Abstract for SIAM: Supporting and Sustaining Open Source Software Development: the Commons Perspective

Note: I was kindly invited to present at a SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering (CSE19) Minisymposium on Software Productivity and Sustainability for CSE and Data Science. I produced the abstract below for my talk, based (in part) on my various blog posts. Comments welcome!

Supporting and Sustaining Open Source Software Development: the Commons Perspective

While software is only slowly becoming explicitly valued as a product and enabler of research, open source software projects are absolutely critical to modern science. In recent years, the mismatch between the academic weight placed on software versus the actual value of software has become glaringly obviously. In part because of this, many important open source projects are undergoing a sustainability crisis.

The NIH Data Commons, an effort to create a sustainable ecosystem of platforms and services to enable biomedical data analysis, is confronting exactly this question: how do we build, maintain, and evolve critical open source software infrastructure?

I will present this as a problem in sociotechnical systems studies, reference a panoply of intriguingly relevant literature, and reframe the underlying sustainability question as one of community: that is, sustainability depends critically on the formation of a community, and moreover that this community should be initiated, grown, and evolved according to the design principles for sustainable common pool resource management.

This perspective yields some interesting points of consideration for community engagement and governance, while also highlighting a number of significant conceptual mismatches with academic approaches to sustainability.

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