2015 Future of Open Source Survey Results

Open source software has emerged as the driving force of technology innovation, from cloud and big data to social media and mobile. The Future of Open Source Survey is an annual assessment of open source industry trends that drives broad industry discussion around key issues for new and established software-related organizations and the open source community.

The results from the 2015 Future of Open Source Survey reflect the increasing adoption of open source and highlight the abundance of organizations participating in the open source community. Open source continues to speed innovation, disrupt industries, and improve productivity; however, a reported lack of formal company policies and processes around its consumption points to a need for OSS management and security practices to catch up with this growth in investment and use.

Check out the slides below for survey results.

The Future of Open Source

It was a privilege for OpenClinica to help with the “Future of Open Source” survey recently completed by Michael Skok of North Bridge Ventures, Black Duck and Forrester. The survey polled users and other stakeholders across the entire spectrum of OSS.

Recently published results from the survey substantiate the idea that open source is ‘eating the software world’s lunch’ (to borrow a phrase from Michael). OSS powers innovation, increases security, and enables a virtuous cycle of proliferation and participation across major sectors of our economy. This is even true in healthcare and life sciences, and we are seeing these trends within OpenClinica community. People are adopting OpenClinica and other open source research technologies because of the quality, flexibility, and security they provide, not just to save a buck or two.

What I find particularly significant in the results is the increased recognition of quality as a key driver of adopting open source. 8 out of 10 survey respondents indicate quality as a factor for increased OSS adoption. This has vaulted from the #5 factor in the 2011 survey to #1. In research, quality and integrity of data are paramount. OpenClinica’s active (and vocal!) community’s constant scrutiny of the code, and continuous improvements demonstrate the power of the open source model in producing quality software. Furthermore, working in a regulated environment means you need to do more than just have quality technology. You also must provide documented evidence of its quality and know how to implement it reliably. The transparent development practices of open source are huge contributors to achieving the quality and reliability that clinical trials platforms require. Knowing that feature requests and bug reports are all publicly reported, tracked, and commentable means nothing can hide under the rug. A public source code respository provides a history of all changes to a piece of code. And of course, it greatly helps that many of the key tools and infrastructure that power open source projects are open source themselves.

That’s just one set of factors driving us to a more open, participatory future:

“As a result of all this, Open Source is enjoying a grassroots-led proliferation that starts with a growing number of new developers and extends through the vendors and enterprises to the applications and services, industries and verticals, reaching more people and things in our everyday lives than ever before… there are now over 1 million open source projects with over 100 billion lines of code and 10 million people contributing.”

One thing I predict we’ll see a lot more of in the next year, especially for OpenClinica and life sciences as a whole, is greater interaction between projects and communities. OSS reduces traditional barriers and lets more people ‘get their hands dirty’ with tools and technologies. As OSS tools, libraries, and apps proliferate, innovation will increasingly come from the mashups of these projects.

Follow the survey findings and updates @FutureofOSS and #FutureOSS  

OpenClinica Community Surpasses 10,000 Members …and oh yeah, what is this open source thing?

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported the OpenClinica project over its relatively brief history. Our community now stands at over 10,000 registered members, representing a 3-fold increase in size over the past two years alone. With members in over 70 countries across six continents, open source is now a central part of the clinical trials software landscape. This is a major accomplishment that we should all be proud of.

While 10,000 may sound like a lot of people, there are still many within the clinical trials industry who do not understand the key concepts of open source. Other software categories have a high prevalence of open source offerings. For instance, when you look at database products (like MySQL, Postgres) and operating systems (like Linux, Android, BSD) there are numerous open source options. Open source is even widely prevalent in the EMR/EHR space, with OpenVista, and over 20 others to choose from.

As OpenClinica ushers the benefits of open source into the clinical trials space, it is instructive to periodically revisit the fundamentals of what exactly open source is.

What is open source?

