Re: A bit of bomb throwing....

From: Zack Rosen <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 11:41:04 -0800

>> I have yet to hear an explanation for why academic research should
>> not be applied towards real world problems in partnership with
>> open-source communities other than 'this is just not the way
>> things are done in academia'. Can someone please lay out the
>> reasoning for me?
> I thought I made it pretty clear.
> - Different goals: academics want publishable advances in science,
> while open source communities want to create usable tools. Quite
> often, you don't need scientific advances to create usable tools,
> you just need good engineering and design, which is not at all the
> same thing. So an academic may work on the project just to see
> their (scientifically legitimate) pet algorithm discarded in favor
> of something better for the product. Or conversely, the open-source
> developers may feel like they have to include complex technology
> that users don't care about just to keep the scientists happy. Open-
> source communities generate code, academics generate papers.

* The Drupal community is pursuing the same problem space and
concepts as the semantic web. In my view they are on the bleeding
edge of application for these concepts. They aren't just pursuing
usable tools they are pursuing innovation and they are willing to
* SIMILE generates quite a bit of code.

> - Coordinating with an outside group brings in extra overhead and
> extra risk. I mentioned a couple scenarios above. You need to
> monitor the mailing lists, and track all the changes that might
> impact your research. If something needs to be implemented to fit
> with your research project you have to convince other people to
> merge that into the project. Like I mentioned above, it's possible
> that the community will decide to move the project in a direction
> that's bad for your research--what do you do then? What if the head
> of the open-source community starts trashing your funding agency in
> the national media?

There are risks with this approach certainly, but these issues are
far from insurmountable.

> I've seen research projects destroyed by these kinds of issues.
> It's much easier for a researcher to create a small environment
> where they own the code, they know all the people involved, and
> everyone is working towards the same end (publishing papers).
> I'm not saying academics should always hide from the world. If
> their research project has common goals with some open-source
> community, then maybe the extra overhead and risk is outweighed by
> the benefits of real-world experience and users. Certainly, I would
> rather see academics extend existing projects than duplicate
> existing tools--and this seems to happening more often (there's a
> ton of academic projects making Eclipse plugins, for example).
> However, I understand that it's not always feasible for an academic
> to align their research interests with the interests of some open-
> source community.

Sure, risks have to be identified and you need a workable plan to
pursue this tact.

Received on Wed Jan 18 2006 - 19:40:41 EST

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