Cartoon of a person sitting on a large red lock in an open source software concept.
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This tech leader believes open-source software can move science forward

21 Mar 2023

Cindy Chepanoske, director of technology licensing at Carnegie Mellon University, tells about how open-source research drives innovation.

Cindy Chepanoske has a keen interest in open-source software as a driver of innovation.

This interest is integral to her role as director of technology licensing at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

She believes that open-source software is hugely beneficial for researchers, tech founders and coders alike. Chepanoske leads a team of people responsible for how the tech created at CMU is disseminated to the wider community.

She also advocates for the benefits of open-source tech for innovation in the business and academic worlds.

She will be speaking to a Dublin audience at an event run by OSPO++ on Friday, 24 March. OSPO++ is a community of collaborative open-source programme offices in universities, governments and civic institutions.

The organisation is holding an event at Dublin’s Trinity College, which will focus on the topic of open-source innovation in universities.

Chepanoske will address attendees at the in-person event on the topic of open-source software licensing in practice.

She will draw on her experience leading the tech licensing function at CMU’s Centre for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC).

Her talk will explain how open-source software licensing has changed over the past few years and what kind of things her team is doing to empower researchers to take advantage of open-source tech.

Ahead of her talk on Friday, Chepanoske told a little bit about what she does at CTTEC to ensure innovators can benefit from open-source licensing.

“We work with our faculty, staff and students to facilitate a broad dissemination of the technology created at CMU,” she said.

“We help guide discussions and analysis for the disclosed technology to find the best path forward for commercialisation. In some instances, that is also through open commercialisation models. In addition, we also manage the IP portfolio of the university.”

According to Chepanoske, a significant part of what she and her team does is provide support to tech start-ups based in the area around the CTTEC ecosystem in Pittsburgh.

It’s not just about ensuring academics can access the software they need; it’s about supporting entrepreneurs outside of the academic community to use tech in a disruptive way.

As Chepanoske pointed out, lots of projects are dependent on open-source tech. It has a lot of benefits, not least time-saving.

“For example, there are very powerful and ubiquitous machine learning libraries that are often used by researchers to do particular things and can save a lot of time,” she explained.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, as she put it, researchers can see how others fared before them when they embark on new work.

Open source has been a popular way for researchers to share their research findings for a long time, said Chepanoske.

“It’s been a ubiquitous part of the strides made in machine learning and AI research. Many academic journals require code implementations to be made available to other researchers and publishing the code under an open-source license is an easy way to achieve that requirement.”

But the benefits to open source come with a caveat.

“When a developer or researcher is using open-source software, they are accepting the terms of that license and should understand them as it is important that they comply with them.”

That’s where people like Chepanoske and her fellow open-source advocates come in. She believes that the research community should have a similar mindset towards open source as some of the large tech companies, which have “active repositories available” for coders.

“It’s natural for our researchers to have a similar mindset to make their code available for the benefit of moving the science forward.”

More information about the Open Source Innovation in Universities event at Trinity College is available here.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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