The 2019 Letter to Stakeholders (Year-end) @UniFAU

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The year 2019 was our tenth year at FAU and a stellar one at that. We published several top-tier journal and conference papers and broke the €1M annual revenue barrier. The Sweble project, now the EDITIVE startup, regrouped and emerged with a new entrepreneurial team stronger than ever. Three new researchers joined the team and two graduate researchers became postgraduate researchers (Postdocs), that is, they finished their dissertation. 

Congratulations, Dr. Ann Barcomb and Dr. Nikolay Harutyunyan for finishing their dissertations!

Welcome to the group, Julia Krause, Sebastian Schmid, and Georg Schwarz!  

Table of Contents

  1. Research
    1. Research publications
    2. Research areas
    3. Research collaborations
    4. Other topics
  2. Outreach
    1. Industry
    2. Academia
    3. Startups
  3. Teaching
    1. Courses
    2. Final theses
  4. Fundraising
  5. People
  6. Alumni
  7. Thank you!

1. Research

The timeframe for the research section of this letter is the 2019 calendar year.

1.1 Research publications

We published articles in JSS and RE, two top-tier software engineering journals, and at ICSE, the leading software engineering conference.

In addition, last year’s TSE paper was invited as a journal-first paper for a presentation at ICSE. 

These top publications were supported by an array of publications at conferences like OSS, ICSOB, OpenSym, EuroPLoP, etc. These 2019 successes follow on the heels of similar successes in prior years.

The complete list of research publications, including PDFs where possible, is available through FAU’s research information system or on our website through the individual researchers, for example, my (Riehle) list.

1.2 Research areas

Our publications present the results of hard and long work in our core research areas open source and inner source:

  • Open source. We broadly investigate the use, contribution to, and leadership of open source projects. We have two focus areas right now: The governance of using open source in commercial products, and the governance of open source foundations for collaborative development.
  • Inner source. This is the use of open source best practices in software developing companies. We develop theories, methods, and tools to help companies be successful in what is both a cultural shift (in how people collaborate) and a compliance challenge with tax law (due to transfer pricing).

Next to these name-giving research areas, we also investigate research questions whose answers promise significant improvement in software engineering and can lead to products for commercial startups. Currently, there are two projects:

  • QDAcity. The QDAcity project investigates better approaches to and better tooling for qualitative data analysis. Our primary application area is requirements engineering, where our work now lets engineers turn stakeholder input into requirements better and more traceable than before.
  • JValue ODS. The JValue Open Data Service’s (ODS) mission is to make the consumption of open data easy, safe, and reliable. At present, it serves as the main testbed for research into software architecture questions about microservices. A primary interest is microservice integration.

A more detailed overview is available on the group’s research web pages.

1.3 Research collaborations

Like in prior years, in 2019, we kept collaborating nationally and internationally. Next to various speaking engagements, workshops and conference meetings, and overall technical and administrative duties to make our small contribution to help keep science going, the following events and collaboration seem noteworthy:

  • International research workshop at URJC. Our full research group traveled to Madrid to meet URJC’s Libresoft research group (Profs. Gonzalez-Barahona and Robles). In a multi-day workshop, we presented and discussed our relevant work, and planned future joint activities.

This form of workshop happened for the second time, with the previous one being held at University of Porto together with Prof. Aguiar’s group. It both helps broaden our perspective, gather feedback on our research and spread the work, and investigate venues of future European collaborations.

  • Commercial open source research with MMU. Finally, after a long run-up time, we started our joint project with MMU’s (Malaysia) Profs. Chai and Soh on commercial open source. We are investigating how commercial open source startups are building communities around their products.

1.4 Other topics

Of the aforementioned duties, our reviewing services for journals and conferences are noteworthy, and increasingly, for grant proposals nationally and internationally. In addition, I (Riehle) kept up my leadership (chairing) of the OpenSym conference series, though it is getting time to pass on the baton.

2. Outreach

The timeframe for the outreach section of this letter is the 2019 calendar year.

2.1 Industry

Most noteworthy, in terms of overall impact, is probably the start of the Open source expanded column in IEEE Computer, a widely-read magazine with about 60.000 print subscribers and many more online. This column is edited by me (Riehle) on behalf of the editor-in-chief of the magazine. After the initial article on the innovations of open source, that I penned, authors from industry and academia started exploring the various aspects of open source as it relates to industry. The first arc of articles spans the use of open source in companies and their products. Next year, we will move on to open source communities and engineering.

