In recent years, a number of US Federal Agencies have mulled over the idea of requiring software created as grant-funded research to be released under an unrestricted license, often as open source.  Most notably, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken this tack since a 2011 Task Force made this recommendation, specifically recommending that

NSF should recommend open source distribution of software developed through its programs, while also recommending that grantees be aware of different open source license options and requirements at the grantee’s home institution.

Why the shift?  With open source becoming increasingly mainstream, and its collaborative nature more fully understood, it likely comes down to a prefect triad of interests:  Agency good stewardship of public funds; agency frustration with seeing government-funded software code often go unused; and visible public frustration with not fully benefiting from their tax investment in research and development.

While this makes a great deal of sense, a challenge remains with the grant recipient’s institution, where an institutional history of capitalizing on the value of intellectual property may still be the order of the day and open source may be less understood by a university’s legal team.

Here then are a few resources we’ve found for revisiting the research institution’s policy – from rationale to resource, sample policies and practical primers. Have some to share?  Let us know.



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