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Linux Foundation creates research division to study open source impact

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In the latest sign of the growing influence of open source software, the Linux Foundation announced it is creating a new research unit to provide greater insight into the technology, as well as the people creating it.

Linux Foundation Research will be a new division with a broad mandate to explore the social and technical aspects of open source in the hopes of expanding the types of people who participate and encouraging more enterprises to adopt the technology. Among the group’s priorities are examining diversity and security.

“As open source has become a fundamental part of the global technology supply chain, we started to see a need to really provide deep insight so that we could all collectively make better decisions about how to improve the way development communities work, improve incentives to create better software outcomes, and understand the economics of open source,” Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin said.

Discussions about creating the research group had percolated as the Linux Foundation conducted various research projects in collaboration with other institutions over the years. As helpful as those projects were, they also began to highlight knowledge gaps.

Eventually, the foundation believed its work with thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of developers would give it an immense amount of data it could better leverage through its own organization. Hilary Carter, who has made a mark in research at the Blockchain Research Institute, has been recruited to oversee the new research unit.

She said she still expects much of the research to be conducted in collaboration with other organizations. Her core objectives include creating awareness of what is happening in open source communities, what important products are being developed, and what vulnerabilities lie in open source ecosystems.

“In creating greater awareness, we hope to increase participation in those communities,” Carter said. “And I think one of the ways we do that is by addressing some of the issues within communities, particularly around diversity and inclusion.”

She’s also hoping more people will be inspired to join those communities by highlighting how open source software can impact society in terms of diversity, social justice, and climate change.

As part of the new initiative, the foundation will also create the Linux Foundation Research Advisory Board, which will gather external experts to help develop the research agenda.

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