Open source is a type of free software license–free as in “freedom,” not “beer.”[1] It is not “freeware” and it is not “shareware.” More specifically, open source provides users with[2]:

  • The freedom to run a program, for any purpose
  • The freedom to study how a program works and adapt it to a person’s needs. (Access to the source code is a precondition for this.)
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so that you can help your neighbor.
  • The freedom to improve a program and release improvements to the public, so the whole community benefits. (Access to source code is a precondition for this.)

There are numerous open source software licenses based on the above tenants and roughly 60 open source licenses have been approved by the non-profit Open Source Initiative. The OpenClinica Community Edition is distributed under the LGPL open source license.

Open source as a development model

The software development models around open source projects are typically characterized by transparency and collaboration within the community. Opening the product up to the community, allowing anyone to see the good with the bad, helps to quickly uncover problems and identify areas for improvement. Most open source projects will publicly maintain a project roadmap and defect tracking system. Release cycles of active open source projects tend to be early and often.

The result of such openness and transparency is software that is often more reliable and better performing than proprietary, closed alternatives.

What is professional open source?

A symbiotic relationship exists in a health professional open source model between the Community, Company, and Customer.

Some people may think of open source projects as purely volunteer efforts. That is definitely not the case! While governance models vary from project to project, commercial enterprises have helped make open source consumable by ordinary people and businesses. For example, through its OpenClinica Enterprise Edition, Akaza Research provides support and regulatory assurances that help to minimize business risk and ensure success for organizations wishing to use OpenClinica in mission critical settings. Organizations can turn to Akaza to rapidly develop in-house expertise, obtain hosting and expert professional services, and ensure their OpenClinica systems and users are productive and satisfied.

A pervasive trend in software

Open source is everywhere[3]. From the Firefox web browser to the most popular websites, everyone who uses the World Wide Web uses open source. As web-based technology, OpenClinica and the OpenClinica community are direct beneficiaries of numerous other open source projects. Those within the clinical trials space who recognize the significance of open source will be a step ahead of their colleagues.

– Ben Baumann, Co-Founder, Akaza Research, LLC

Want to be an OpenClinica Community Member? Members get free access to OpenClinica software downloads, Issue Tracker, email forums, and the OpenClinica Case Report Form (CRF) Library. Register at http://www.openclinica.org/register.php.

[1] See Open Source Software Definition, http://www.opensource.org/docs/osd
[2]From the Free Software Foundation: http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html
[3]The SourceForge repository of open source codebases counts over 230,000 OSS projects.

OpenClinica Community and Enterprise Editions

Dear OpenClinica Community,

We are only hours away now from the general release of OpenClinica 3.0. There is a ton of excitement here at Akaza as we get ready to see many months of hard work come to fruition.

In advance of this milestone I’d like to describe a few changes we’re making to how OpenClinica is organized and how the name and logo can be used.

A brief background: As a founding member of the OpenClinica® open source community, I constantly strive to ensure that our technology has a reputation for meeting the highest standards of quality. The growth of OpenClinica® over the past few years is a testament to some success in that area. In my role as CEO at Akaza Research, a business that has invested millions of dollars into development of this open source technology, I recognize that the same reputation of quality is critical to our ongoing success. Part of how we maintain this reputation is to provide quality control over solutions that bear the OpenClinica® name. To enable this, Akaza Research owns the registered trademarks for OpenClinica® and Akaza and reserves the rights to their use.

With the release of 3.0, we are publishing a trademark policy on our website (also summarized below) that defines how the OpenClinica® and Akaza Research® trademarks may be used by members of the OpenClinica community. Our goal is to protect the quality of the OpenClinica® and Akaza brands without inhibiting the freedom that comes with the open source software model. These trademark terms complement the flexibility of open source licensing, by clarifying and creating confidence in the quality and reliability of solutions that bear the OpenClinica® name.

The most visible way the policy will be manifested is by separating the Community and Enterprise editions of the software. The default software download from OpenClinica.org is the Community Edition, pre-configured in a way that complies with the requirements of the trademark policy. The policy itself covers allowed uses of the trademarks for commercial and non-commercial purposes, both for modified (derivative) works and for unmodified versions of the software.

