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Contributing to ASPECT

ASPECT is a community project that lives by the participation of its members — i.e., including you! It is our goal to build an inclusive and participatory community so we are happy that you are interested in participating!

Getting started with git and GitHub

If you are new to using git or the GitHub platform you may find it helpful to review video lecture 32.8, which should be enough to help you get started with using GitHub or possibly contributing to ASPECT itself. Alternatively, GitHub provides a helpful guide on the process of contributing to an open-source project here.

Asking and answering questions about ASPECT

The ASPECT community maintains an active mailing list hosted by CIG here. The mailing list is for questions about ASPECT at all levels.

Bug reports

It is a great help to the community if you report any bugs that you may find. We keep track of all open issues related to ASPECT here.

Please follow these simple instructions before opening a new bug report:

  • Do a quick search in the list of open and closed issues for a duplicate of your issue.

  • Do a google search in the archived mailing list discussions for a duplicate of your issue by searching for

    your search term site:

  • If you did not find an answer, open a new issue and explain your problem in as much detail as possible.

  • Attach as much as possible of the following information to your issue:

    • a minimal parameter file that reproduces the issue,
    • the log.txt file that was created during the model run,
    • the error message you saw on your screen,
    • any information that helps us understand why you think this is a bug, and how to reproduce it.

Making ASPECT better

ASPECT is a community project, and we are encouraging all kinds of contributions. Obvious candidates are implementations of new plugins as discussed in the manual, since they are typically self-contained and do not require much knowledge of the details of the remaining code. Other much appreciated contributions are new examples (cookbooks, tests, or benchmarks), extended documentation (every paragraph helps), and in particular fixing typos or updating outdated documentation. Obviously, we also encourage contributions to the core functionality in any form! If you consider making a larger contribution to the core functionality, please open a new issue first, to discuss your idea with one of the maintainers. This allows us to give you early feedback and prevents you from spending much time on a project that might already be planned, or that conflicts with other plans.

To make a change to ASPECT you should:

  • Create a fork (through GitHub) of the code base.
  • Create a separate branch (sometimes called a feature branch) on which you do your modifications.
  • You can propose that your branch be merged into the ASPECT code by opening a pull request. This will give others a chance to review your code.

We follow the philosophy that no pull request (independent of the author) is merged without a review from one other member of the community, and approval of one of the maintainers. This applies to maintainers as well as to first-time contributors. We know that a review can be a daunting process, but pledge to keep all comments friendly and supportive, as you can see in the list of open pull requests! We are as interested in making ASPECT better as you are!

While this seems very formal, keeping all of the code review in one place makes it easier to coordinate changes to the code (and there are usually several people making changes to the code at once). This process is described at length in the deal.II video lecture 32.8. Please do not hesitate to ask questions about the workflow on the mailing list if you are not sure what to do.

Since ASPECT is a fairly large project with lots of contributors we use a set of coding conventions equal to those used by deal.II upon which ASPECT is based, so as to keep the style of the source code consistent. This convention essentially consists of using astyle v.2.04 with a style file for indentation, CamelCase for classes and namespaces, and lower_case_names_with_underscores for everything else. If you are new to the project then we will work with you to ensure your contributions are formatted with this style, so please do not think of it as a road block if you would like to contribute some code.

Acknowledgment of contributions

While we are grateful for every contribution, there are also several official ways how your contribution will be acknowledged by the ASPECT community:

  • Every commit that was merged into the ASPECT repository will make you part of the growing group of ASPECT contributors.

  • Our biweekly mailing list newsletter mentions all raised issues and proposed and merged pull requests including an acknowledgment of the author of the issue/pull request.

  • If you contributed significant functionality to the source code we will ask you to provide an entry into our changelog by placing a file into the doc/modules/changes/ folder. This changelog is used to generate our release notes, and remains available for all previous releases of ASPECT.

  • If you contributed a significant part of the manual (such as a new cookbook, benchmark, or subsection), you will be listed as one of the contributing authors of the manual.

  • Regularly, the Principal Developers of ASPECT come together and discuss based on the contributions of the last years who should be invited to join the group of Principal Developers. Criteria that Principal Developers should match are:

    • A profound understanding of ASPECT's structure and vision,
    • A proven willingness to further the project's goals and help other users,
    • Significant contributions to ASPECT (not necessarily only source code, also mailing list advice, documentation, benchmarks, tutorials),
    • Regular and active contributions to ASPECT for more than one year, not restricted to user meetings.

    The group of current Principal Developers is listed in the AUTHORS file in the main repository.


ASPECT is published under the GPL v2 or newer; while you will retain copyright on your contributions, all changes to the code must be provided under this common license.