Feedback on 2017 FSFE position paper on publicly-funded science

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When complete, this document will be sent by email to the FSFE as a PDF. That will be on about 06-Mar-2017 unless circumstances dictate otherwise.

W O R K   I N   P R O G R E S S

Feedback from the open energy modeling community on the 2017 FSFE position paper on the use of free software and open standards in publicly-funded science

Date   00 March 2017
Release   00
Contributors   Robbie Morrison
Contact   Robbie Morrison <>
License   Creative Commons CC BY 4.0


On 5 January 2017, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) published a position paper (Gkotsopoulou et al 2017) that argues that free software is a pre‑condition for open science and that all publicly‑funded research in Europe should develop and use free software and open standards. The position paper concentrates on software for processing, managing, and archiving scientific data.

Notwithstanding, the position paper is silent on the matter of large-scale computer models designed to assist with energy and climate policy development. This document seeks to address that shortcoming and explain why such models and their associated database projects should be expressly covered by FSFE advocacy. This document also covers some items of specific concern.

The feedback here was prepared by members of the Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod). A draft of this document was present on the Initiative’s discussion server for three weeks where it attracted 00 contributers and a number of edits and comments.

While the authors are affiliated with the Open Energy Modelling Initiative, the Initiative itself has no mechanism for endorsing outreach material. The views presented here are therefore solely those of the contributors concerned.

About us

Founded in October 2014, the Open Energy Modelling Initiative is a grass roots initiative of energy system modelers from various universities and research institutes across Europe and elsewhere. The initiative promotes the use of open source software and open data in energy system modeling for research and policy advice. The initiative documents a variety of open source energy models and addresses practical and conceptual issues regarding their development and application. The initiative runs an email list, an internet forum, and a wiki and hosts occasional academic workshops. Our email list has 230 members and our six‑monthly workshops attract around 50 participants, mostly PhD students and post‑docs.

Open energy system modeling and open energy system databases

Open energy system modeling and open energy system databases are recent endeavors, starting around 2010 for the most part. As of 2016, Pfenninger et al (2017 p213) note over twenty active open modeling projects. Prior to 2010 the norm was for scientific organizations to utilize closed source development. This new found enthusiasm for open code and open data is largely due to the ideals of open source development having reached this particular research community.

The construction and use of policy‑oriented energy system models falls under the rubric of applied science. Nonetheless, the same standards, demands, and ethics broadly apply here as they do to pure science.

That said, large‑scale modeling has its own requirements. While such models are critically dependent on open data, they are also open software projects in their own right. And while not all are outward looking, many attempt to build development communities. The use of git repositories (including public GitHub) is becoming standard practice.

Modeling projects aimed at influencing public policy formation have an addition burden. As part of the policy process, such models need to earn public trust (Acatech et al 2016). Closed source models can attempt to do so, but open source models have a distinct advantage in this regard.

The European Commission, to its credit, has embarked on open energy system modeling projects in its own right. The Commission supports two projects: Dispa-SET and MEDEAS. And it also funds a European model using the OSeMOSYS open source framework. But its flagship JRC-EU-TIMES energy model remains closed source.

Coverage in the FSFE position paper

There is no explicit coverage of large-scale energy policy models within the FSFE position paper. If the question is extended to other domains, such as acoustics, astronomy, or economics (all of which have open modeling communities), there is still no direct mention.

Such projects are sufficiently distinct and substantial to require dedicated treatment by the FSFE in relation to its position on open science.

Specific concerns

EU energy market transparency directive precludes data reuse

The 2013 European Union energy market transparency regulation 543/2013 requires certain energy market participants, including electricity exchanges and independent system (transmission) operators (ISO) to publish data to aid market transparency and liquidity. But the directive does not require these organizations to license their data for reuse (Boecker 2016). As a result, the published data cannot be legally deployed for open statistical analysis or open energy system modeling studies or for use by informational websites. Ideally the EU should require that this data be made available under an open license (such as the European Union Public Licence).

We would be more than happy to provide the FSFE with examples of how encumbered data leads to significant and real problems within the open energy system modeling community. While Germany makes special provision for the use of copyrighted material in scientific research, this relaxation is not sufficient for our needs.


Open energy system modelers are highly supportive of the work of the FSFE. However we believe that large-scale open energy system modeling and open energy system database projects should receive explicit advocacy from the FSFE. This would compliment the valuable work on open scientific data and data processing by the FSFE.

The Open Energy Modelling Initiative would like to work with the FSFE to extend its policy position in this area.


Open Energy Modelling Initiative material

Wikipedia articles


Acatech; Lepoldina; Akademienunion, eds. (2016). Consulting with energy scenarios: requirements for scientific policy advice (PDF). Berlin, Germany: Acatech — National Academy of Science and Engineering. ISBN 978-3-8047-3550-7.

Boecker, Lina (21 November 2016). Energy databases: protection and licensing (PDF). Berlin, Germany: JBB Rechtsanwaelte.

“Commission Regulation (EU) No 543/2013 of 14 June 2013 on submission and publication of data in electricity markets and amending Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 714/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council”. Official Journal of the European Union (L 163): 1–12. 15 June 2013.

Gkotsopoulou, Olga; Albers, Erik; Di Cosmo, Roberto; Malaja, Polina; Sanjurjo, Fernando (5 January 2017). Position paper for the endorsement of free software and open standards in Horizon 2020 and all publicly-funded research (PDF). Berlin, Germany: Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

Pfenninger, Stefan; DeCarolis, Joseph; Hirth, Lion; Quoilin, Sylvain; Staffell, Iain (February 2017). “The importance of open data and software: is energy research lagging behind?” (PDF). Energy Policy. 101: 211–215. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2016.11.046. ISSN 0301-4215. Open access.


This document was prepared using the pandoc utility and markdown markup. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Update I have had some short discussions by email with Olga Gkotsopoulou, the lead author of the FSFE position paper. The FSFE is interested in receiving our feedback in due course.

Some other topics we could raise with the FSFE in relation to open science:

  • the issue of the energy market transparency directive from the European Union (543/2013), discussed briefly in this Wikipedia entry. While this directive promotes market information and market liquidity, it does little or nothing to help science.
  • the use of anonymous code distribution (in the case of pandapower): is this really unacceptable under German anti-terrorism law?
  • the matter of database rights also warrants a mention
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