Akaza’s OpenClinica Enterprise customers and partners will be granted separate licenses that include additional permissions on how they may use the trademark in their marketing, operations, and services activities. Their installations will be distinguished as “OpenClinica Enterprise Edition” via the label in the footer of their OpenClinica pages.

I want to stress that 100% of the core OpenClinica source code remains free and under an open source software license. It is our promise that this will always be the case. Over time Akaza will offer additional proprietary services and technology offerings as part of the OpenClinica Enterprise Edition to complement this core, but it is our goal to ensure that the Community Edition always stands on its own as a fully-functioning, 100% open source EDC/CDMS platform.

I hope you share my view that this new policy will provide the clarity and confidence that allow OpenClinica to continue to thrive, without imposing undue restrictions on members of the community.

With that (too lengthy) introduction, here is a summary of the policy. Click here for the detailed, legal version:

CategoryDescriptionTerms and Conditions
OpenClinica Community EditionYou download and install the software on your own, and are not commercially supported by Akaza.You may not use the OpenClinica brand for marketing or sales purposes, and must include the community edition disclaimer.
OpenClinica Enterprise EditionYou are an OpenClinica Enterprise System Level Support subscribers. Other Akaza customers/partners and OpenClinica code contributors may meet the requirements of this category. Contact sales for more detail.Includes limited use of the OpenClinica brand for marketing and sales purposes, ongoing support, and display of “OpenClinica Enterprise Edition” in footer.
OpenClinica Community Edition – Derivative WorkYou download and install the software on your own, make modifications to the code, and are not commercially supported by Akaza. You want to keep the OpenClinica name/logo in the modified version.You may not use the OpenClinica brand for marketing or sales purposes, and must include the community edition disclaimer.. You must also clearly state the software has been modified and the modifications are not supported by Akaza.
Other Derivative WorksYou choose to strip out the references to the OpenClinica and Akaza names and logos from your modified version of the software. The trademark policy does not apply.The OpenClinica source code is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). You still must follow the terms of the LGPL, including copyright attribution and requirements for redistribution of source code. Of course, if you choose to follow this course, we hope you’ll also let us know about your software modifications and will contribute these back to the core repositories, both for the benefit of the community and to help ensuring future compatibility of your flavor of the software.

If you are a community user of a prior version of OpenClinica and do not intend to upgrade to the latest release, please contact us if you have questions about how the new policy may affect you.

Best Regards,

Cal Collins

CEO, Akaza Research

The State of an Electronic Data Capture Open Source Community

I believe we’ll look back at 2008 as the year the OpenClinica open source community truly coalesced. From a size perspective we grew to over five thousand members, double the size of a year ago. Numbers of downloads, new registrations, and adopters in production all increased dramatically. However, the real substantive change has been in the emergence of committed individuals and organizations who participate in the community in meaningful ways.

As evidence of this, the first OpenClinica Community Virtual Forum took place in December. The goals of the forum are to provide an open environment to share ideas, promote collaboration within the community, and determine future direction in the use and development of the OpenClinica electronic data capture software. The meeting topics ranged from new feature development to how to make the development process more accessible to contributors. You can review the minutes here. Participants joined from industry and academia, from software development and data management backgrounds, and were able to share their ideas, experiences, and needs. Many of these participants are doing their own customization/extension of OpenClinica while others are providing detailed feeback and design ideas. We’ve previously discussed motivations for contributing to open source and it’s great to see it work in practice.

The next Virtual Forum will be in February 2009, and every other month thereafter. Participation is open to all, though we are limiting the size of the group to ensure productive discussion.

And that’s not all that’s happening. If you’re on one of our mailing lists you’ll have noticed the greater frequency and depth of discussion threads. The number of code contributions and branches of the OpenClinica code is increasing every month. On a related note, we will soon be announcing the first face-to-face OpenClinica User & Developer Summit.

