February 10, 2010

Accessing a canon of open source research

First #FOSS2010 posting of many.

I’m here at the FOSS 2010 workshop hosted by UC Irvine, in a room full of academics talking about the future of open source research in hopes of shaping NSF funding of same.

Host Walt Scacchi asked for a show of hands: about 30 of the 40 people in the room are academics, and most of them are either from computer science or information science/information schools. There were only five of us “other” academics (i.e. social scientists) — and three of us were on the SBE (Social, Behavioral & Economic) panel.

So one of the things that’s clear is that even though the room represents hundreds of open source conference and journal papers, few of them have read any of the social science research on open source.

As a starting point, I thought I’d put together a canon of open source research — along the lines of my earlier canon of open/user innovation research (most people in the room have never heard of open innovation, Chesbrough, von Hippel or even Bayh-Dole)

1. Special Issues
  • Research Policy (June 2003) special issue on Open Source Software Development, edited by Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh
  • Management Science (July 2006) special issue on Open Source Software, edited by Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh

2. MIT Repository

Karim Lakhani created a repository of open source working papers at MIT — 655 and counting. It’s not comprehensive (e.g., only 3 of my 11 distinct papers on OSS are there). However, it does give a sense of the names and the themes that have been covered.

3. Google

In this world of Google-enabled everything, it would be possible to just search in Google Scholar for open source papers published in business and economics or social sciences (e.g. sociology, anthropology).

Because Google lists things in order of citations, this has the value of also listing some of the most-cited papers. Four of the top 20 come from the Research Policy special issue:
  • Guido Hertel, Sven Niedner and Stefanie Herrmann, 2003, “Motivation of software developers in open source projects: an Internet-based survey of contributors to the Linux kernel,” Research Policy 32 (7), 1159-177.
  • Georg von Krogh, Sebastian Spaeth, and Karim R. Lakhani, 2003. “Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study,” Research Policy 32 (7), 1217-1241.
  • Andrea Bonaccorsi and Cristina Rossi, 2003. “Why Open Source software can succeed," Research Policy 32 (7), 1243-1258.
  • Joel West, 2003, “How open is open enough? Melding proprietary and open source platform strategies,” Research Policy 32 (7), 1259-1285.
Other oft-cited articles include:
  • Josh Lerner and Jean Tirole, 2002. “Some Simple Economics of Open Source,” Journal of Industrial Economics, 52 (2), 197-234.
  • Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh, 2003, “Open source software and the ‘private-collective’ innovation model: Issues for organization science,” Organization Science 14 (2), 209-223.
  • Karim R. Lakhani and Eric von Hippel, 2003, “How Open Source Software Works: “Free” User-to-User Assistance,” Research Policy 32 (6), 923-943.
  • Bruce Kogut and Anca Metiu, 2000, “Open-source software development and distributed innovation,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 17 (2), 248-264.
(It turns out Siobhan & I cited most of these papers in our 2008 paper, so I was able to get the formatted cites from that since Google Scholar doesn’t produce MLA/APA cites.)

I make no claims that this is a complete list. It’s impossible to make a list of all the “good” papers, but I hope this provides a starting point for someone who doesn’t know about this large body of social science research, specifically those coming from a computer science or information systems perspectives. (As such, I left out CS/IS oriented venues such as the 6th annual International Conference on Open Source Systems, sponsored by IFIP 2.13, as well as the pending JAIS special issue on open source software).

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