Next to open source, we are active in the Inner Source Commons movement, a (not yet formalized) movement that is spreading knowledge about inner source to companies. In particular, Max Capraro is active, representing our group in this context and to wider industry. 

The year 2019 saw a continued flow of talks at industry events and companies all over the world.

2.2. Academia

The year 2019 also saw the usual invited talks at academic partner universities all over the world. We notice an increase in interest in the idea of user-led open source foundations, that is, consortia of companies who join forces to develop the software they need for their business (without actually selling on that software). Hence, these are not software vendors but energy distributor, teaching institutions, or automotive suppliers. We held several talks on this topic, ranging from addressing the Bavarian Green party to addressing the government of Oman. 

2.3. Startups

In 2019, we continued our support for the FAU startup EDITIVE, the former Sweble research project.

In addition, we started the support of the BASEMATE student startup.

3. Teaching

The timeframe for the teaching section of this letter is the 2018/19 academic year, that is, the winter semester 2018/19 and the summer semester 2019. The winter semester 2019/20 will be covered in next year’s letter. 

3.1 Courses

It is fair to say that our teaching has grown up. While we tested a new course, we primarily kept providing our well-worn and widely enjoyed courses. Student numbers of these elective courses run from 50-100 students each (which is a lot for electives). We skipped one established course, though, AMOS. AMOS is our student project course on agile methods. It was sorely missed so intend to provide it again in summer 2020.

The new course, SAKI, is a course on applications of machine learning technique, a.k.a. “artificial intelligence”. We co-taught the course with consulting companies Adesso, Adorsys, msg, and Senacor. A shout-out and thank you to these industry partners who provided both valuable industry data to make the course more realistic as well as presented the logic behind it.

3.2 Final theses

Like our courses, final theses kept a steady pace, and we handled as many students as in the last year each.

4. Fundraising

The timeframe for the fundraising section of this letter is the 2019 calendar year.

In 2019, three new projects started, two DFG-funded ones, and one BMWi-funded one. With the accumulating income from projects started in prior years we crossed the €1 million boundary and maintained our ~20% CAGR. As always, we only count the cash-flow in 2019 so in 2020, with few projects ending, we expect to reach similar numbers.

It took us ten years to crack this psychological important €1M boundary, but we are on a good path of sustainable growth now (and have been for a while). Most noteworthy is the significant reduction of industry income and the strong growth of public funding, something we were not able to acquire only five years ago.

We paid €150K taxes (Gemeinkosten) to the university, which corresponds to a tax rate of 13 per cent.

5. People

As mentioned, two group members graduated with a dissertation:

  • Ann Barcomb finished her dissertation on Retaining and Managing Episodic Contributors in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities
  • Nikolay Harutyunyan finished his dissertation on Corporate Open Source Governance of Software Supply Chains

Both are still around as Postdocs (and we are very happy to have them).

Three new research staff members joined the group:

In addition, two more staff members joined us:

  • Agnes Low is taking care of research group marketing and social media
  • Mathias Zinnen is working as an administrator in the JValue ODS project

At the end of the year, Michael Dorner will leave the group.

The EDITIVE startup, still formally an FAU project, 

  • lost Daniel Knogl, Johannes Link, and Bettina Schwab, and 
  • gained Manuel Guttenberger, Mark Rudtke, and Taina Temmen.

We are very happy to have won all of them.

6. Alumni

With a growing number of finished final theses, our alumni base grew as well. We invite all our final thesis students to join our alumni group on LinkedIn, and most students join. If you are an alumnus or alumna but somehow lost contact, please ask to join!

Every year, we organize an alumni event, usually a summer BBQ after lecture time ended for the summer semester. Again, Appwork from Fürth, alumni themselves, let us use their facilities. Thank you so much!

7. Thank you!

Whether you are a student or colleague, industry partner or academic friend, we are wishing you an as stressless year-end rally to finish your work as is possible and hopefully also enjoyable holidays and eventually, a wonderful and successful year 2020!

For the team of the professorship of open source software.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Riehle