All of this puts us in an exciting position as we start 2009. The OpenClinica community will continue to advance the vision of bringing free, open, standards-based EDC to users all over the world. This vision will grow with the enthusiasm of community members who don’t want to pay six or even seven-figure license fees, who want the freedom to integrate, customize, and control their software, and benefit from the knowledge and expertise of a transparent worldwide community. Our progress in 2008 and plans for 2009 illustrate that we are on our way!

Microsoft Veteran Banks on Open Source

11-year Microsoft veteran, Keith Curtis, has recently published a book on Lulu.com called “After the Software Wars”. In it, Mr. Curtis describes how he believes open source will be the primary innovation engine for many long promised technological developments, such as cars that drive themselves. However, what is particularly interesting is the fact that Mr. Curtis built his career at Microsoft, a company that quite possibly views open source as its single largest threat.

While I haven’t read the book yet, the Web is already abound with abstracts and commentary, including a good summary posted on the New York Times blog by John Markoff. Here’s an excerpt:

“The key to faster technological progress is making software free,” he [Curtis] writes. “The difference between free, and non-free or proprietary software, is similar to the divide between science and alchemy. Before science, there was alchemy, where people guarded their ideas because they wanted to corner the market on the mechanisms used to convert lead into gold.”

He notes that there is an important parallel to the end of the Dark Ages, which came when society began to freely share advancements in math and science.

It is refreshing to see a man who spent 11 years enduring Microsoft propaganda still be able to think outside the confines of the proprietary software paradigm.

Using OpenClinica for ICF-Based Data Acquisition

The use of electronic data capture (EDC) systems in health care, and especially in clinical trials, has been the object of significant research given the potential advantages like improved data quality, reduced cost, and increased trial repeatability. Despite significant interest and promised benefits, real adoption has been somewhat limited to date with most successful implementations performed in the field of pharmaceutical clinical trials. This can be attributed in part to the lack of underlying consistent and reusable internal data models and the high cost and complexity in customizing most EDC systems.

A potential alternative to traditional EDC software is the use of Open Source Software (OSS), broadly defined as software that is distributed as a freely available and freely modifiable system. This freedom gives the user the opportunity to perform structural modifications and adaptations to better integrate the software with pre-existing IT infrastructures, or to adapt it to local needs and requirements. There are many examples of large scale open source software (OSS) systems in health care, including the VISTA electronic health record system, used in the US Department of Defense and in several hundred installations across the world, the Care2X system, Indivo health, and the OpenClinica EDC system. The use of open source software facilitates the harmonization of a coherent and comprehensive data model that can be reused across different systems. In our work, ICF (the WHO classification for functioning and disability) has been selected as the underlying representational model, and implemented in the OpenClinica EDC software. The experimentation involved more than 10 Italian regions, with multiple hospitals and care centers. The EDC system was designed to test the effectiveness of ICF as a basis for data collection on disability and functioning in a wide spectrum of pathologies.

The complete WHO-ICF classification was imported from the CLAmL XML representation into the LexGrid editor, a tool created by Mayo Clinic for the purpose of editing and maintaining ontologies and classifications. Starting from this intermediate representation, the classification was first translated into the Italian language and then exported back into the CLAmL representation; this form was also used as the basis for the creation of the internal EDC data model, later imported into the OpenClinica platform. From this visual representation, a group of experts designed the set of forms that comprise the web application; later, the database structure and the final application templates were fixed and published on a public web site. The joint use of ICF as a representational model for an Electronic Data Capture system, coupled with the choice of open source software, yielded a significant reduction in the cost and implementation time of a multiregional EDC system. The ease of use of the web interface also facilitated interactions with medical experts to quickly implement alternative data representations and to create a stable and fast platform that is currently being used in an actual trial. OpenClinica demonstrates that open source is stable and ready to be used even in the strictest clinical trials, and that by using open source it is possible to create clinical research applications in a faster and more cost effective way.

– Carlo Daffara, Connecta

A tale of two court cases: Medsphere v. Shreeve and ArsDigita v. Greenspun

In reviewing the top stories of 2007, I came across this article in InformationWeek, outlining the 10 top OSS stories of the year.  At number 9 was the story about Medsphere v. Shreeve, which was settled out of court in late October.

