Making a living out of free and open source software for open science

I was reading a series of posts about Making Money from Open Source Science Software at The Open Science Project Blog. The articles were well written and provided some insight as to what options are available for the people who wanted to make a living out of opening their scientific software.

In the initial post, the author mentioned the following ways of making money:

  1. Sell hardware
  2. Sell services
  3. Dual-license your software
  4. Use the academic community
  5. Differentiate between single run and high-throughput versions

So far, the author has explained options 1 and 2. The author also mentioned that neither one would be sustainable as a business model. We will have to wait for what the author has to say about the remaining three options.

I am posting here the comments I made in that Blog to let you know what I think about this important topic.


An excellent set of articles. I am looking forward to the upcoming articles. In particular, because I wan to make a living out of developing and releasing free and open source scientific software.

About how to make money from open source scientific software, I think that any company wishing to make a living by opening scientific software has to embrace several options at once, i.e. a combination of the options that you mentioned in the first post of this series. I will put Kitware as an example. From their about page, we have that:

“Kitware's mission is to provide state of the art visualization, graphics, and image processing software solutions. This includes developing turn-key, end user applications; creating customized applications for clients; porting our open-source tools such as VTK, ITK, and CMake to custom hardware; supporting these open-source software tools with documentation and tools; providing professional consulting services; and offering on-site and off-site training.”

So, how is Kitware making money?

  1. By working under contract with the U.S. National Library of Medicine to develop and provide support to the Insight Toolkit (ITK) a set of open source libraries for medical image processing, analysis, and registration;
  2. By selling licenses of a proprietary software application for medical image registration and segmentation (VolView) that is based on the open source software libraries VTK and ITK;
  3. By providing training courses at a price;
  4. By providing several levels of support and consulting services at a price; and
  5. By selling books about their products.

Point 1 fits into contract work category (I did not see that category in your first post)

Point 2 fits into the dual licensing category

Point 3 fits into training and certification category (I did not see that category in your first post)

Point 4 fits into the selling services category

Point 5 fits into the selling related products category (I did not see that category in your first post)

By the way, I have been using ITK for three years. That is how I learnt about Kitware.

Again, I am looking forward to the upcoming posts


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