Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ISCB Member Feedback Sought on Revised Software Sharing Policy Statement

International Society for Computational Biology Revised Software Sharing Policy Statement

Draft approved by the ISCB board of Directors on February 14, 2008

Open for comment from the ISCB membership and bioinformatics community

Comment period closes April 15, 2008

I. Introduction
Bioinformatics software availability is extremely important to the field of bioinformatics. The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) is committed to the advancement of the understanding of living systems through computation. In support of that mission, we believe that research results should be shared with the scientific community so that they can be reproduced and built upon. Scientific research may include the development of software and algorithms. Therefore, ISCB is disseminating this statement to make recommendations on software availability policies for funders of bioinformatics research, for scientific journals that publish bioinformatics research, for bioinformatics researchers, and for their employers.

This statement has been revised from the original 2002 statement, incorporating feedback from the ISCB membership.

II. Recommendations

  1. Publishers, granting organizations, employers and researchers have a responsibility to uphold the core principle of sharing methods and results. If a researcher's software is necessary to understand, reproduce and build on scientific results, then the software should be made available. This principle is imperative for peer-reviewed scientific publications, recommended policy for granting agencies, and encouraged practice wherever individuals and organizations are committed to advancing science. ISCB supports the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences report, "Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Life Sciences."
  2. Grantors and publishers should require statements of software availability in grant proposals and research reports. These statements should clearly describe how to obtain the software, and terms of use. The statements should be specific about cost, source code availability, redistribution rights (including for derived works), user support, and any discrimination among user types.
  3. No single licensing or distribution model is appropriate for all research projects, and therefore should not be mandated by either publishers or grantors.

III. Implementation when software sharing is warranted

  1. In most cases, it is preferable to make source code available. We recommend executable versions of the software should be made available for research use to individuals at academic institutions.
  2. Open source licenses are one effective way to share software. For more information, see the definition of open source, and example licenses, at

For more information, see the previous posting which includes information about the original 2002 policy statement, member discussion, and useful links.
We invite the computational biology community provide comments on this blog, or to send email to

[Notes added 3/14/2008:
(1) An old version of the second sentence in section III-1 was erroneously included when this was first posted on 3/13/2008; it has been fixed now.
(2) The Board is releasing this proposed language for discussion by the ISCB membership; it will not become final until after the 1-month open discussion period, whereupon the Board may revise it further in response to ISCB member feedback.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ISCB Members and US Visas

The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) is concerned about the ability of non-US scientists to participate in scientific meetings and research in the US. We believe this exchange of ideas benefits the scientific enterprise as well as the countries and individuals involved.

We have heard reports of ISCB members who are not non-US citizens having trouble coming to the US to work or study, and also having trouble leaving to visit family or attend scientific meetings (because it is hard to get back into the US). While the situation has improved over the last few years, there remain problems.

We have an opportunity, through our relationship with FASEB, to contribute to testimony in front of the House Science Committee in February about scientists' problems with visas. Your feedback must be in our hands by 25th January, 2008, in order for it to be useful in the Committee hearing. However, we will use any information we receive after that date for further advocacy, so please do not hesitate to send it in.

Can you help us by telling us of problems you or your colleagues have experienced with entry into the US? Please send email to (preferred, so that we can gather additional information from you if necessary), or post your experiences here (especially if you'd like to remain anonymous), or both.

We are particularly interested in answers to the following questions:

1) Are you experiencing delays getting visas or outright rejections of your applications?
2) Are you seeing this problem from particular countries?
3) Specifically, what problems are people experiencing (i.e., difficulty getting consular appointments; delays in application processing; denial of visas; problems with US-VISIT system)?
4) For each problem, is it due to visa applicants not following the existing guidelines and restrictions (such as not applying far enough ahead of time, failing to schedule a consular interview, providing incomplete applications, country-specific single entry reciprocity agreements), or is the problem a failure of the US immigration system to follow its own policies?
5) What change, if any, do you feel we ought to advocate?

ISCB urges its members who have had problems to contact the National Academies International Visitors Office (, and fill out the questionnaire. This office has been very helpful at interceding behind the scenes on behalf of scientists with the Dept. of State and Homeland Security. And the data they generate is very useful for making the case for improved visa processing.

Thank you,
The ISCB Public Affairs Committee