I have data from an ordinary scientific experiment. Now, in order to analyse the data, the most convenient way for me is to use some proprietary, closed-source software.

Is it ethical to use such kind of software in research?

If do use it then this part will be a big black-box in my research. So if someone cannot reproduce my data analysis with the same or with some other software, then it depends on the mercy of the software company if we can find out what went wrong. If the software company does not want to cooperate, then what went wrong might never be found out. I have the feeling that this opposes the principles of science.

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    This is absolutely standard in some fields - e.g. mechanical engineering where "gold standard" proprietary software is the result of hundreds of person years of development effort. If you reference the exact version of the software you are running, that is just as acceptable as any other reference in a paper IMO. Even if you use open source software, there is no guarantee that anybody can track down a bug retrospectively, unless you document and preserve absolutely everything in the tool chain that you used to build your version - not just "the application source code".
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 2:11
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    Well, the same does apply to basically every instrument used in research.
    – user64845
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 10:24
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    A literal interpretation of this would make it unethical to do calculations for publications using Excel, not to mention Stata or SAS. I wouldn't care to estimate the penetration of R and Python into academia, but I'm still fairly certain this would disqualify the majority of published research over the last 20 or 30 years.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:31
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    Related: Is it acceptable to use Mathematica to derive results in your research?. I think what I wrote in my answer there mostly applies here too.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:50

12 Answers 12


I do not think that this is an ethical question in the first place. Reproducibility is not harmed by the requirement that money needs to be spent on buying software or setting up an experiment (or are there open-source particle accelerators?).

While open source solutions are preferable for many reasons, there are clearly cases where using some proprietary software P is appropriate:

  • When it is known (and has been verified) that P's implementation of method M is correct while the known open-source implementations of M have not (yet) been established as reliable. Conversely, when open-source implementation O is known to give correct results whereas for P this has not been established, then clearly O should be used when there is a choice.
  • When one can reasonably expect that P is widely available in research institutions (and thus to researchers), like for example certain mathematical / computational packages.
  • When P allows for a much more (time-/resource-)efficient execution of experiments.
  • When P is a software package needed anyway to extract / process data from a big-ticket instrument.

Note that I am assuming that P can actually be bought by anyone. If P is not commercially available but rather a closed-source in-house solution then an open-source package is preferable.

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    +1. Reproducing a result might require writing software from scratch, or else we would have to worry that our research becomes invalid because some of the code used no longer compiles on modern systems. Plus, a lot of the time, software used in the discovery of scientific results is not actually needed for their reproduction (e.g., this happens all the time in mathematics). Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 0:34
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    The question says nothing about money. It's about open vs closed source, not free vs non-free. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 4:41
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    "or are there open-source particle accelerators?" Well, CERN has been pushing for open-hardware since at least 2011... Keep in mind: open-source does not mean "free". The only difference is the ability to inspect how the "thing" (software/hardware) was designed and built, not how much you pay for it. In the same way nothing prevents you from writing a closed-source application and provide it for free.
    – Bakuriu
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:47
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    @DimaPasechnik: To paraphrase a former supervisor: "the need to pay for a license is not a scientific argument" - you're paying for a tool here. If you cannot afford to buy a screwdriver, would it be acceptable to steal one? Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 15:41
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    The particle accelerators and detectors at CERN are fully described in published documents (and the CAD files are probably online) to the extent that you could - given the budget - rebuild a similar machine.So pretty close to an open source software model. Proprietary software neither publish the internal design nor legally allow you to copy it.
    – Spacedman
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 13:38

This question has become an important one as the push for greater reproducibility in computational research grows. Use of closed-source software is an acceptable part of research in most fields. Nevertheless, the following viewpoint enunciated by John Claerbout is becoming more widespread:

An article about a computational result is advertising, not scholarship. The actual scholarship is the full software environment, code and data, that produced the result.

From this point of view, if you rely on closed-source code, you can't completely publish your research.

