The Pros and Cons of Using Open-Source Software (R) versus Proprietary Software (SAS, SPSS) In PhD Research


Open-source software is referred to as computer software that has been made available under a licence that gives users the freedom to use, examine, modify, and share the software and its source code with any other person and also for any kind of reason. Any copyrighted software that has restrictions placed on its usage, distribution, and modification by its publisher, distributor, or creator is considered proprietary software. In this blog, we will identify the pros and cons of using open-source software such as R and proprietary software such as SAS and SPSS in the PhD research.

Defining open-source software

Open-source software (OSS) is software that is distributed with a licence that allows users to view, modify, and distribute the source code. The term "open-source" refers to the fact that the source code for the software is publicly available and can be modified by anyone.

Open-source software is typically developed by a community of volunteers and can be used, modified, and distributed by anyone without incurring licensing fees. This allows for a wide range of individuals and organisations to use, improve, and share the software, encouraging collaboration and innovation. Some popular examples of open-source software include the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, and the Firefox web browser. If you still haven’t understood this, let me give you an example.

Suppose you have brought a house, now you can change the colour, texture, and shapes of the wall and if needed, the total house. That is what open-source software is.

Defining proprietary software

Property denotes ownership. A licence from the owner must be bought in order to utilise the proprietary programme if anyone wants to do so. This type of software's source code is hidden from all users except the owner. The developer or the company delivering the programme can both be considered the owner. Therefore, even after paying the licensing cost, you are still denied access to and the right to copy, distribute, or alter the proprietary software's source code. If you still haven’t understood this, let me give you another example.

Suppose you are staying in a house on rent, now you cannot change the colour, texture, and shape of the wall. It’s only the owner who can change and you have to accept it if you want to stay. That is what proprietary software is.

Figure 1: Types of proprietary software

Pros and cons of using open-source software in PhD research

There are many advantages of using open-source software that can help you in your PhD research are:

Initial cost - 

Low to no upfront costs are associated with open-source software. Simply download the code from an authorised source to get started. If you're on a tight budget, you might want to think about using open-source software rather than squandering your money on expensive solutions. Free content is, after all, almost always advantageous. However, the absence of upfront fees does not indicate that there aren't any. This leads us to our first issue with it.

Reliability - 

Open-source software is extremely reliable. Open-source software is routinely created and continuously improved by a large number of skilled engineers. This makes it more likely that a flaw or vulnerability will be discovered and fixed right away. It's always beneficial to have more eyes, or in this case, hundreds or thousands of eyes. That is incomparable to what a small group of salaried developers employed by vendors can provide.

Longevity - 

Open-source software is able to change regularly since anybody may view the source code. Without any restrictions from the vendor, anyone can improve the software. Furthermore, you lose the support, patches, and all other related services if the commercial company that produced the software goes out of business. 

Security - 

Advocates for open source claim that overall, open source software is more secure than proprietary software. As soon as they are discovered by the community, bugs and other problems are usually fixed. With commercial software, though, this is not the case. It may take large businesses weeks or months to address vulnerabilities and release a fix.

Flexibility - 

The key to OSS is flexibility. The ability to customise open-source software to meet specific business requirements is advantageous to users. Open source users have total control over their programme, in contrast to commercial software users who must follow the vendor's rules and restrictions. The strict user agreement that comes with proprietary software does not apply to open-source software.

However, there are also some potential disadvantages that may not be beneficial for you in your PhD research are:

Long-term cost - 

If you cause a fire that needs immediate attention, you are responsible for paying the costs of putting it out. Because there is no issue, you cannot yank your vendor's chain to fix it. Instead, you must take care of it yourself or hire outside help. When introducing new software into the office, remember to also account for the costs of staff training and software setup.

Support - 

The service and support provided by commercial software are its main benefits. If you lack technological expertise, the continual support provided by commercial vendors is quite important. User guides and access to knowledgeable professionals are absent from open-source software. Although you are allowed to ask for assistance in pertinent communities, the assistance is not required and comes at a time cost. Proprietary software supported by top-notch assistance can be a preferable option if you are experiencing an urgent problem.

Not having better software - 

There's always a possibility that the designers of a programme won't opt to continue working on it or will decide to work on something else in its place. But software, whether proprietary or open-source, may be dropped at any time.

Usability - 

Most of the time, open-source software is less user-friendly than closed software. The primary critique of open-source software is that it is more focused on meeting the demands of the developer than the "unskilled" end user. Let's face it: ordinary users won't even bother to look at the source code, much less modify it.

Figure 2: Infographic of open-source software

Pros and cons of using proprietary software in PhD research

The advantages of using proprietary software in the PhD research have been described below:

  • Because the proprietor is solely responsible for the development, the software is stable. 

  • Software is a fantastic source of income for developers because users pay for it. Because consumers pay for the software, it is the sellers' responsibility to offer customer care. 

  • It is user-friendly software since vendors rely on customers to buy their products.

The disadvantages of using proprietary software in the PhD research have been described below:

  • The software's shelf life is determined by the vendors. Therefore, if the programme is taken off the market, employing it for business purposes could result in a significant loss. 

  • Software is quite expensive. 

  • The nature of the software is inflexible. It implies that you are unable to change the features to suit your demands. 

  • Users have no authority to distribute the software.


Finally, we can conclude that both open-source and proprietary software have their own pros and cons but what should you choose according to your needs? Well, we can help you with this. We, Regent statistics, can help you with both open-source and proprietary software in writing your high-quality PhD dissertation at an affordable price.

Category : Research , SPSS
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