In association with heise online

Science Code Manifesto

Here are the Manifesto's main points:

Software is a cornerstone of science. Without software, twenty-first century science would be impossible. Without better software, science cannot progress.

But the culture and institutions of science have not yet adjusted to this reality. We need to reform them to address this challenge, by adopting these five principles:

  • Code: All source code written specifically to process data for a published paper must be available to the reviewers and readers of the paper.
  • Copyright: The copyright ownership and licence of any released source code must be clearly stated.
  • Citation: Researchers who use or adapt science source code in their research must credit the code’s creators in resulting publications.
  • Credit: Software contributions must be included in systems of scientific assessment, credit, and recognition.
  • Curation: Source code must remain available, linked to related materials, for the useful lifetime of the publication.

A discussion page expands on the key issue of copyright:

The terms of any license are up to the copyright owners. An open-source license encourages wide re-use and adaptation, while still allowing conditions such as attribution to be imposed. There are many well-known open-source licenses: use of a well-known existing license is strongly recommended.

Barnes goes further:

My own ideals, influenced by the Free and Open Source Software movement, go beyond those stated in the Manifesto: I believe that Open Source publication of all science software will be one outcome of the current revolution in scientific methods, a revolution in which I hope this Manifesto will play a part.

As this suggests, the ultimate goal for science practitioners ought to be the publication of all their scientific software as open source. That would allow other scientists to examine and check the underlying logic of those programs – a crucial part of the scientific process. But more than that, it would allow people to build on not just the results of others, but the actual software tools. That would be a true scientific revolution on the scale of the invention of the modern scientific method itself, because it would avoid duplication of effort and allow science to move forward faster.

But this is not just a huge potential win for science. Open source in science also opens up important new possibilities for hackers. One of the key drivers of the open source world is the availability of projects that excite and inspire people to join and contribute. One perennial threat to the health of the open source ecosystem is that it runs out of "big" projects that motivate people to participate.

The opening up of scientific software that is likely to take place in the coming years brings with it the opportunity for coders to get involved with some of the most exciting projects on the planet – things like investigating climate change – in a way that has not previously been possible.

Marrying open source with open science to produce a new kind of open source science could be one of the most exciting things to happen to free software in years. One way of helping to bring that about would be to endorse the Science Code Manifesto by adding your name to the list of supporters. It will only take a couple of minutes, but could help change the world.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+. For other feature articles by Glyn Moody, please see the archive.

Print Version | Permalink:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • submit to slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • submit to reddit

  • July's Community Calendar

The H Open

The H Security

The H Developer

The H Internet Toolkit