December 14, 2012

Values of science at odds with desire to turn it into a commercial product

Scientific software tools have long lived in the conflict zone between open source ideals and proprietary exploitation. The values of science (openness, transparency, and free exchange) are at odds with the desires of individuals and organizations to transition scientific tools to a commercial product. This has been a problem in neuropsychology and neuroscience for decades, and extends outside the bounds of software.

Typically, a psychological test (for example, a set of questions used to identify a personality trait) may have been developed over a series of experiments to produce a coherent, sensitive, and a valid predictor of the trait. The questions themselves are often not useful unless these psychometric properties have been assessed using a large sample of people, a process that typically involves sponsored research from a federal agency. The norms may be published and can be used as a reference to anyone with access to them, but the test itself is intellectual property owned by a researcher, university, or other organization that developed it. This creates a conflict whereby public funding is used to develop tests that may only be available commercially, creating a publicly-subsidized system of rent-collectors and sharecroppers..Read more at