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Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub leaves some scientists uneasy

Andrew Silver

They fear the online platform will become less open, but other researchers say the buyout could make GitHub more useful.

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GitHub — a website that has become popular with scientists collaborating on research data and software — is to be acquired by Microsoft [...]
Decentralized systems ▹ Daniel Himmelstein, a data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, says that GitHub is problematic for researchers, but that this has nothing to do with the Microsoft acquisition. GitHub hosts repositories of code or data created by the open-source Git, which can be distributed among users, so the repositories themselves can still have backups if a server dies. However, certain information, such as comments on projects and requests to add code, are stored on GitHub’s website. Some of these data are an important part of the scientific record, says Himmelstein, but they are at risk from outages, surveillance or censorship. [...] Scientists face fewer threats, says Himmelstein, if they put their work on decentralized hosting systems, such as the git-ssb project, which don’t have a single point of failure. [...]


Nature, Vol. 558, No. 7710. (15 June 2018), pp. 353-353, https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-05426-0 
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