Issues with closed source software in science

There are multiple concerns:

  • As you mention, if someone else tries to reproduce your result and gets a different answer, it may be impossible to resolve the discrepancy.
  • The software implementation may have bugs. Indeed, all software has bugs and any open source software you use will be susceptible to this too. But with closed source software you do not have the right to inspect the code to find bugs yourself, nor can you fix them yourself if you discover them.

Both of these are matters of principle; in practice, resolving discrepancies and finding/fixing relevant bugs is also a major challenge with open source software (but is at least something you can conceivably do).

Suggestions for mitigating the impact of closed-source code on reproducibility

  1. Publish all of your own code. You probably have some scripts that call the proprietary software, or at least some input files that set up the problem for it to solve. Usually, these scripts contain most of what is new in your research, so what is in them is often more important to other researchers than what is in the proprietary source.

  2. Use multiple independent approaches to confirm your findings. This reduces the likelihood of a bug affecting your results. In my own research, this extra work has at times paid off by uncovering bugs (that led to erroneous results) in proprietary software.

  3. Understand the algorithms encoded in the software, and their weaknesses. Even if you can't see the source, you usually can learn what computational methods they contain. Once you know the circumstances under which those methods are (or are not) reliable, you can check whether they are likely to give trustworthy results for your problem (e.g., by checking the condition number of a matrix that you feed into some linear algebra software).

  4. Be aware that some commercial software is just a pretty interface to open-source code. For instance, MATLAB's eigs function for computing eigenvalues of sparse matrices is just a thin wrapper around the open source package ARPACK. If you use that, you're not actually relying on much (if any) closed-source code.

Of course, you should also follow best practices outlined in the literature (e.g., in this article, or the many references linked here) on reproducible computational science.

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    One could note that in practice, it is also basically impossible to ever provide a full environment allowing to replicate computational results. Using open-source software compiled with open-source tools and running it on an open-source OS is a very good start, of course, but you cannot usually go any deeper. Are there open-source/open-hardware CPUs, for example? What if someone fails to reproduce a result because his CPU performs a different approximation at some point? (No, I have never heard of such a case, but it's not really unimaginable...) "Mitigating the impact" is really the key.
    – T. Verron
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 10:14
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    @T.Verron There is work on that issue too (bitwise reproducibility). But for most applications it is not worthwhile. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 10:41
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    "The actual scholarship is the full software environment, code and data, that produced the result." But it isn't. The scholarship is only in the code and data - the algorithm and the inputs to and outputs from that algorithm. The software environment is purely a mechanical means for executing that algorithm. Whether you use Mathematica, Matlab, Octave or a Babbage engine, all that matters is executing the algorithm. There may be practical issues relating to ease of reviewing and reproducability, but that doesn't affect what counts as scholarship.
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 16:06
  • @T.Verron Some Intel Pentium chips famously had a bug and would sometimes produced bad results back in the 90s - they did floating point division incorrectly every once in a while. The problem was actually discovered by a professor working on prime numbers.
    – KAI
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 20:42
  • Note that another important thing to publish, that people often forget, is the seed of your pseudorandom number generator. Even better, the script that runs the experiments should always reset it to 0. Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 17:44

Law is concerned with what you do; ethics is more about what is a better choice and why it is better. The answer to your question depends on why you use the proprietary software.

