Citation File Format

The Citation File Format (CFF) project provides a format and schema for plain text CITATION.cff files with human- and machine-readable citation information for software (and datasets). Developers/RSEs can include them in their repositories to let others know how to correctly cite their software.

Cite this software

What Citation File Format can do for you

The Citation File Format - making software citation easi(er)

The citation of software is important to enable attribution and credit for developers of research software and reproducibility. In comparison to more traditional research outputs such as papers, software does not inherently provide the necessary metadata to cite it correctly. Therefore it is necessary for software authors to provide these metadata, including software-specific metadata such as version identifiers, source code repositories and license information.

The Citation File Format (CFF) is a community project that provides a human- and machine-readable format and schema for software citation metadata files (CITATION.cff), as well as tools for working with the format. This way, software authors can supply the relevant metadata for their software, and both human users and downstream services can use and reuse the respective metadata.

  cff-version: 1.2.0
  message: "If you use this software, please cite it as below."
    - family-names: Druskat
      given-names: Stephan
  title: "My Research Software"
  version: 2.0.4
  doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1234
  date-released: 2021-08-11

An example for a minimal CITATION.cff file.

The Citation File Format project provides tooling for creating, editing, updating, validating, and converting CFF files in a number of programming languages/technologies. All tools as well as the schema and documentation are published under open licenses.

CFF is supported by several platforms in academia and software development;
GitHub uses CITATION.cff files to render citation information for repositories;
Zenodo - a universal open access repository for digital research artifacts - uses the information in CFF files to populate record metadata in automated workflows;
Reference managers such as Zotero and JabRef support the import of software citation metadata from CFF files.

The GitHub citation widget displaying citation information based on CITATION.cff.The GitHub citation widget displaying citation information based on CITATION.cff.

The Citation File Format schema is written in JSON Schema. CFF files instances are implemented in YAML. As of June 2022, more than 9,000 CITATION.cff files have been created on GitHub alone.

Logo of Citation File Format
Programming language
  • Python 100%
  • CC-BY-4.0
</>Source code

Participating organisations

German Aerospace Center (DLR)