BOSC Panel 2013

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Strategies for funding and maintaining open source software

Funding the ongoing maintenance and development of open-source scientific software is a critical challenge as science becomes increasingly reliant on interoperable tools. Ensuring the long-term success of a scientific software project, from implementing new features to maintaining and documenting existing features, is often challenging due to limited resources. Maintenance issues, such as fixing bugs, enhancing usability, or adding documentation can be especially problematic for the health of an open-source project, creating an environment where bioinformaticians spend an inordinate amount of work on managing software complexity instead of solving scientific problems.

The panel will discuss current funding approaches used in open source software development and explore approaches to help the community create and maintain critical software:

  • Grant based: Open-source tools with a paid developer community supported by grants. This describes projects like Galaxy and Ensembl.
  • Community maintained: A collection of volunteers maintain these tools in their spare time or as part of other research or development work. Some familiar examples are BioPerl, Biopython, BioJava, and BioRuby.
  • Mixed commercial and open source: These are tools that are freely available to the academic/non-profit community, but require commercial users to pay for use. Some examples in the biology community are GATK and KEGG.
  • Commercial value-added services: This model provides commercially available services on top of open-source software. Some examples in the larger software community are RedHat, JBoss and PostgreSQL.

The goals of the panel are to identify past approaches that have been successful for OS scientific software, and to discuss and build community support for long-term, sustainable development practices.

Moderator: Brad Chapman

Panelists: Jean Peccoud, Sean Eddy, Peter Cock, Scott Markel, Carole Goble

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