  • If this is the only way of achieving the result, then of course you can and should use it. It does not matter if the code is proprietary — if this is the only way to solve the problem, then everyone is possible either using it, or looking to use it. However, I am not sure such a software exists, so maybe this is a model example.
  • If you can choose between a proprietary software W, and free open-source software L, then the choice is yours to make. If your methods are well documented, your peers can either reproduce them in W (if they have it), or re-create an algorithm in software L (this happens a lot). There are some benefits of using W and some of using L. For academics as a large community it would be better if everyone uses the same open-source software and contributes to its development. However, your personal goals may be different, and it is not unethical to put them first. You can choose W because it is a better written software, it runs faster, it looks better, and you are more productive with it. This is fine.
  • However, if you chose W because you are paid by a company M which produces it, and you don't tell this, but instead advertise W in your papers and encourages everyone to buy it, then yes — this is unethical.
  • If you choose W because you know that your competitors, who are likely to review your paper, are from a third-world country with no access to W, and you don't particularly like W but use it to hide some dirty statistical voodoo in the code no-one can reproduce — yes, this is unethical.
  • An example of case #1 is that, in physics, we use Mathematica to do a lot of calculations because it's by far the most capable computer algebra system available. Some of these calculations cannot be done by any other (publicly available) software. Though it's not a perfect example because one can, in principle, reproduce the results by hand, but that could require years of work for something Mathematica can do in minutes.
    – David Z
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 7:02
  • @DavidZ: But Mathematica is full of nonsensical bugs due to incompetent programmers who know practically nothing about the mathematics behind what they attempt to implement. And scientists actually rely on it?
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 9:49
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    @user21820 Sure, but even best science literature has errors, and doing the computation by hand is error prone so its at par with that danger.
    – joojaa
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 17:28

Note that "Proprietary" and "Closed Source" are not the same thing. For example, MATLAB (a proprietary commercial software) actually ships with readable code for most functions it implements. You're not allowed to reuse this code (hence "Closed Source"), but you can inspect it if you have calculation discrepancies that have to be explained.

Even when the source code is not available, it is usually documented which algorithm is implemented by a given closed-source function. So if somebody cannot reproduce your results using closed-source software, he can find open-source implementations of the algorithm he suspects are incorrect in the software you have used and compare results using those implementations. Sure, it's time consuming, but don't expect that using open source software will somehow make your results 100% reproducible with no effort at all. Your colleagues will still need to run the exact software version on the exact computer environment to be sure they will get exactly the same results, and those versions and environments will likely be unavailable in 10-20 years. After that, the same time consuming process will apply to open source software as well.

I'm assuming here that you don't use software packages which keep secret the algorithms used to implement it. You'll certainly want to avoid using those, not only for the sake of reproducible results, but because results obtained by unknown means don't have any scientific value.

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    Unfortunately, unless this has changed, the Matlab code for a lot of the algorithms that would be most important to access such as the statistics toolbox are from compiled code where there is no readable source included in the distribution.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 18:48
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    The term is "source-available"
    – user11153
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 15:47
  • Dmitry, in many fields one cannot easily replace for-pay/restrictive-liencese/closed-source software with FOSS. This is especially true when we're talking about larger, more complex software systems, rather than small pieces of software implementing a single algorithm. There's the enormous effort of developing larger software systems, maintaining debugging and porting them; and there's the fact that the design spaces are so vast that it's unlikely that any two systems not recently-forked from the same parent are similar enough to be interchangeable.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:09
  • Also, your assumption at the end is generally untrue for larger systems, since even if they publish the main concepts/aspects, there's just too much specific hackery to document.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:10

I'll add one additional perspective here - if you manage to get a stunning result based on analysis done in a closed source package for which there is either no open-source implementation available, or for which the same is poorly developed, then you immediately provide a strong incentive for developers in the scientific community without access to that package, but with a desire to reproduce the results, to go out and start working on improving open-source alternatives to said commercial software.

This is a two-fold benefit. In the first case, you are helping to encourage development of new open-source tools and, secondly, the parallel development of such tools help to provide mutual checks for both. I'd say use what works, what is most appropriate, and whatever helps you get the job done best within your budget. If you're not in a position to contribute better open-source tools to the community then let others take up that torch. Producing useful, unique, and interesting scientific results is exactly the sort of thing that stimulates that type of development in the first place.

In a way, using a closed source package can actually be a catalyst for open source development - so you're still helping in an indirect way. If there are, however, open source alternatives to the closed source package you have used then it should be trivial for others to reproduce your results with their own implementations with free tools and there is, therefore, no ethical problem at all. If anything, it provides an opportunity to test the same result with two different tools and this is always better, in science, than reproducing the result using the same tool. You get to check both the tools (against each other) and the science at the same time. Bonus.

