[plug] FOSS condemned for data archival - don't let it go unchallenged

Gavin Chester gavin.chester at gmail.com
Sat Dec 22 18:48:00 WST 2007

I subscribe to "New Scientist" and often get behind in reading the
weekly editions, so only just got onto the 8th Dec issue ...

In that issue, an article by one Paul Marks titled "Hold on to your best
bits" he writes about the old chestnut of data archiving in the digital
age and how transient much of it is. But, he gobsmacked me by writing
this passage:

"Another problem for archivists comes from open source software [sic -
note lack of capitals for these pronouns], which is popular with
scientists because of its low cost and the ability to modify it to suit
the need of a particular experiment. If part of an experiment uses an
open-source program for capturing data, there is no guarantee that it
will still be available on the web at a later date or won't have changed
significantly. The APA says the scientists archiving data will also have
to archive any software they use."

That last issue is a good rule of thumb for any software application
used, but even moreso for proprietary software where the code is not
available to see how a particular data format was created.

Should we let this insidious and innaccurate attack on FOSS go
unchallenged? Should we mount a letter attack on the author through the
'letters' page? Can anyone point to _short_, lucid academic argument
rebutting the author?

If you are planning to write as I suggest, then contact me off list and
I will give the email address and forward you a pdf of the full article.


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