By being open, FLOSS is viewed by many eyes which can contact the authors with suggestions, fixes, improvements… FLOSS is usually more stable than closed source tools (just consider the number of viruses extant for WIndows versus their scarcity for UNIX and derivatives, although the latest have been around 20 years longer).
FLOSS is also developed continuously in the open. Closed source commercial solutions are delivered once or twice yearly -if you’re lucky (remember Vista’s delays?)- and usually only after a lengthy, closed refinement process with a few selected priority customers, resulting in large delivery times and products adapted for those lucky few. With FLOSS, everyone has a say, if you are ignored, you can add and modify yourself (or hire someone to do it for you), and you can always get the latest version, bug fix or security update at any time of the day -or night.
Arguably, you are not that much interested in updating your software every day. Mostly so with the current trend in commercial software towards bloated tools that require hardware upgrades.
But that is not the case in R+D and Health.
In Research and Health, professionals must keep abreast of the latest developments, findings and technologies. A small delay may result in invalid or outdated results, diagnostics or therapies. When you are the patient, that is something to consider. You do not want your doctor ignoring the latest therapeutic discovery. Nor do you want her to ignore the latest tool that can lead to a faster diagnosis or a new drug or therapy.
Scientists are always looking at new things, developing new ideas, tests and methods. They are constantly improving on the tools, and software is no exception. Certainly, this means they are continuously tailoring the tools (theirs or others’) to the latest advances and adding new techniques and options: scientific software is always changing, evolving and requires users to keep up with these developments by learning them. So, yes, scientific software is always “difficult” to use: you never end learning about it, as it always has something new to learn.
But there is a light side on this: Most academic groups are small, imposing a limit on the complexity that can be efficiently managed. They are also used to collaborate. As a result, most academic software is built as small, simple utilities that can easily be combined, or as manageable combinations of simple tools built by several groups. That means that it is not that difficult to learn. Yet, you still need to keep the pace.
So the trade-off is a balance between using easy, well-established -yet outdated- versions of programs collected for you at a high cost, and using or adapting the latest tools for free but investing in learning and possible development to suit your needs.
In the modern world, we feel that buying outdated software at high prices to save on continued learning is not an option for the advanced, front-line professional. It may be a good option for second-line practicioners, whose needs are less stringent (and costs as well). We think it is better to invest some time in learning the latest advances in already well-known tools of the trade and get them for free, hence saving on costs and improving competitiveness.
And that’s why we are here: to help provide the learning tuition and help front-line professionals keep at the bleeding edge of technology while reducing their (your) costs.