Let me first state some conflicting assertions of the matter to illustrate what are the issues.

Personally I would like to have my code open at every stage of development, since

  • others shall see and take advantage of what I am doing
  • I also like to reuse existing code
  • third parties can contribute
  • the public is funding me, so the public has the right to see

But my boss says

  • he needs to approve what becomes public under his name (or the institute's) and he cannot approve every single step
  • There are guidelines referring to intellectual right properties of the institute

and my colleagues say

  • others will come and steal my unpublished ideas
  • my experimental code is of little use for others


To come up with a blueprint for code publication and open source development in my lab, we want to raise the following questions.

  1. Is there already such a guideline, covering the important issues of open software in academia?
  2. Which issues have to included into such a guideline?
  3. What do you think is the right way to implement and use such a guideline?


The issues of crediting, reproducability, code documentation, and where to publish, we want to address in a separate guideline.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What country is this? Some NSF grants in the US require open sourcing of software developed under them (though they may not specify on what timetable). $\endgroup$
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 16 '14 at 14:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is Germany. But the guideline is for general use. How to proceed if there is the want for open source development. Unless there are particular requirements by a grant or so... $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Sep 16 '14 at 15:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't consider this as off-topic, nevertheless there are some similar topics in Academia SE. Examples 1 2 3 $\endgroup$
    – nicoguaro
    Sep 16 '14 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ I will have a look at this. Also I have asked to make this community wiki. so that all can collect and contribute. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Sep 16 '14 at 15:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You'd do well to find and read the institutions policy on intellectual property rights. Your boss is probably at least partially correct that the institution wants the opportunity to exam new developments for patenting or copyright. If so, you'll need to find a way to work within those policies. $\endgroup$ Sep 17 '14 at 1:53

We have collected the legal and personal concerns of colleagues and the head of the department and compiled a form that

  • defines the form, content, and scope of software publication
  • names the developer
  • addresses competing interests within the lab
  • can be signed by the head of the department

to grant a general but well defined approval for software publication both in final versions or as open source development.

Please see this gitlab page for a download of the document and the tex sources.


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