Big Blue Bolsters Open Source Collaboration With Universities

IBM last week unveiled a new Open Collaborative Research program, through which technology and results from IBM Research will be made available to the faculty and students of several top universities: Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue, Rutgers, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

All of the intellectual property developed through the program will be made available royalty-free. Initial projects will center on software quality, privacy, security, mathematical optimization and clinical decision support.

“The program will allow faculty and students to freely conduct research without concern over IP management issues,” said IBM Research Vice President of Computer Science Stuart Feldman. “This will not only help advance the state of the art in software, but also will serve as a great illustration of the benefits of collaborative innovation with the open source community.”

Initial projects will center on software quality, privacy, security, mathematical optimization and clinical decision support.

“University organizations have huge difficulty figuring out how to work with industrial partners, especially in open source,” Portland State University Associate Professor and open source software instructor Bart Massey told LinuxInsider.

A Welcome Move

The move from IBM and the other universities is welcome, said Massey, claiming that it should help address some of the IP challenges faced by universities developing open source software.

“Neither side can keep things from being disseminated and used by the larger community,” he said. “At the same time, you don’tremove the commercial opportunities.”

Industry has long attached IP and commercial benefit strings to research funding; however, there has been an increasing realization that the approach is flawed and not very scientific, particularly when it comes to open source, said Massey.

Open source software development is part of a scientific process and the resulting product can often be the research itself, not necessarily the software, noted Massey.

Other Contributors

The only qualm over last week’s announcement was that the “stellar set of contributors” included only high-profile, flagship universities, according to Massey.

“I would hope they don’t lose sight of the fact that research can be done with smaller players,” he said.

Google — which has funded university research, as well as open source software projects such as the Summer of Code — should also be praised for targeting a broad spectrum of institutions for its university support and collaboration efforts, added Massey.

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