ASTRON Open Source policy

I’m a big fan of open source software. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to volunteer when ASTRON announced it wanted to establish an Open Source committee at the time I was working there!

There are many pieces of software developed at ASTRON. As the organization is mainly subsidized by the Dutch government, there is a desire to gain insight in what impact the software written at ASTRON has on the (Dutch) community. Put differently: what’s the valorization of the money granted to ASTRON by the government? Secondly, there’s the need to maximize this impact, such to prove to the government that their money is well-spent.

In order to get more insight in how software written under ASTRON copyright impacts the world outside ASTRON, more is needed than just adopting an open source license to promote the use, modification, and redistribution of the ASTRON-software.

The internal organization’s quality system didn’t cover software licensing at all. Therefore, it was not common to explicitly record where the copyright of the generated software lies before starting a project. Given that projects at ASTRON are often collaborations between ASTRON and external people, universities or companies, this can result in a lot of confusion, debate, or worse afterwards.

The project forms now do cover software licensing: the resulting software will be licensed as prescribed by the Open Source Policy, unless the project manager and Open Source Committy decide differently.

In scientific literature, references to other literature is usually made. It is however not so common to refer to software releases in this literature. It is therefore difficult to keep track of the use of ASTRON-software and measure its impact.

In order to enable referring to a specific release of an ASTRON-software product, the Open Source Policy demands that for every release of such software product, a digital object identifier (DOI) is generated.

Zenodo is used for that purpose. These DOI’s can be indexed from papers for example and help to gain insight in how wide-spread the use of ASTRON-software is in the world. Commercial users of open source ASTRON-software are kindly requested to inform ASTRON about their use of this software, such that this can be kept track of as well – be it manually.

While I wrote the initial Open Source Policy, I had already left when it got approved by the ASTRON management. Despite me not working for ASTRON anymore, I still felt proud when the policy was publicly released in November 2019!

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