The lawsuit started in the summer of 2006 when the company sued the CTO for posting source code to SourceForge, which the CTO maintained was what the company wanted to do all along, pledging to open-source the code base for its medical product, called OpenVista.  After the lawsuit settled, Joel West wrote a long statement about his observations while working at Medsphere, and that he was dreading a subpeona during the entire affair.  Something he wrote caught my eye:

Even if the lawsuit is over, IMHO this sordid mess leaves the VCs with a permanent black mark. From 2002-2006, they invested $12 million in a company whose strategy was always to release open source, and then they wholeheartedly backed the decision both to fire the officers who released open source and to sue them. Were the investors (Azure Capital, Thomas Weisel, Wasatch) incompetent in not knowing what an “open source company” meant? Did they panic when deployments ran behind schedule?

This reminded me of another case about VCs not getting the point of open source: ArsDigita v. Greenspun.

ArsDigita Corp started its business in the 90’s and pioneered software-as-a-service, giving away its ArsDigita Community System software for free while charging for support and services.  They were one of the first companies to do such a thing, and made money doing it, which of course attracted investors.  They eventually closed a round of funding with Greylock and General Atlantic Partners, and hired an outside CEO to replace the founder, Philip Greenspun.

Take a look at Philip’s story about ArsDigita: From Start-up to Bust-up, that includes the following quote.  Compare and contrast; the VCs together with the CEO were also out of touch, and were, consequently running the company into the ground.

We started aD slowly and carefully. We ran it profitably. We placed small bets. We handled money conservatively (though we tried to give the appearance of wildness and fantastic prosperity to the outside world there is actually nothing extravagant about having a fancy beach retreat for a team of programmers that is excited and working 6 days/week, 12 hours/day). We made sure that we were working as hard as teams at Microsoft and startup companies.

By contrast, Allen, Greylock, and General Atlantic presented us (Common shareholders) with a strategy of “here’s this spreadsheet that shows us going bankrupt in one year unless a big stream of license revenue starts coming in.” And, oh yes, the revenue would be coming from a product that had never been built, purchased by customers to whom we’d never sold anything.

Do these kinds of risks bother venture capitalists? Having a first-time CEO with zero experience in the industry? Staking everything on a to-be-finished software product?….We never signed up for this kind of risk and we don’t have substantial other investments. I put 8 years of my life into ArsDigita Community System. Jin put in 4 years. We would be unhappy to see the company spend through its accumulated profits plus $38 million in capital merely so that three guys in suits could learn a little something about what it is like to run a software products company.

While there are similarities, there are also differences.  A number of bloggers weighed in on the Medsphere case, but this one interview with Fred Trotter certainly nailed down the legal implications of the decision:

This is not about whether your CEO approves a release. Medsphere’s lawsuit, if successful, would mean that any FOSS developer would need to have proof that such an approval took place. Suppose you meet your boss in the hallway and he says: “We just decided that we will be releasing X, go ahead and post it to SourceForge”. If the “Medsphere precident” were in place, you would be foolish to actually follow this directive. There would be no proof that the conversation ever took place….Apparently Medsphere holds that only way that you could be certain that you, as a FOSS developer, would not be held liable for a release that you performed for your company would be some form of unambiguous two-way communication, in a format that provided for non-repudiation. That means either a signed paper letter, or a cryptographically signed email from the CEO. (You would need to make sure that you printed the email, in case you lost access to your company email address).

Whereas the ArsDigita case was merely about control of the company, the Medsphere case, if it had continued, would have impacted how all OSS developers release source code to the public Internet.

After ArsDigita settled with Philip, the company closed its doors after seven months.  Medsphere is up and running, but looking for a new CTO.  Since they took less money from VCs, they might still have a fighting chance to come back after the lawsuit, so let’s keep hoping that it can clean up its act and make good on delivering what it calls “professional open source”.