Funding freeeware (was: R-beta: help in sept) (fwd)

George White gwhite at
Thu Jan 29 18:57:53 CET 1998

There needs to be more recognition in the academic community of the 
importance of contributions to widely used software.  While many
organizations are encouraging software development if it generates
revenue, it is harder to measure the value of software that you 
give away.  It is often hard to measure the number of users, so unless
they mention you in citations, there is little hard evidence to show
the value of your contribution. 

There are two ways I "pay" for software, but one is easy to measure while
the other is "hidden".  Some software is good enough that I'm willing to
pay for it, but lots more software that is not as polished but useful if I
spend some time hacking at it (and some that never does quite work
despite my efforts!).  Not only is is hard for your boss/dean to see
how much effort I'm willing to "spend" so I can use your program, but
even if she could see this, she wouldn't know if the effort was high
because your program was useful or just poorly done.  It doesn't help
to ask people to send letters to the boss, as I can do that without any
real investment of time or money.  

I think what would work is for various academic/professional organizations
to create awards and other forms of recognition for contributions in the 
form of software.  There would need to be nominations and a selection
panel.  Not only would this benefit authors, it would also help users
identify useful tools.  The problem is that you might encounter opposition
from some commercial vendors who don't want more people taking R

George White <aa056 at> <WhiteG at> 
  Bedford Inst. of Oceanography, Nova Scotia, Canada.  tel: 902.426.8509

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 08:24:40 -0800
From: "Z. Todd Taylor" <Todd.Taylor at>
To: r-help at
Cc: zt_taylor at
Subject: Funding freeeware (was: R-beta: help in sept)

John Logsdon <j.logsdon at> wrote:

> This is a problem that has been bothering me for some time.  At the
> moment, I use RedHat Linux, Octave, occasionally R and other FSF/GPL
> products.  They are generally better, at least in their fundamental
> design, than the commercial versions but there is no clear mechanism to
> ensure their continued development.  They certainly don't spend anything
> on marketing.

My experience is that much of the freeware I use is better than
the commercial alternatives, but certainly not all of it.  I use
the good stuff and bypass the marginal stuff (whether free or


Freeware is working fine as it is.  Indeed, its success is
mind-boggling.  Let's don't mess it up.

Z. Todd Taylor
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Todd.Taylor at

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