on Bioinformatics Software Availability
Conditions of bioinformatics software availability are extremely
important to the field of bioinformatics. The ISCB, a professional
society of 1300 bioinformatics scientists, has discerned significant
confusion in recent months regarding the topic of software availability,
and is disseminating this statement to clarify several issues regarding
software availability, and to make recommendations on software availability
policies for government agencies that fund bioinformatics research.
- The term
open source has taken on many different meanings.
This term creates confusion in discussions of software availability;
therefore the term should be carefully qualified to indicate which
variation of the open-source model is intended.
agencies that fund bioinformatics research should NOT REQUIRE
that software produced with government research funds must be
distributed under open-source license (particularly given the
ambiguity in the meaning of that term). Because of the complexity
inherent in software, no single distribution model is appropriate
for all research projects. Government agencies should require
clear statements of software availability in grant proposals.
- As reviewers
of bioinformatics grant applications, ISCB scientists have noted
that these applications often contain confusing or unclear statements
regarding the availability of software that will be developed
under government grant funds. This statement contains several
definitions of software availability that ISCB recommends for
use in bioinformatics grant applications. ISCB recommends one
of those definitions as a minimal requirement of software availability
that funding agencies should require.
Levels of Software Availability
The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) provides
the following definitions of software availability. It is ISCBs
intent that these definitions be a standard reference. It is recommended
that all software availability be defined in these terms (or specific
stated variations thereof) and stated in all publications, grant
applications, and other documents that describe software availability.
that government funding agencies that support bioinformatics research,
require a minimum of ISCB Level 0 Availability.
The levels of
availability listed here are not meant to be exhaustive. Researchers
may want to define variations to these levels, but ISCB strongly
suggests that at least Level 0f Availability be maintained.
For all levels
of availability, the licensee must clearly acknowledge the contributions
of the author(s) of the original software in all redistributions.
a. For Research
Use: The software will be available free of charge, in binary
form, on an as is basis for research purposes to educational
institutions, non-profit research institutes, government research
laboratories, and individuals, for non-exclusive use, without
the right of the licensee to further redistribute the software.
b. For Commercial
Use: The software will be available in binary form, on an as
is basis to commercial institutions, possibly for a fee,
for non-exclusive use, without the right of the licensee to redistribute
1 Availability (No fee):
software will be available free of charge to all institutions, in
binary form, on an as is basis, for non-exclusive use,
without the right of the licensee to further redistribute the software.
2 Availability (No fee, source code for research use):
as ISCB Level 1; in addition, source code is available for research
use to educational institutions, non-profit research institutes,
government research laboratories, and individuals, without the right
to redistribute the source code.
3 Availability (No fee, source code to all):
Same as ISCB Level 1; in addition, source code is available to commercial
4 Availability (No fee, unlimited redistribution, with source
The software will be available free of charge to all institutions
and individuals, in binary and source-code forms, on an as
is basis, for non-exclusive use. The licensee may redistribute
and/or resell the original software including the source code, and
may redistribute and/or resell any modifications or derivative works
created by the licensee. The licensee must clearly acknowledge the
contributions of the author(s) of the original software in all redistributions.
to ISCB's open forum on ISCB's
Bioinformatcis Software Availability,
(do as follows)
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