Host Your Project Responsibly
OverviewTeaching: 5 min
Exercises: 10 minQuestions
Where should I host my version control repositories?Objectives
Explain different options for hosting scientific work.
- What are the permanent access points for your project?
- Software under development
- Stable releases/versions
- Supporting data
- Hosting considerations
- Privacy (what level, if any, of restricted access do you need?)
- Ownership, branding
- Management burden
- Option 1: lab, department, or university provides server, manages accounts and backups, etc.
- Pro: clarifies who owns what
- Particularly important if any of the material is sensitive (i.e., relates to experiments involving human subjects or may be used in a patent application)
- Con: cost often higher than commercial services
- Con: longevity
- Someone who has spent ten years collecting data wants it to be available 10 years from now
- That’s well beyond the lifespan of most of the grants that fund academic infrastructure
- Empirically, link rot is a huge issue with research software
- Pro: clarifies who owns what
- Option 2: purchase a domain and pay an Internet service provider (ISP) to host it
- Pro: gives the individual or group more control
- Pro: sidesteps problems that can arise when moving from one institution to another
- Con: requires more time and effort to set up than other options
- Con: may not be allowed
- Option 3: public host service
- GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, SourceForge, …
- All provide web interface to
- Create, view, and edit projects
- Communication and project management tools (issue tracking, wiki pages, email, code reviews)
- Pro: economies of scale
- Pro: network effects (potential collaborators probably already know how to use them)
- Con: public (or only a limited amount of privacy)
- Unless you pay
- And even then, out-of-institution/out-of-country hosting can be problematic
- Con: can be shut down, purchased, etc.
Sharing is the ideal for science, but many institutions place restrictions on sharing, for example to protect potentially patentable intellectual property. If you encounter such restrictions, it can be productive to inquire about the underlying motivations either to request an exception for a specific project or domain, or to push more broadly for institutional reform to support more open science.
Sharing Code vs. Sharing Publications
Sites like GitHub are meant for sharing things while they’re being developed. Services like arXiV and figshare, on the other hand, are meant to be used to archive particular snapshots of things for future reference. There’s obviously overlap between the two - in particular, it’s possible to tag a particular version of a project in a code repository - but as a general rule, version control is “where you work” while repositories are “where you publish”.
Can My Work Be Public?
Find out whether you are allowed to host your work openly on a public forge. Can you do this unilaterally, or do you need permission from someone in your institution? If so, who?
Where Can I Share My Work?
Does your institution have a repository or repositories that you can use to share your papers, data and software?
Projects can be hosted on university servers, on personal domains, or on public forges.
Rules regarding intellectual property and storage of sensitive information apply no matter where code and data are hosted.