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Open Source Code Software: Next Trend Setter in Bioinformatics

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/16/2008

Different people prefer different software. In research how can a researcher access another researchers’ data without having to purchase or download a new software which they may not be familiar with. Obviously, Open Source was the answer. This was started by a group of researchers known as OBF.

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    Biology and science researchers the world over use different software based upon their own convenience and ability. To bring them together requires software that is freely available, easily adaptable, and above all, uniform in its sets and subsets of principles of usage. It also requires that it be easily manipulated based on the needs of the user, anywhere it may be implemented. Hence the need for an Open Source Code for Software.

    The main objectives of open source are as follows:

    • source code should be free
    • licence must not restrict other software
    • free redistribution of the software
    • derived works are allowed
    • no discrimination against other fields
    • distribution of license should be provided

    Most  of bioinformatic software is open source software. This became a trend setter in bioinformatics because a person working on particular software is allowing another to use and modify that software more effectively. With the success of bioinformatics, all the bioinformatists started making their projects, software, or tools open source. By doing so, they are giving a chance to other programmers to write their own required tool based on the original. This in turn becomes available to others. Thus, open source code is making available all kinds of software and tools to others, and it is constantly growing. This started as a trend setter in bioinformatics as every company started making their projects open source. Software such as RASMOL which is used for viewing protein structure in bioinformatics is open source. BioRuby is one of the open source library for bioinformatics. Many other software such as BioPerl and BioPython also are open source projects.

    The Open Bioinformatics Foundation (OBF), a non-profit and volunteer organization, is behind this venture, which started this initiative on open source programming. BioJava and BioCorba are also open source projects in Bioinformatics. Most bioinformatics open source tools are freely available for download on the internet.

    There are advantages and disadvantages as well for the open sourcing of projects. The advantage is that one may get the best tool after project modification by open sourcing. The disadvantage is that one can not make the software under their company’s name. But it seems that the open source is the next trend setter in bioinformatics.