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    Although i couldn't bring myself to downvote, I really dont think "use closed-sourced software to incentivise open-source software!" really makes any sense at all. It's like saying go out an commit arson to incentivise the use of smoke-detectors. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 12:59
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    @WetlabWalter There's always a SJW in the room, eh? I wasn't aware that buying software was either criminal or destructive. Really, if there isn't an open source alternative then there isn't one. When you've got a job to get done and there's a tool available then you use it. Simple as that. Can't believe you'd spend a million bucks on an experiment and then squawk at paying a few dollars for software to analyze the data. The point is that OSS shows up when there's good science to be done with it. Chicken and egg...
    – J...
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:33
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    lol, SJW, that's a new one for me. I was reducing your argument to absurdity - the benevolent evil is a common logical fallacy. S'ok we all make mistakes. Your other point is strawman - the question isn't closed-source or no analysis. It's closed-source or open-source. Regardless, the price of the software isn't the problem. It's that it's a black box. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:50
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    @WetlabWalter Still, a black box that implements a known algorithm isn't entirely black. It's a convenient automation of tedium. I wouldn't say its use is undefensible.
    – J...
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 13:59
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    @WetlabWalter lol, I wasn't fighting for a vote, but hey - I'll take it.
    – J...
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 14:01

If you write "results were processed with the software X v X.X using the following settings and the printed output was", this stops being science and becomes more like a magic. The algorithms must be fully documented somewhere and understandable for the research to be the science.

It is fully possible to satisfy this requirement for the proprietary software, if the algorithms are properly described in the user documentation, or the proprietary software just makes the platform of execution and algorithms themselves are coded on the top of it (Matlab, proprietary C compiler, etc). Ideally, also proprietary code should be available for review under restrictive license.

Unfortunately very often the proprietary tools tend to hide the exact algorithm details, keep the important parts of the code secret, and due that are disliked by the scientific community. Nobody wants to publish an article just to discover later results are only reproducible by the single version of the single proprietary tool, most likely due trivial bug.

  • Unfotunately, in many domains - that's almost the only kind of paper that ever gets published. DB architecture for example (VLDB, SIGMOD). And it's not just the commercial vendors like Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and others - even when people just modify a FOSS DBMS most often don't publish the code anywhere.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 21:11
  • Most of publications important to me supplement the algorithm with source code that builds fine with GCC under Linux. Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 23:15
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    Well, ok, but it's not like that for every domain.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 23:26

Yes, it is unethical*.

There are four aspects of the software you mention which raise ethical problems: Being closed-source, being proprietary and two aspects which you didn't mention but are characteristic of closed-source proprietary software - requiring (non-neglibile) payment and requiring agreeing to a restrictive license in order to use.

Issues with closed-source software:

  • Its use hampers reproducibility (see @DaveKetcheson's answer)
  • Its use hampers resolution of contradicting research findings/claims).
  • Use of closed-source software hampers the development of software - the specific kind of application you're using, and in general. IMHO.
  • It puts software vendors in a position of power over ourselves, and thus indrectly over our research and over the community interested in our research. Famous examples include government espionage, inter-state sabotage and hardware tie-in.

Issues with proprietary software (and its typical licenses):

  • It creates artificial restrictions on our freedoms as researchers and users:
    • To run the software any way and any where that's beneficial to our research;
    • To apply lessons learned from studying the program in our own research work, and to possibly modify it to better fit our research (it might be technically possible with source access but legally forbidden);
    • To distribute copies for reproduction and further work to researchers within our group/institution and to others;
    • To distribute copies of our modifications and adaptations within our research groups and to others;
  • It often effects similar power-relations between vendor and users even without the source being closed. For example, a vendor affect hardware tie-in by forbidding legal installation on unauthorized hardware.

Issues with software requiring payment for use:

  • It creates an undue burden on other researchers who wish to (1) evaluate/review (2) illustrate limitations/flaws or (3) extend and improve your results.
  • If increases the pressure on other researchers to buy similar software in order to keep up - and this is an indirect effect on all researchers in your field.
  • If decreases the impetus and availability of funding for developing free ( = gratis, libre) software for doing the same.

