Open software, or open-source software, refers to the use and development of software where the full source code is publicly available. Open-source software must be shared under a license that allows modification, derivation, and redistribution.
Open research software, is open software used for research purposes (for analysis, simulation, visualization, etc.). Sharing research software is a necessary condition for reproducibility and allows developers to receive career credit for their efforts.
Open-source software has many advantages, like:
- Cost-effectiveness. It is either free to use or includes a small fee (if professional third-party products are required to use it).
- Consistent improvement. Anyone can work on open source software; thus, communities are formed that constantly fix and improve it.
- Freedom to use an and adapt. There are no copyright issues, royalty concerns, or other payments associated with the use of open-source software.
- High reliability. Open-source software is usually developed by skillful and talented experts and the fact that the code may be accessed by anyone contributes to continuous improvement.
Open software is usually published on web-based hosting platforms that enable version control as well as remote storage services that can be used for software maintenance, sharing and collaboration, like GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket. In addition to publishing and version control, it is equally important to have a published and persistent identifier associated with it, such as a DOI.
To be open, publicly shared software must be accompanied by a suitable license, which is chosen based on what is preferred to let others do (or prevent them from doing) with the code (choosealicense.com). The code may as well be dedicated to public domain, which means that the ode may be shared with no restrictions (The Unilicense). The text of the license is put in the software repository as a plaintext LICENSE file.