open-source software for bioinformatics (was Re: Unix vs Linux - the movie.)

Don Gilbert gilbertd at bio.indiana.edu
Sat Jul 29 16:09:01 EST 2000

Open source/freely available source for bioinformatics works is
a great idea, which I fully support, for various reasons, but not
at the expense of forcing authors to agree to diminish their
copyrights on the basis of peer or ageny pressures.

The point I want to make is that it is not reasonable to hit
bioinformatics software developers over the head with blunt
analogies such as 'source code [an individual's creation] is like
the human genome code [nature's creation]', or 'source code
[copyright is automatic] is like patented works [an involved
legal process]', or arguments like 'open source developers can
easily recoup their investments [by providing extra value added
support and effort] and are protected by their copyright [in a
world where they can trust all competitors or have money & time
to fight legal battles]'.

I think we all will find value in promoting use of an open-source
model for bioinformatics.  Much of this we already know has had
great value, where the wide availability of many fundamental
methods and tools in source form has promoted research, education
and growth in the field that otherwise would have been

Other science computing fields, to mind comes molecular
modelling, have had a different history where academically
developed programs and tools are usually sold to support their
development, with various restrictions on availability of
sources.  We are seeing more of those restrictions in
bioinformatics now.  This is a loss to the field as a whole,
and will hamper its growth.

But that still doesn't argue that pressure need be put on authors
to conform to providing full access to their work.  Better that
we argue the merits of sharing code, and try to find incentives
to promote sharing, than that we try to remove incentives for new
works in the area. 

-- Don

-- d.gilbert--bioinformatics--indiana-u--bloomington-in-47405
-- gilbertd at bio.indiana.edu

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