(*) ... but with all that being said - these unethical aspects weigh against potential public benefit in obtaining and publishing research results. Make sure you fairly stack both sides of the scale when making your decision - and that you think about others as well as yourself.

  • I simply disagree. Most objectors to closed source programs argue "not your best choice", or "try to avoid", but not "of questionable ethics". While there are certainly valid reasons to use open source and free software, none of the arguments you offer rise to the level of ethical concern. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:14
  • @ScottSeidman: First, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. However, you're making one implicit claims and one explicit claim with which I disagree: 1. An argument is discredited if most people use a different/weaker argument; 2. The "most objections" claim. For the latter, please link to some statistical evidence. In my experience, it's mostly corporate types make this weaker argument. As for the former - my arguments or claims stand for themselves, whether wrong or right.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:48
  • @ScottSeidman: To the point, though, if you don't believe that causing the effects I listed is problematic, then with due respect I find your view to be unethical, and, in fact, immoral. And this is strengthened by your answer and a comment on another answer here, in which you claim that copied software is "stolen", that copying is "piracy" and that it should not be encouraged.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:59
  • Are you really trying to assert that copying software is not intellectual property theft?? fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/piracy-ip-theft There are certainly countries where the concept of intellectual property is much looser, but so far as I know, your's isn't one of them. As to backing up positions, I'll put it back on you. Name a reputable journal that will not publish a paper that uses close source software because the profession considers it ethically questionable. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:16
  • By "most objectors", I meant answers to this question. The statistical defense is simply counting the answers that say that using closed source software is of ethical concern. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:28

Decide for yourself:

I can argue from my own experience that using closed-source software leads to shutting a considerable number of potential researchers out (or forcing them into getting illegal copies on a grey market). I worked for a number of years in an area where Matlab is a standard tool (still is, after 20 years :-(), and then I accepted a postdoc at a place which did not have Matlab licences (not all CS Departments have it even in good universities in Germany, as they might not have a campus-wide licence, and while at Engineering they surely have Matlab, it's quite questionable at CS).

I basically had to put on hold every ongoing Matlab-related project (as buying a sufficiently complete Matlab license on a postdoc salary was not an option...)

(And I have once basically stolen a Mathematica license at a department I was visiting, for the same reason. :-))

Another, even harder, case, is Magma (less well-known than Matlab, but still almost standard in areas related to algebraic number theory and group theory, and more), which makes it extremely hard to get a license for anyone outside an established circle of select universities, unless you are in the USA (which perhaps has to do with their biggest customer being NSA :-)).

EDIT: I am told that I am arguing for double standard (mentioning expensive tools for experiments), but I am not. Science software is often much close to scientific publications than it is to scientific tools. In case of a free alternative to an expensive tool, not choosing a free alternative is akin to choosing an expensive and exclusive publisher for your work, rather than publishing on the web.

EDIT2: Also, issues of reliability of closed-source research software are well-documented in the literature; perhaps the most well-known at the moment is the story of a bug in a determinant computation in Mathematica. It took the publication in such a high-profile source like Notices of the AMS for Wolfram Ic to fix it. With open-source normally fixing of such a bug happens much faster, or at least it would be publicly visible on a bug tracker.

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    This is no more true of closed source software than it is of other costly scientific tools. No-one is going to argue there's an ethical issue with using a confocal microscope, a nextgen sequencer, or a particle accelerator. So why apply the double standard to computer software? Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 9:25
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    @JackAidley :no, in the case you cite there is simply no alternative. In case of software often there is: just like in the case of publishing - you can publish your book with a commercial publisher who would charge $$$ for it, or you can put it for free online (or do both). The choice is yours. Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 12:25
  • While many might argue about whether using closed source is "ethical" (I do not), violating license agreements and using stolen software is often illegal and goes beyond my ethical boundaries. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 18:56
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    @JackAidley -- couldn't agree more. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 18:57
  • Note, also, that there are perfectly viable open source options for just about every package you mentioned. Octave is almost language compatible with Matlab. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:32

I think we need to go to the foundation of the question; the answer to ethical questions begins with morals (the science of right and wrong). Specifically, we should ask ourselves... * are we committing any deception of anyone involved? (e.g. have we disclosed everything related to the research, including all potential conflicts of interest?) Put yourself in the position of others: what would I want someone else to do if faced with my situation, and I had a stake in the research? * are we appropriating anything which does not belong to us?

