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Three unspoken blockers that prevent professors from teaching open source community participation

“One of the hardest things about trying to bridge two
worlds–for instance, open source communities and academic
institutions–is all the stuff you don’t hear on a daily basis when
you’re working remotely. Sometimes it takes several rounds of
garlic bread and pasta for people to begin articulating what’s
blocking them from teaching their students how to participate in
FOSS communities. Sebastian Dziallas and I sat down last weekend at
the 2010 Frontiers in Education conference with a group of
professors from the Teaching Open Source community. “What are the
biggest blockers that you’re facing in doing this,” we asked, “that
people in the open source world just don’t know about or
understand?” Here are their answers.

“Blocker #1: Intellectual property policies, aka “No, you can’t
release that under an open license.”

“At some schools, if you make it on campus, for campus, or with
resources from campus, guess who owns it? Yep: campus. One way
colleges and universities make money is “technology transfer,” a
form of intellectual serfhood–if you’re a professor, a student, or
a lab, you get resources (students, classes, space, equipment) from
the school, but all the IP you produce is owned by the school, so
the school takes care of licensing that IP out to companies that
want to use it… and keeps the cash.”


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