The CRAPL: An academic-strength open source license

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2022-01-15 02:00:07

Generally, academic software is stapled together on a tight deadline; an expert user has to coerce it into running; and it's not pretty code. Academic code is about "proof of concept." These rough edges make academics reluctant to release their software. But, that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

Most open source licenses (1) require source and modifications to be shared with binaries, and (2) absolve authors of legal liability.

An open source license for academics has additional needs: (1) it should require that source and modifications used to validate scientific claims be released with those claims; and (2) more importantly, it should absolve authors of shame, embarrassment and ridicule for ugly code.

Openness should also hinge on publication: once a paper is accepted, the license should force the release of modifications. During peer review, the license should enable the confidential disclosure of modifications to peer reviewers. If the paper is rejected, the modifications should remain closed to protect the authors' right to priority.

Toward these ends, I've drafted the CRAPL--the Community Research and Academic Programming License. The CRAPL is an open source "license" for academics that encourages code-sharing, regardless of how much how much Red Bull and coffee went into its production. (The text of the CRAPL is in the article body.)

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