Carnegie Mellon University OSPO

Case Study by Sayeed Choudhury and Ciara Flanagan

The Carnegie Mellon University Open Source Program Office (OSPO) was launched in July 2022. The office received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation towards salary and operational costs and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) also co-funds operations.

The OSPO is based within the CMU Libraries. Situating the office within the libraries conveys the importance of curating open source software as a primary research object that crosses divisional and departmental boundaries.

The primary functions of the OSPO are to act as a community convener and center of competency for identifying and building open source capacity within CMU. The office also aims to maximize social impact on a global scale based on CMU’s research, teaching and policy expertise.

The objectives of the Carnegie Mellon University OSPO are informed by research goals supported by the Foundation; and also the need to coordinate and develop open source capabilities within the university itself. 

The four core objectives are to:

  • Explore open source software and its impact as an underlying component for automated science.
  • Examine how both US Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) and University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) can develop open source policies, processes and programs.
  • Support wider university services such as student internships and open source educational efforts.
  • Build the university’s capacity to curate, manage and share open source software.

Even at this early stage in its development, students have requested OSPO support for activities such as hackathons and internships. A community manager has now been hired to drive these efforts. 

The OSPO is also working with Stephen Walli (Microsoft) to advance and teach Semesters of Code. This course bridges the gap between theory and practice for open source software development. 

The office is building and participating in a number of strategic partnerships across the university. Its work with CMU Cloud Lab focuses on the role of open source software in automated science. Collaboration with the Software Engineering Institute is also underway. The Institute has developed an early framework for assessing security issues, particularly related to the software supply chain. The OSPO will play a key role in incorporating considerations from the university or academic sector.  

Carnegie Mellon University OSPO is also developing external academic partnerships and is co-leading a CHAOSS working group with UC Santa Cruz OSPO on university-focused metrics for open source software.

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