CERN has a long history of sharing. Here is a timeline of important events that led to the creation of CERN's Open Source Program Office.

1953: the CERN Convention.

The CERN convention, signed on July 1st, 1953, states (art. II: Purposes) that “the results of [the Organisation’s] experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available”, and that co-operation with other organisations may include the dissemination of information in particular.

Read the full text of the CERN Convention here.

1970: first CERN Computing and Data-Processing School.

After computers started to see widespread use in high-energy physics, CERN decided to organise the first school dedicated to data processing and computer science. G.R. Macleod, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the school, wrote in the proceedings: “We felt that it would be of interest to hold a school at which young computer scientists and high-energy physicists could study together aspects of these two quite different approaches to computing, and we hoped that by bringing together students and lecturers active in research in these two fields a flourishing cross-fertilization of ideas would result.”.

The school went on to become what is now the CERN School of Computing.

Read the proceedings of the 1970 CERN Computing and Data-Processing School here.

1983-1984: HEPVM and Cernlib distribution.

The first instances of sharing CERN-made source code date to the early 80s. In 1983 CERN and other sites who ran VM/CMS operating systems (from large ones such as SLAC and IN2P3 to smaller sites and universities) got together and produced the HEPVM tape, sharing the code needed to produce a unified high-energy physics environment. In 1984, CERN decided to make available Cernlib, the CERN Program Library, to any laboratory involved in the CERN Program. Some of the FORTRAN routines part of Cernlib date back to 1966, probably predating most of the world’s free/open-source software.

Read more about HEPVM and the mainframe era at CERN here.

Read more about the history of Cernlib here.

1994: Web licensed under an Open Source licence.

The three components of Web software (browser, server and shared library) were initially released in the Public Domain. In summer 1994, Internet hall-of-famer François Flückiger took over the technical team at CERN from Tim Berners-Lee after the latter left CERN to create the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at MIT. At that time, the team was preparing the release of version 3 of the CERN server software, WWW (HTTPD). Flückiger evaluated various options with CERN’s Legal service and decided to release the new version as Open Source: CERN developed its own Open Source licence to accommodate the laboratory’s legal status as an international organisation.

Read more about the process of releasing the Web as Open Source here.

2011: CERN Open Hardware License.

CERN founded the Open Hardware Repository in 2009, in order for electronics designers to collaborate on open-hardware designs. Two years later, CERN developed and published the CERN Open Hardware License, a legal tool to promote collaboration among hardware designers and support the freedom to use, study, modify, share and distribute hardware designs, and products based on those designs. As the custodian of the CERN OHL, CERN releases new versions and variants from time to time to address new problems or concerns, but which it considers to be in the same spirit as previous versions.

Read more about the origins of Open Hardware at CERN here.

2012: CERN Open Source License Task Force report.

In 2012, François Flückiger, recognising that the situation regarding Open Source Software licensing at CERN needed clarification, proposed the creation of the Open Source Licence Task Force to formulate recommendations on which licence should be used for software developed at CERN. The report produced by the task force was the first official set of recommendations and requirements for publishing CERN software under Open Source licences.

Read the full text of the CERN Open Source License Task Force report here.

2019: the MALT Project.

The MALT project was started by CERN’s IT department to investigate the migration from commercial software products to alternative open-source solutions and standards, so as to minimise CERN’s exposure to the risks of unsustainable commercial conditions and avoid vendor lock-in. When the 3-year study project came to an end, the lessons learned were applied across all related activities at the Organisation, leading to tighter procedures on using licenced software and ultimately the creation of the OSPO to help coordinate the extensive use of Open Source across the laboratory.

Read the MALT project launch article here, and the closure article here.

2022: CERN Open Science Policy.

In September 2022, CERN approved a new policy for Open Science at the Organisation, with immediate effect. The policy was developed by the Open Science Strategy Working Group, which includes members from all CERN departments as well as experiments.The policy focuses on all the different Open Science elements, such as Open Access, Open Data, Open Source Software and Hardware, as well as overarching topics such as research integrity and open infrastructures.  Drawing on existing bottom-up initiatives, the working group designed an implementation plan with the CERN community. Published alongside the policy and implementation plan is a dedicated website explaining all the open science initiatives at CERN.

Read the CERN Open Science Policy here.

2023: CERN OSPO.

In May 2023, CERN approved the creation of an Open Source Program Office for Open Source Software and Open Source Hardware,to address the Open Science implementation while creating a visible knowledge hub to advance community support.