At the interface of science and computing

More on GATK

I returned to blogging because of a need to rant about newly announced GATK licensing. Well, this time I am going to let others rant since things have only taken a turn for the worse.

I noticed a tweet from Mick Watson, which led me to this discussion on GATK licensing.

You can read my original post, the discussion, or Mick Watson’s blog post. Having worked on the commercial side of scientific software for a good chunk of my career, I understand the commercial side and potential driving factors, but my complete distaste for academic/non-commercial use licensing is well known, and the GATK folks aren’t exactly handling this well.

I will add one thing. There are some whom I respect, who point out that commercial entities add pretty GUIs and don’t add much value. To that I say, that’s pretty much why commercial informatics software is hard. Any company that isn’t really adding value is not going to succeed in the long run. Let the market decide. Your job as GATK is to create high quality, open source, software which benefits science. If companies create no value or minimize the value it means the following in most cases

  • In time the company will go under cause no one else is deriving any value. This is the usual case and hardly something to get concerned about
  • If the company is providing value then it’s a good thing. In most cases, this will happen only if GATK is part of a much more comprehensive package or service that makes it easier for people to get stuff done
  • The onus is on the GATK devs and funders to figure out how to compete if they feel their work is being “trivialized”. Competition is a good thing, even in pure open source code. The problem seems to be, that the Broad considers this their code as opposed to a community resource with a rich developer community. Get the latter behind you and any trivialization by people building pretty GUIs goes out of the window cause your community is going to do that for you if there is demand

To cut a long story short, the Broad is not taking the right steps, but I don’t blame them per sé. Scientific software funding needs to evolve and the idea of community and broad developer outreach needs to evolve. So as much as anything, I blame the system.