Speaker discusses open source options at symposium

February 20, 2009

Sandy Payette says that high-tech nonprofit organizations like hers can make open source data storage and information sharing accessible to universities and other organizations.

Payette, executive director of Fedora Commons, a Web-based data digital content storage system, was the first speaker at the 2009 IST Graduate Symposium. Her talk was titled “Building Scholarly and Scientific Information Infrastructure: Open Source, the Cloud and the Role of ‘High Tech’ Nonprofit Organizations.”

Open source systems allow universal access to software, source code and other data associated with an institution. In her lecture, Payette discussed ways that Fedora Commons and similar services can provide the benefits of open source software without compromising the scholarly data stored in such systems.

“Open source is a remarkable fit for higher education,” she said. “It promotes a broad infrastructure of available information, not just silos of content at each individual institution. It also promotes the free exchange of ideas and transparency of the content and the source code behind it.”

Data can be stored in a “cloud,” or a Web-based system that allows multiple external sources to access it. An example of such a service is Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), which charges users only for what they store and allows access to the data on the Web.

Payette said drawbacks to this approach include a lack of security, nonexistent service agreements and the inability to access or view systems behind the Web interface.

“There’s a definite lack of trust with cloud-based storage systems,” she said. “You basically just sign up on a Web form and push your assets out there; you can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Organizations like Fedora Commons can solve such discrepancies by working with storage providers while simultaneously creating an open-source community by bringing together organizations from higher education, government and industry.

“Business and IT students can benefit from using this approach in their thinking and in their research,” Payette said. “By working together and sharing the product of our scholarship, we can improve the quality of education.”

Last Updated March 19, 2009