I’m not sure how much I like relaying things for corporate interests on my blog, but occasionally I’ll do it if I haven’t seen it posted anywhere else. I’m actually thrilled to do it if it’s something I’m interested in – or if it’s something I think is a great idea or well executed. In this case, I’m kind of torn. The idea is fantastic, but the execution leaves me rather… unimpressed.
In any case, this once, I’ll relay an announcement from Agilent that was sent to me, announcing that they are:
Fostering integrated, whole-systems approaches to biological research with two $75K grants for open source data-integration tool development. – link
While it’s a great idea, $75k isn’t a great salary for doing the bidding of an industrial corporation, but it isn’t a bad salary for an academic developing open source software. As with all salaries, it’s better than what I make as a grad student, so it has that appeal. (-;
However, I do need to point out that they’ve put a little asterisk beside “Open Source” on their web page, which takes you to this:
“All free or open-source licenses are acceptable except “any license requiring, as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of the software subject to the license, that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with it be (i) disclosed or distributed in source code form; (ii) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (iii) redistributable at no charge. Excluded Licenses include, but are not limited to the GPLv3 Licenses.“
That, to me, reads as though they’re fine with open source, as long as it’s not really open source. I wouldn’t expect much else from any company sponsoring software that they plan to appropriate at the end of the grant (and likely improve upon and re-sell), but it is still somewhat disturbing to me. At least, disturbing enough that I wouldn’t want to take them up on this offer. Your millage may vary. (I’ll also note that the application form for the competition is a Microsoft .doc file – which is about as anti-open source as you can get. A company really dabbling in open source would use a PDF or ODF, no?)
The two grants are quite different:
Grant 1: “Specifically, we are looking for proposals that focus on automation of targeted mass spectrometry-based proteomics experiments (e.g., SRM, exact mass) aimed at hypothesis testing or validation of protein pathways and/or interaction networks generated by integrating existing transcriptomic and/or metabolomic data sets.”
Grant 2: “Specifically, we are looking for proposals that focus on the correlation of copy number events and whole transcriptome measurements aimed at hypothesis testing/validation of disease progression models.”
It’s worth noting that Agilent may decide not to award these grants at all – they’ll only do it if they find something they like, which is fair enough. (I can’t see any company giving away a grant to a sub-par idea, anyhow.)
Frankly, I’m not sure why Agilent doesn’t just hire someone to work on this project – it’s a neat project that I’d be happy to work on anyways – and that way Agilent gets control of the final project without the added hassle of the “open source” phase. To each their own, however!
To all those who apply, good luck!