I hope RISCOSS will strengthen the bonds between industry and academia

Nov 07 2014

Interview: Wolfgang Mauerer, Senior Open Source expert at Siemens Corporate Research and Professor of Theoretical Computer Science at the Technical University of Applied Science Regensburg

What do you think of the RISCOSS project?

Software is about technology, about structure, about engineering knowledge and capabilities - many of these aspects can be understood mathematically, and the associated risks quantified. But as we all know, software is also very much about people! Now try putting numbers on persons... This just won't make do. However, social interactions and their implications on the various qualities of software are also not just random processes, and there are lots of insights that await being discovered. The RISCOSS project is therefore a highly timely and necessary approach to master the ever-growing challenges faced by software development.

What do you expect from RISCOSS?

We need actionable insights from scientific research that directly benefit the development communities of OSS, but also industrial users: An ever-growing amount of open source is deployed in critical products, and the sheer amount of open development makes it impossible to understand all details of every single project. Nonetheless, managers and programmers alike need to device which components to use, and their choices may be influenced by entirely different needs. To support these decisions with quantitative advice, it's necessary to join research forces by distributing the important, but technically involved tasks across many shoulders. I hope the RISCOSS project will be a catalyser for this.

What do you want to bring to the RISCOSS project?

I join the project while wearing two different hats: On one hand, I'm an academic professor with an interest in theory and statistical approaches to understanding software development. On the other hand, I'm an industry practitioner, and a long-time user, developer and advocate of open source software, as well as an OSS project maintainer. Both aspects will be covered by the RISCOSS project, and I hope to act as a messenger and translator between these (sometimes unecessarily separate) worlds.
Besides that, there's Codeface! It's a platform for multi-facetted (open source) software analysis that has been developed inside Siemens Corporate Technology for a few years now. We've done all development in an open, collaborative manner from the very beginning, and hope RISCOSS will lead others to join our efforts. Unfortunately, many innovative software analysis projects have been started, but no common platform has yet emerged. This is not what open source and open collaboration are all about! I hope that the RISCOSS project will provide ample opportunities to improve this situation, and will result in a strong platform for both, academia and industry.

RISCOSS is a research project for the moment, what future do you see for it?

I envision two very desirable assets that should come out of RISCOSS: For one, real software that turns the theoretical insights of the project into something that benefits practical software development. Additionally, I hope the project will establish a gateway for cooperation between academics, and will also strengthen the bonds between industry and academia when it comes to thinking about risks in OSS adoption and development.

A word on Wolfgang Mauerer, Senior Open Source expert at Siemens Corporate Research
Wolfgang Mauerer, member of the RISCOSS Advisory Board, is a senior key expert at Siemens Corporate Research, where he deals with establishing Open Source Software in innovative and demanding areas, among them large scale industrial automation, healthcare, and building automation. Additionally, he's responsible for Software Intelligence research, where he tries to understand various technical and social aspects of software development using quantitative statistical methods. He has published numerous widely translated books and articles, holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, and is a professor of theoretical computer science at the technical university of applied science Regensburg.