NAMIC Wiki:OpenSourceStandards

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NIH Open Source Standards

(This work is originally presented by Luis Ibanez.)

We are wondering if the NIH has a defined criterion on what is to be considered "Open Source" for the purpose of their funding announcements.

We see with excitement that more NIH FOA/RFP require or at least encourage "Open Source" software. However, at the same time we see with concern that some groups use their own definitions of "Open Source" in order to deliver software that in our opinion doesn't satisfy the community accepted criteria of the OSI:


That is, these groups deliver software under licenses that could hardly be approved by OSI, due to restrictive terms inserted in the license, such as:

  • "for use only by non-for-profit organizations"
  • "not to be used in commercially funded research"
  • "to be used in a single computer".

or even worst, they claim the software to be open source, but not even publish their source code.

Our concern is that such practice will undermine the credibility of "Open Source" at large, because at the same time that we are publicizing the freedoms and benefits of Open Source, others are taking advantage of the goodwill but not delivering on the promises to the recipients of the software.

Our suggestion is that NIH ( and in general federal agencies ) should adopt the definition of "Open Source" provided by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), as the organism representing the open source communities at large.

Without a clear definition of what "Open Source" means, it is left to any organization to arbitrarily claim their software to be open source regardless of whether it satisfies the community accepted criteria or not.