Open Source

Open Source is a facet of Open Science that combines different movements that are all concerned with the accessible provision of source materials. This includes the open source software movement as well as the open research software movement. Additionally, it is closely connected to the idea of open hardware.

Open source software has its origins in the 1980s to 90s with the establishment of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Open Source Initiative (OSI). While having slightly different philosophies both groups follow the conviction that all software should have accessible source code, be possible to run, copy and distribute as well as possible to adapt and be distributed in its adapted form without restrictions. The Open Source Definition and the principles of free software elaborate these aspects further.

Within the MPDL the developer teams are committed to use and distribute open source software whenever possible. The PubMan software, which is the basis of the MPG publication repository PuRe, is an open source in-house development. The data repository Edmond as well as the MPG instances for VuFind (ReNa), Labfolder and RDMO are examples of adaptations of existing open source software.

The open research software movement follows largely the same principles as the general open source software community. The key difference, however, is that research software is specifically created and used to produce research outcomes. The code can hereby range from small scripts and prototypes that are shared across a community to full fletched applications that need to be installed or deployed. Creators can either be researchers themselves, Research Software Engineers (RSEs), or traditional IT developers. This brings some difficulties regarding the correct and ideally citable acknowledgement of workload as well as maintenance of best practice code standards.

Tackling these problems and promoting open, accessible and citable research software is largely done by the RSE community. The idea to create a new and specific role for developers in academia first emerged from a study on tool support in research projects from 2010. From there associations in a variety of countries and regions including Germany formed around this idea. Additionally, platforms and journals to publish specifically research software such as e.g. ROpenSci, the Journal of Open Source Software or the Journal of Open Research Software formed.

Similar to research data also not all research software can be open. However, whenever possible publishing research software parallel to research outcomes can improve the credibility, reproducibility and visibility of tools within ones research.

Members of the MPG are part of the de-RSE community. Additionally, the MPDL worked together with this community to expand the RDMO tool by a Software Management Plan. The MPDL Software Licensing Group also funds open source development projects within the scope of the core provision of software and online services.

Further Reading