by Marc Parry
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is closing a grant program that financed a series of high-profile university software projects, leaving some worried about a vacuum of support for open-source ventures.
Mellon’s decade-old Research in Information Technology program, or RIT, helped bankroll a catalog of freely available software that includes Sakai, a course-management system used by Stanford University and the University of Michigan; Kuali, a financial-management program recently rolled out at Colorado State University; and Zotero, a program for managing research sources used by millions.
Now the foundation plans to eliminate the RIT program as a stand-alone entity, a move that was scheduled to take effect Monday, according to a December letter to grantees obtained by The Chronicle.
Mellon described the change as part of an effort to “consolidate resources” and concentrate on core program areas like the liberal arts, scholarly communications, and museums. RIT will merge into the Scholarly Communications program, which will manage its existing grants. Ira H. Fuchs, RIT’s founder, says his position has been eliminated, as has that of Christopher J. Mackie, RIT’s associate program officer.
“It might lead to a reduction in funding for people that want to build large-scale open-source software programs for education,” says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University who reported the changes on his blog last month.