
>     Date: of the relevant version
>     Location: City of legal address of PSF
>     URL: to version used (probably should not be the default)
>     Date accessed: if "current" was used
> The Library reference would be the same except for Title.
> The third is a *particular implementation*.  In that case the metadata
> would be
>     Author: principal author(s) (Guido) et al. OR python.org OR
>         Python Contributors
>     Title: The cPython Python distribution
>     Python Version: as appropriate (if relevant, different versions each
>         get full citations), never "current"
>     Distributor Version: if different from Python version (eg, additional
>         Debian cruft)
>     Publisher: Distributor (eg, PSF, Debian Project, Anaconda Inc.)
>     Date: of the relevant version
>     Location: City of legal address of distributor
> If downloaded:
>     URL: to version used (including git commit SHA1 if available)
>     Date accessed: download from distributor, not installation date
> If received on physical medium: use the "usual" form of citation for a
> collection of individual works (even if Python was the only thing on
> it).  Probably the only additional information needed would be the
> distributor as editor of the collection and the name of the
> collection.
> In most cases I can think of, if the implementation is cited, the
> Language and Library References should be cited, too.
> Finally, if Python or components were modified for the project, the
> modified version should be preserved in a repository and a VCS
> identifier provided.  This does not imply the repository need be
> publicly accessible, of course, although it might be for other reasons
> (eg, in a GSoC project,wherever or if hosted for free on GitHub).
> I doubt that "URNs" like DOI and ISBN are applicable, but if available
> they should be included in all cases as well.
> Steve
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