We hope that this FAQ proves useful in answering your questions about the petition. If you’d like to see something added, please let us know.
Jason E. Stewart
- 1. I’m funded by a variety of grants, some public, some private. What is the percentage cutoff for the definition of ‘Public Funding’?
- 2. I’m currently funded by a private foundation that has no such OSS requirement, but I want to publish in a reputable journal. Will this petition reflect badly on my NOT publishing the Source Code?
- 1.Why even consider Open Source? And why is Open Source for Scientific applications any different than for anything else?
- 2.Which Open Source license do you require? I don’t like that one. Why don’t you use license Y, which is much more intelligently phrased and acceptable to all clear-thinking people?
- 3.Why Open Source, why not Free Software?
- 4.Doesn’t OSS/FS require me to give my code away for free?
- 5.What about existing software that has multiple sources including some that are non-OSS or that have conflicting licenses? For example, software that includes commercial libraries (Rogue Wave’s ‘tools.h’, Numerical Recipe’s implementation of standard algorithms?)
- 6.I’m currently using OSS for my project but the license under which it is distributed is incompatible with other (also acceptable) OSS licenses. How will this be resolved?
- Does the Scientific method really require making the source code available? Aren’t there other ways to verify an algorithm or claim?
- Why Open Source as opposed to Source Code Availability (Source Under Glass) where you can view and modify the source code but not redistribute it? Wouldn’t this enable people to evaluate the code to the extent required for scientific validation without the overbearing requirement for Open Source release?
- Doesn’t OSS/FS violate Bayh-Dole?
- Does this require that certain coding standards are met? Who ensures that the code is readable and not the result of running it through an obfuscater?
- How do you handle support issues under this petition? A lot of scientific software is poorly written, has limited input validation, obscure compilation requirements, etc. In practice this means that some form of support is needed for successful use. Even if the authors disclaim all warranties and publicly announce a “no support” policy, they will occasionally receive requests for help, bug reports, improvement suggestions, etc. It is human to respond to these, in some cases spending hours or days tracking down someone else’s problem. In the end this consumes a lot of these public resources which should be used to do new research. How should this be handled?
- If it succeeds, who will oversee that the requirements are met? Who will ensure that groups so funded do in fact make their source code available?
- Why not require something like a Government ‘SourceForge’ an ‘active repository’ of publicly funded codes?
- What if my research currently is based on or depends on Proprietary software which cannot be made Open Source?
- Will such software be OSS in perpetuity or will it ‘lapse’ to Public Domain in X years? Define and justify X.
Criticism of the Petition
- 1. Why do some researchers oppose this petition?
- 2.What are some of the downsides of this petition if it succeeds?
F1: I’m funded by a variety of grants, some public, some private. What is the percentage cutoff for the definition of ‘Public Funding’?
Answer: There are two categories of software that fall within the constraints of this petition:
- Software explicitly mentioned as a deliverable in a public grant.
- Software, not explicitly mentioned as a deliverable in the grant, but whose development is funded by the money from the grant.
So the issue isn’t what types of funding you have, but how you spend that funding. We believe that any amount of public funding makes something publicly funded. This means that if you use any money from a public grant to fund development of a piece of software, that software falls within the constraints of this petition.
If your goal is to license all your software proprietarily, then seek all the public funding you want: just don’t use it to develop software, use private funding instead.
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F2: I’m currently funded by a private foundation that has no such OSS requirement, but I want to publish in a reputable journal. Will this petition reflect badly on my NOT publishing the Source Code?
Answer: We have nothing to say about software funded by private foundations or groups. It largely depends on the funding agency and your preferences. If you cannot make the source code Open Source because of restrictions on the funding or administration of the grant, you can still make the code available for review by releasing it in a variety of other ways, such as Source Under Glass or under other no-redistribution policies.
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