Newswise — What leads to the success of Internet-based open-source software projects and emerging "open-content" collaborations?
Those questions, which hold the key to a new era of sharing scientific knowledge, are being explored by Charles Schweik, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Schweik recently received a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program to support his research. "Open source software, and the collaboration that helps develop it, has great promise beyond its use in computer science," Schweik observes.
Schweik says he will use his research to develop a sequence of courses for students interested in solving environmental or public policy problems. Currently, many individuals and organizations worldwide are unable to pay for special proprietary software needed to conduct such analyses, he says. This curriculum will show students how to use such software and also encourage them to contribute to such collaborations in some form, such as the writing of new documentation or testing.
To develop and teach his courses, Schweik will use the open source computer teaching laboratory created last year on the UMass campus thanks to another grant he received last year from IBM Corp. for equipment and staffing. He says the lab will be critical for teaching of this curriculum and will allow other faculty to teach the use of open source software in their classes as well. This laboratory is designed to serve the non-science major students on campus, he says.
Schweik is an assistant professor of natural resources conservation and the Center for Public Policy and Administration. The NSF's CAREER grants support early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.