Newton didn't need open source, so why do you?Free and open source software is catalyzing a revolution in subsurface science. As a key part of the growing movement to open access to data, information, and the very process of doing science, open software is not just for the geeks. It's a party we're all invited to. 

I have been in California this week, attending a conference in Long Beach called Mathematical and Computational Issues in the Geosciences, organized by the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematicians. In 2009 I started being more active in my search for lectures and courses that lie outside my usual comfort zone. I have done courses in reservoir engineering and Java programming. I have heard talks on radiology and financial forecasting. It's like being back at university; I like it.

How did I end up at this conference? Last spring, I wrote a little review article about open source software (available here at dGB Earth Science's site). It was really just a copy-edited version of notes I had made whilst looking for free geoscience software and reading up on the subject for my own interest. After some brushes with open source, I was curious about the history behind the idea, how projects are built, and how they are licensed. At the same time, I also started a couple of Wikipedia articles about free software in geology and geophysics, as a place to list the projects I had come across. Kristin Flornes, of IRIS in Stavanger, Norway, saw the article and her colleagues got in touch about the conference.

The talk, which you can access via the thumbnail (left) or look at in Google Docs, is part FLOSS primer, part geo-FLOSS advert, part manifesto for a revolution of innovation. I hope the speaker notes are sufficient. 

What do you think? Is software availability or architecture or capable of driving change, or is it just a tool, passive and inert?

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