Abandonware in Bioinformatics

‘In the field of bioinformatics, this process, which results in programs known as abandonware, has a debilitating impact. Postdocs and graduate students write code, release it into cyberspace under an open-source license, and then move on to the next innovation. Meanwhile, new grad students and postdocs don’t want to work on a project that already has a solution, even if that solution has nobody fixing bugs and providing service. The discipline cherishes innovation and creativity, not sound technical support…Moreover, no private company wants to offer a commercial version of a free program floating around…The problem stems from biology’s dependence on the free flow of information and the sharing of lab equipment, reagents, and protocols. The very concept of creating a proprietary program whose source code is kept secret and which is sold for profits is anathema to the entire academic biocomputing community…Don Gilbert, a bioinformatist at the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Indiana, Bloomington…says that biology’s addiction to no-cost software is killing the industry, because it squelches the ability of small startups to launch new bioinformatics projects.  Another reason for all the abandonware has to do with the very nature of bioinformatics: It’s geared towards solving specific problems rather than providing a permanent solution to general problems. "Solving a computational challenge is a career, servicing a preexisting program is just an engineering task," Gilbert says.’

Sam Jaffe, Scientists Abandon their Software: Good biology programs abound in universities, but academia offers little incentive to keep them current. The Scientist, Feb 16 2004. (free registration required) Thanks to Snowdeal for the pointer.

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