opensource.ac.uk

Welcome to www.opensource.ac.uk, a site devoted to the role of Open Source software within the UK academic community.


This site, as is the way with all such things, is 'under construction'. This page outlines the motivations behind opensource.ac.uk, answers a few likely questions, and lists activities in progress. This placeholder page was put up since the URL is finding its way into circulation before the real website is finished.

Why opensource.ac.uk?

Opensource.ac.uk aims to promote the re-use and sharing of software under 'open source' licenses within the UK academic community.

Specifically, we aim to make it easier for those of us working in UK academia to do the following:

  • locate opensource, free and public domain software relevant to *.ac.uk needs
  • make software available under OSS license for others to use freely
  • present opensource based business and dissemination models to funders and host institions
  • support those models by providing a directory of groups and organisations providing support for opensource software

We aim to ensure, through provision of stable server space and reliable URLs, that free software toolkits remain available for the community when *.ac.uk funding for that work is complete, and that an open source exit strategy becomes a viable option for an increased proportion of research-oriented projects.

There are many issues raised here, for example IPR rules of various *.ac.uk institutions and the (sometimes contradictory) requirements of funding bodies such as JISC. Opensource.ac.uk is intended to provide a forum for debating these issues, eg. discussing relative merits of the various alternative licenses...

What's the relationship between opensource.org and opensource.ac.uk?

The opensource.ac.uk project has at the moment no official ties with the Open Source Initiative (maintainers of www.opensource.org), other than sharing similar goals for the promotion of open source sofware. You can read more about OSI at http://www.opensource.org/osi-launch.html.

The Open Source Initiative's stated mission is to...

...own and defend the Open Source trademark, to manage the www.opensource.org resources, to develop branding programs attractive to software customers and producers, and to advance the cause of open-source software and serve the hacker community in other appropriate ways.

Where opensource.ac.uk uses the term 'open source', the intention is to follow the OSI usage as defined in http://www.opensource.org/osd.html

Projects...

Where did opensource.ac.uk come from?

This site has been set up using server space donated by the University of Bristol's Institute for Learning and Research Technology.

The main motivations for setting this up were a number of concerns relating to the role of software in UK academia:

  • Software is now an integral part of academic life (wordprocessors, browsers, webservers, mailing lists...);
  • UK funding bodes (HEFCE, JISC etc) spend a lot of taxpayers money on software creation (eg. eLib, JTAP programmes);
  • ...and on research activities which produce software as part of the scholarly record;
  • Some of this funding results in software which is neither commercially exploited nor made easily accessible to others
  • When funded projects end, websites often shut down and potentially re-usable code goes to waste
  • Setting up opensource.ac.uk as a clearinghouse and showcase for such software seemed a useful way to improve on this situation

If the open source trademark can be considered a marketing campaign for free software, opensource.ac.uk is probably best characterised as a marketing campaign for free software in UK academia. The value of open source software is old news to many thousands of people in UK academic institutions. This site is intended not to tell people what they know already, but to showcase what they've built. There are hundreds of examples of software tools built by and for the AC.UK community, not to mention others available elsewhere. Opensource.ac.uk will showcase a few of these...

Neither the University of Bristol or ILRT necessarily endorse anything said on this site, (although a number of ILRT staff do). ILRT offers to host this space for as long as it is considered useful. To ensure the continuity of opensource.ac.uk we have made fallback arrangements for alternative hosts should ILRT/Bristol become unable to continue hosting the site.

What this site is not

We are explicitly not in the business of creating a large scale software archives. Use the UK Mirror service if that's what you're after. Where appropriate, we'll point into those archives. We will host projects, services, software distributions, though on a much smaller scale.

What next?

Nothing much has happened here for 12 months so I'm loathe to promise anything without having done it first. Time will tell...


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