[open-science] Open tools for creating knowledge: proposal and question

Heather Morrison Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca
Mon Jul 4 21:33:01 UTC 2016

As a researcher it is my perspective that proprietary tools with limiting licenses for generating new open knowledge* (such as Statistical Package for the Social Sciences or SPSS and NVIVO) are unnecessary barriers to conducting research and teaching research skills. The reasons these are unnecessary barriers is because of the potential of  what we might be able to achieve if the resources that go into purchase of these products were to be redirected to funding support for open source versions such as PSPP (alternative to SPSS). For me, this is true even at a well-resourced university like the University of Ottawa. Licenses for these tools are tied to particular computers. For this reason, the tools tend to be most available to students in labs, which are not always readily available with the exception of students / classes where these are a proven need. This makes teaching use of the tools and the processes that they facilitate in classes or research where the tools might be desirable but not enough of a clear need to pay for the licenses much less tempting. If this is the case in a wealthy country like Canada, how much more problematic is this in a poor country?

Proposal: universities and research funders everywhere commit to switching from proprietary to free open source research tools within a specified timeline. Companies that develop proprietary tools would be eligible to propose a switch from pay-for-license to pay-for-open-source-development.

For the entrepreneurs and technically inclined people on this list, this could open up some interesting business and/or work opportunities.

Question: am I behind on this issue? Is someone already doing this or has looked into this? I realize that some governments have made commitments to open source. 

*  I prefer the term “open knowledge” or open scholarship rather than open science because not all knowledge is or should be science. Either are more inclusive both of the actual type of work and the people who do the work who do not necessarily think of themselves as scientists.


Dr. Heather Morrison
Assistant Professor
École des sciences de l'information / School of Information Studies
University of Ottawa
Sustaining the Knowledge Commons http://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/
Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca

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