Raven Lite Now Free-as-in-Beer

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has decided to release the Raven Lite sound analysis software as free-beer. Previously it cost about $25. I’d been meaning to try this product out since first hearing about it from Don Kroodsma at the ABA Convention back in June. Now maybe I’ll finally get around to it.

The professional version costs $800, which I think is ridiculous. Academic research software like this should be open source. Not only are Cornell and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology large recipients of tax dollars and charitable donations which I think gives them some obligation to open up more to the broader community. Most importantly, you simply get better science when the software is as open as the data.

Although ornithology has a longer and larger tradition of amateur science than most fields, the Cornell Lab still seems largely stuck in a 20th century mode of thinking in which there are professional scientists with Ph.Ds (and a few grad students in training) who do real science, and a large collection of amateurs whose job it is to contribute dollars and data without getting much back in return. The same phenomenon is seen with Cornell’s eBird, which takes data in from amateurs but refuses to give the raw data back.

This model may have made sense a decade or two ago. However in 2006 the combination of the Internet and cheap CPU power have placed real science within the reach of intelligent amateurs everywhere. I don’t know what might be discovered if the eBird data or the Raven source code were opened up to all comers without limit. However I guarantee you there’d be some interesting results nobody would expect. Way more use would be made of the data than Cornell could ever hope to do on its own.

One Response to “Raven Lite Now Free-as-in-Beer”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Cornell was founded by a notorious monopolist (the founder, with Morse, of Western Union), so it’s hardly surprising.

Leave a Reply