Eliminating gender bias in open source software development, a database of microbes, and more open source news

Eliminating gender bias in open source software development, a database of microbes, and more open source news

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In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at eliminating gender bias in open source software development, an open source database of microbes, an open source index for cooperatives, and more!

Eliminating gender bias from open source development

It's a sad fact that certain groups, among them women, are woefully underrepresented in open source projects. It's like a bug in the open source development process. Fortunately, there are initiatives to make that under representation a thing of the past. A study out of Oregon State University (OSU) intends to resolve the issue of the lack of women in open source development by "finding these bugs and proposing redesigns around them, leading to more gender-inclusive tools used by software developers."

The study will look at tools commonly used in open source development — including Eclipse, GitHub, and Hudson — to determine if they "significantly discourage newcomers, especially women, from joining OSS projects." According to Igor Steinmacher, one of the principal investigators of the study, the study will examine "how people use tools because the 'bugs' may be embedded in how the tool was designed, which may place people with different cognitive styles at a disadvantage."

The developers of the tools being studied will walk through their software and answer questions based on specific personas. The researchers at OSU will suggest ways to redesign the software to eliminate gender bias and will "create a list of best practices for fixing gender-bias bugs in both products and processes."

Canadian university compiles open source microbial database

What do you do when you have a vast amount of data but no way to effectively search and build upon it? You turn it into a database, of course. That's what researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, along with collaborators from around the globe, did with information about chemical compounds created by bacteria and fungi. Called the Natural Products Atlas, the database "holds information on nearly 25,000 natural compounds and serves as a knowledge base and repository for the global scientific community."

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, the Natural Products Atlas "holds information on nearly 25,000 natural compounds and serves as a knowledge base and repository for the global scientific community." The website for the Natural Products Atlas hosts the database also includes a number of visualization tools and is fully searchable.

Roger Linington, an associate professor at SFU who spearheaded the creation of the database, said that having "all the available data in one place and in a standardized format means we can now index natural compounds for anyone to freely access and learn more about."

Open source index for cooperatives

Europe has long been a hotbed of both open source development and open source adoption. While European governments strongly advocate open source, non profits have been following suit. One of those is Cooperatives Europe, which is developing "open source software to allow users to index co-op information and resources in a standardised way."

The idea behind the software, called Coop Starter, reinforces the essential freedoms of free software: it's intended to provide "education, training and information. The software may be used and repurposed by the public for their own needs and on their own infrastructure." Anyone can use it "to reference existing material on co-operative entrepreneurship" and can contribute "by sharing resources and information."

The code for Coop Starter, along with a related WordPress plugin, is available from Cooperative Europe's GitLab repository.

In other news

Thanks, as always, to Opensource.com staff members and Correspondents for their help this week.

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About the author

That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
Scott Nesbitt - I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts. You can find me at these fine establishments on the web: The Plain Text Project, Open Source Musings, The...