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How Open Source Could Benefit Academic Research 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the many-eyes-makes-all-scientific-mysteries-shallow dept.
dp619 writes "Ross Gardler, of Apache Fame, has written a guest post on the Outercurve Foundation blog advocating that universities accelerate the research process through a collaborative sharing and development of research software while examining reasons why many have been reluctant to publish their source code. Quoting: 'These highly specialized software solutions are not rarely engineered for reuse. They are often hacks to answer a specific question quickly. ... What many academic researchers fail to understand is that this specialization problem is not unique to research projects. Most software developers will seek to provide an adequate solution to their specific problem, as quickly as possible. They don't seek to build a perfect, all-purpose, tool set that can be reused in every conceivable circumstance. They simply solve the problem at hand and move on to the next one. The difference is that open source developers will do this incremental problem solving using shared code. They will share that code in incremental steps rather than wait until they've built the complete system they need but is too specific for others to use. Other people will reuse and improve on the initial solution, perhaps generalizing it a little in the process. There is no need to share the details of why one needs a 'green widget' nor is there any reason to prevent someone modifying it so it can be either a 'green widget' or a 'blue widget.'"
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How Open Source Could Benefit Academic Research

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  • by brillow (917507) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @07:41PM (#42733293)

    The software I have written for my odd specialized purposes is similar to the software my colleagues write: It's spaghetti code written with custom libraries which are not better than common ones and it has no documentation at all.

    We could open-source it, but then you'd just bitch about how poorly its constructed.

    We don't have time to open-source our code. Heck, I've had people ask to use software I've made and I've regretted giving it to them because I then am obligated to explain to them how to use it.

  • by the gnat (153162) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:07PM (#42733475)

    I've had people ask to use software I've made and I've regretted giving it to them because I then am obligated to explain to them how to use it.

    As someone who writes academic software specifically for distribution, I can confirm that this is a gigantic time suck, and one which the funding agencies generally do not support. We are judged both on scientific innovation and publication record, and on whether our tools are adopted by the community - but the latter frequently interferes with the former. I basically wake up to an inbox full of bug reports and feature requests every morning, and I have to find time to deal with these in addition to all of the actual science I'm supposed to be working on. Despite being an obvious sign of success (people actually use our software!), it's become so discouraging that it helped drive out one of my (very competent) ex-coworkers.

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