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From Ross Gardler <rgard...@apache.org>
Subject Re: Why no Academic discounts taken up at ApacheCon? Come and help us address this at Barcamp Re: ACUS registration report [20091021]
Date Thu, 22 Oct 2009 12:54:06 GMT
I received an response privately, which said I could repurpose the
content anonymously, so here it is, unedited:

"I think there's another general reason academics don't participate.
I'll call it "reputation protection."  The PI has worked a career to
establish themselves as an "expert" and then find themselves in a
constant pursuit of grants.  When the grant is awarded, the PI has
some mediocre undergrad/grad students writing the code.  If the code
were developed in the open, then that code would effectively be [a |
the] representation of the lab and thus the lab's reputation would be
attributable to the code rather than the PI's credentials/reputation
alone.  If the code were to be crappy, have major bugs, etc., then the
reputation of the lab and future funding could be at risk."

I think this is a valid point, but not one that can be applied universally.

Firstly, it completely misses the point that there is a great deal of
software development in the academic sector which has nothing to do
with research outputs and everything to do with managing universities
and teaching. These systems are not being developed by students fresh
off an undergraduate degree. They are being produced by professional
developers and commercial partners.

Whern outputs are research oriented (and where I concede software
quality is less important) this does not mean the ASF has nothing to
offer these people, nor does it mean we have nothing to gain..

Furthermore, it is increasingly being shown that engaging with open
source development models is good for your research career [1] for
example. Last week I had a consultation with a researcher who told me
that he needed to open source his code because a journal required him
to do so before they would accept his paper. The merit system we have
here can be part of the academic reputation system (I am living proof
of that, whilst I am no longer a researcher, I became an ASF member
when I was in that role).

The above text is a perfect example of the attitude that is often
quoted back to academics - it demonstrates a lack of respect for the
sector as a whole based on a generalisation. Whilst it is true that a
great deal of the software produced in the sector is of little use to
others, it is not true that *all* software is of little use.  Lets not
forget the roots of the NCSA server, or the fact that Roy did his REST
work as a PhD student, or that Justin has just published his thesis
(there are many others here).

The academic sector has the time and freedom to explore, we should
welcome those who earn merit into the ASF, but at present we are
inadvertently excluding them.

NOTE: I am aware that the same can be said of other groups in other
sectors and I would welcome representatives from those groups to join
us at the BarCamp meetup. One group that springs to mind is women@


[1] http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/cs-texgen.xml

2009/10/22 Ross Gardler <rgardler@apache.org>:
> There has, to date, not been a single use of the academic discount
> code for ApacheCon. If you care about this then come to our BarCamp
> session on community outreach at ApacheCon -
> http://barcamp.org/BarCampApache
> On the one hand the lack of academic registrations surprises me -
> there are many unis in the area and they claim to understand the
> importance of open source - they certainly use it a great deal. On the
> other hand it doesn't surprise me for the following reasons:
> a) it is massively expensive for academics (lets hope we get some
> academic folk to the freebies, but don't hold your breath)
> b) the academic sector does not understand open source - to the extent
> that major projects are usually funded under a hybrid model they call
> "community source"  [1] and [2]
> c) there is almost no content of interest to the the average academic
> developer - they use Apache software but because of (b) they don't
> realise they can participate.
> Point a) is a difficult one to deal with in isolation since we want
> the prices to come down for everyone and the event has to be paid for
> somehow.
> Point b) requires a significant amount of outreach from the ASF. There
> is a huge amount of FUD in the sector, most of it born of a lack of
> understanding rather than malice (although a big-corp director
> recently accused my team of being biased towards the GPL in my
> ***non-advocacy*** day job advisory role. Quite amusing since my team,
> understandably, tell me I'm biased towards permissive licences and
> that is showing in our work).
> For point c) what we need is activities focussed on awareness of the
> way we do things. If we want people to understand how things work
> around here, we simply cannot expect people to read through our dodgy
> documentation and then jump into a mailing list full of confidence.
> Apache is a very scary place for newcomers, people on this list will
> not recognise that - we're already here and we've got over that
> hurdle.
> Take a look at an independent report from one of my recent day job
> events in this context - it happened that 2/3 projects speakers
> represented ASF projects but it was not an ASF event [2]. I intend to
> be doing a session on this at the BarCamp, so please come along and
> help figure out what we can do and, more importantly, what you can do
> to help.
> I feel pretty sure that some people will say "we don't need to do
> outreach" - that's fine, some of us think we do need to, so rather
> than standing in our way in this thread I politely request that you
> step aside and let us get on with it - it's not going to *hurt* your
> project (if I'm wrong in this then of course I would like to hear
> those thoughts).
> So see you at the BarCamp...
> Ross
> [1] http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/communityvsopen.xml
> [2] http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/communitysource.xml
> [3] http://devcsi.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2009/10/17/event-report-oss-watch-workshop-engaging-developers-with-open-source-projects/
> --
> Ross Gardler
> OSS Watch - supporting open source in education and research
> http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk

Ross Gardler

OSS Watch - supporting open source in education and research

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