Javier Luis Cánovas and Jordi Cabot, both researchers of the SOM Research Lab, win the Software Engineering in Society Paper Award of the international ICSE 2018 Conference for the paper "The Role of Foundations in Open Source Projects".
ICSE, the International Conference on Software Engineering, is the premier software engineering conference, providing a forum for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, research, experiences, trends and concerns in the field of software engineering. In 2018 ICSE will celebrate its 40th anniversary, and 50 years of Software engineering – 50 years of tremendously successful promotion of research, education and practices in software engineering.
The paper "The Role of Foundations in Open Source Projects" has been considered the best one of the track Software Engineering in Society of the Conference, of which scope is bold and ambitious in that it takes a specific focus on the impact of the accelerating speed of digital technology advances on society.
The awarded paper focuses on the fact that, in the last years, a number of Open-Source Systems (OSS) have created parallel foundations, as legal instruments to better articulate the structure, collaboration and financial model for the project. Some examples are Apache, Linux, Mozilla, Eclipse or Django foundations. Nevertheless, foundations largely differ in the kind of mission they have and the support they provide to their project/s. In this paper we study the role of foundations in open source software development. We analyze the nature of 89 software foundations and then focus on the 18 most relevant ones to study their openness and influence in the development practices taking place in the endorsed projects. Our results reveal the existence of a significant number of foundations with the sole purpose of promoting the importance of the free software movement and/or that limit themselves to core legal aspects but do not play any role in the day-to-day operations of the project (e.g., a few of them are just umbrella organizations for a large variety of projects). Therefore, while useful, foundations do not remove the need for specific projects to develop their own governance, contribution and development policies.