CCL: Where can you publish articles on software?

 Sent to CCL by: "Warren DeLano" [warren*|*]
 > From: TJ O'Donnell [mailto:tjo*]
 > Warren writes:
 > > The only way to publish software in a scientifically robust
 > manner is
 > > to share source code, and that means publishing via the
 > internet in an
 > > open-access/open-source fashion.  Anything short of that amounts to
 > > issuing unproven claims based on limited empirical tests regarding
 > > what a given program allegedly does.  What is that called
 > outside of science?
 > > Advertising!  And as such, I agree that it does not belong in a
 > > scientific journal.  Either you publish software with
 > source code and
 > > stand behind it, or you are blowing smoke and quite
 > *literally* hiding
 > > something -- no matter how noble your intent.
 > This is a rather extreme statement, that needs to be tempered, IMHO.
 > Hiding source code is NOT tantamount to deception, as is
 > implied above.
 No -- let me clarify -- I do not imply that closed-source is tantamount
 to deception.  It is simply non-disclosure -- a willful holding back of
 pertinent helpful information.  It is tantamount to saying "trust me"
 I have correctly applied chemistry, physics, math, and computer science
 to create a working solution to your problem.
 Thorough testing of closed-source code can of course lay an empirical
 foundation for extending such trust, and testing is equally necessary
 with open-source code.  But testing alone is not the same as disclosing
 an implementation that can itself be subjected to direct intellectual
 While there are valid personal, economic, political, legal, practical,
 and insitutional reasons for not disclosing source code, I challenge
 anyone to come up with a compelling scientific reason for why source
 code should not be disclosed -- when possible -- to enable
 understanding, reproduction, verification, and extension of
 computational advances.
 Is there ever a legitimate *purely scientific* reason for settling with
 empirical evidence alone (just test results) when mathematical proof is
 itself attainable (via inspection of source code)?  I cannot think of
 Or are we all agreed that making source code available is the
 *scientific* ideal to which we should all aspire?
 If so, then when we do not make source available, we should certainly
 have some compelling non-scientific reason for holding it back, and as
 honest scientists, we must realize that doing so will have the effect of
 limiting the value and impact of our work -- at least from a scientific
 standpoint.  Intellectual advances are either shared or lost, and
 software implementations are no exception to this.
 PS. A trivial concrete illustration:
 I write some function called "add_two_numbers" and share it will my
 colleagues.  And for the millions of pairs of numbers they test it on,
 it returns the sum.   So much so good.  But without source, no one can
 even be sure that there isn't some untested pair of numbers for which it
 Now I share the source:
 def add_two_numbers(a,b):
     return a+b
 > From that point on, everyone can sleep well knowing for certain that my
 function will always return the sum of two numbers, since the
 implementation is public and exact.  Science can progress because Warren
 has re-implemented addition.  Hooray!
 On the other hand, if the source was reveald to be:
 def add_two_numbers(a,b):
     if (a == 1823723) and (b == 8374723):
         return 6
         return a+b
 Then everyone would immediately know for certain that my function is
 flawed and needs to be fixed.  Could testing have found this?  Assuming
 that the inputs are 32-bits wide, then there are 2^64 combinations of
 possible inputs with only one flaw.  2^64 is far too many inputs to
 practially examine, so this flaw would almost certainly never have been
 found through testing.
 Thus, even in the simplest function, it is possible to introduce a flaw
 that cannot be found through rigorous regression testing.  Admittedly
 this example is contrived, but it isn't hard to see how testing can
 easily miss subtle problems that could well be identified through
 critical analysis of source code.
 Warren L. DeLano, Ph.D.
 Principal Scientist
 . DeLano Scientific LLC
 . 400 Oyster Point Blvd., Suite 213
 . South San Francisco, CA 94080 USA
 . Biz:(650)-872-0942  Tech:(650)-872-0834
 . Fax:(650)-872-0273  Cell:(650)-346-1154
 . mailto:warren*