If we can't identify a specific moral objection, we proceed to the field-specific ethics, namely: * is there a field-specific code of ethics one has committed to, and would be violating? (E.g. the Hippocratic oath, in medicine, lawyer-client privilege, etc.) Have you signed an agreement with your employer?

Finally, we should proceed to "value free" analyses: cost/benefit, relative practicality and availability of alternatives, reasonably expected outcomes.

Note that to place this last category in the highest position is to ignore ethics altogether, and run the risk of justifying questionable means with good ends--always a danger sign.

I hope this helps!

12/08/16 EDIT: I should add that according to the criteria above, and the information and opinions I have seen so far (including this thread), the answer is no, it is not unethical, per se (i.e., in itself).

There are circumstances in which it might become unethical, but that is different. For example, if you chose the closed source software because that choice was to your personal financial advantage, that would clearly be unethical. Or if you knew you could exploit a feature or bug in that software to disadvantage a scientific competitor, or obtain a more favorable result . In other words, motives count heavily.

As an example, someone above mentioned a "marketing" motivation. That would clearly diminish people's acceptance/trust in your results if that were disclosed.

As in politics, sunshine is the best disinfectant. That is, disclose everything that you can reasonably expect would affect the acceptance of your results by non-trusting auditors.

  • I agree with the premise of your answer, but you're only asking one moral question, while in fact there are numerous questions to ask.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:01
  • @einpoklum: sorry about my formatting--the asterisks were meant to flag separate questions. I wanted to suggest an approach to the original question, so the questioner could have some confidence in the answer. FWIW, I'm pretty sure it's not inherently unethical to use proprietary S/W for a scientific research.
    – Mr. Lynch
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 4:01

"Free" does not always mean "free" when considering time and effort. Research can be expensive. If someone can buy a package, and that package comes with good support and superb documentation that might save me time in a research project, it would be difficult to believe that it would be cheaper to use open source if it would take more time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I didn't spend $2K to speed up my work, leaving my funding agency paying the same amount for less output, that's more ethically questionable than using the proprietary package. (Assuming, of course, that the open source is less convenient, and that the closed source is available to all who can pay -- and yes, I know that those aren't the only situations out there, so please don't bother pointing out exceptions where that's not true).

I run Matlab, and I run Octave. They are similar, but I have a more trouble-free experience running Matlab, so that's what I tend to double click on.

... and yes, I use PLENTY of open source software, where it makes my life easier. I also ONLY recommend open source to students (... except Matlab, which has generous student license), because every time I mention an expensive package to a student, they show up with a pirated version the next day, and I don't want to contribute to or encourage intellectual property theft.


I don't think this is an issue. Many research biologists use Photoshop to process their images, for example. I suppose open-source software is preferred by many since it is more in line with the principles of open research, but making sure your methodology is sound and reproducible is far more important in almost all situations.

  • But using closed/restrictive-license software prevents most people from checking whether your methodology is sound and from reproducing your results. And with Photoshop it's not even that bad, since it's pretty common - but think about software that requires special hardware and tens of thousands of dollars to use.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:57

It should not matter. Most but not all scientific calculators calculate sines the same way. Do you know how your calculator calculates sines?

Some free software is simply inferior. A specific example is OpenOffice. As wonderful as it is it fails at some tasks that Microsoft Office handles with aplomb and doesn't even attempt others.

What if I use a Hewlett-Packard gas chromotograph because it's the only one I've ever used and someone else gets different results using another brand? Am I responsible?

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    one should not process scientific data using MS office, or other office suites. Failures of Excel in this regard are well-documented in the literature. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 9:48
  • Failures of closed source software vendors to fix reported bugs are well-documented; if you get incorrect results due to faulty closed source software then, well, you might get fired, or, worse, people might die Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 9:51

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