What's That?: Open Source

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What is 'open source'?

Open Source refers to free, publicly available information or applications, accessible to anyone interested in using it for commercial or non-commercial use and redistribution.

The phrase 'open source' was initially used to designate programs in which the source code was released with no licenses or copyrights to prevent code manipulation or reuse. In contrast, closed-source programs do not release the original source code and are not available for re-use.


Why 'open source'?

The 'open source' initiative invites collaboration to create a program that is better, and more widely applicable that anything one person or organization can conceptualize on their own. By opening the source code and making it widely available, people can put their creative juices to work, making the program their own. Not only does this increase the applicability and versatility of programs, but it generates a community of people knowledgable about the program, willing to troubleshoot and share their expertise. 


Open Source in Conservation, Research, and 3D Tech 


SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), is a conservation resource that enables organizations to manage ranger patrol results, patrol efforts, and other conservation ranger-based data. The SMART Tool collects and communicates site-based information on poaching, biodiversity monitoring, and illegal activities, improving the efficiency and scope of terrestrial conservation. For more information, click here

R Studio

R Studio, a graphics and statistical computing programming system is a common tool for researchers. This program requires learning a complex coding language, but once mastered, the possibilities are nearly boundless. Researchers across the globe are continually developing packages and programs that users can downloaded in R, which ease the computational requirements for various analytics and graphics. By making R open source, researchers, statisticians, and computer gurus can contribute their own code and work to advance the applications of this program. With an expansive user-base, the internet is full of tutorials, available codes, and user guides for those less R savvy. Download R for your research, here.


Slic3r is an open source software that converts a 3D digital file into instructions for your 3D printer. The program translates the full 3D model into sliced layers, which inform the printer what information should be printed with each print-layer. The Slic3r project is built around the concept that 3D printing should remain free and open. This program, therefore, was developed by the coding community, and is not linked to any 3D printing company or individual. Since its development, the program has evolved to include features such as micro-layering, multiple extruders, differing layer thicknesses, variable extruder widths, and more. For more information, click here.