Note: This question is a revision of an earlier question, which MadHatter suggested should be revised into a new more specific question. Note that there is a lot of similarity between the questions; the original question muddied my main concerns by bringing up gripes about the difficulties in supporting scientific software financially--this question focuses more narrowly on the part of my question I actually am seeking an answer to.
I'm a data-scientist in the general field of neuroscience, and, as part of my research, I write a lot of scientific software that is intended to be used and improved by the scientific community. I have traditionally licensed all of this software under the GPL.
Lately, I have been concerned about protecting the scientific integrity of my source code and thus have been reading a lot about the AGPL, the SSPL, the various Creative Commons licenses, and the Commons Clause. This interest is not idle: I'm aware of at least one company that has considered using my software basically verbatim as part of a commercial web-service whose source code is not available for scientific review. For the record, my software has potential uses related to clinical diagnosis, thus a mistranslation or misuse of my software has potentially very serious ethical concerns.
I feel that this is a concern not addressed by the tradiaional FLOSS/open/free license models: If a company that modifies my software then provides it as part of a web-service, other scientists and clinicians cannot guarantee that the company has not broken a scientifically-critical part of my code. The company may be inadvertently providing incorrect scientific conclusions or diagnoses to other clinicians or scientists, possibly endangering lives, and I have inadvertently participated in this tragedy my not adequately protecting my software. My understanding is that if I were to use the AGPL license, the company would at least be forced to make these modifications public so that researchers could determine for themselves if the product they were using was actually equivalent to the software I painstakingly wrote, tested, and published.
To abstract this point a bit: as a scientist, I have a professional and ethical responsibility to ensure, as much as possible, that my scientific work is not misused. This is the same responsibility that forbids me from, for example, doing research on biological weapons or killer AIs: science does not happen in a vacuum, and we all must take responsibility for protecting the integrity of our ecosystem. I see this responsibility as partially competing with the responsibility to make software open/free, and, personally, I see my scientific duty as much more important. A company with an advertising budget is always going to be able to recruit clinicians to their services faster and better than I will be able to alert clinicians to the possibility of misuse (nor would I have any way of knowing that they were misusing it or who they had sold the service to).
All of this leads up to my questions: (1) are there resources that discuss the professional/legal ramifications of these licenses specifically in the context of scientific work? and, (2) given that I don't have funds to have a lawyer write a custom license, how can I ensure that the kind of misuse I've described above is prohibited? I've spent several days reading discussions about the SSPL and related licenses, but I feel that all of the discussion centers around non-scientific software (and mostly around commercial software) and thus miss the mark. My intuition so far is that the least restrictive solution for me would be to license the software under the AGPL, but I'm curious about advantages/disadvantages of other approaches as well.
Also, for the record:
- I'm looking for general advice as well as specific resources; I do not feel that I've been able to find much discussion of scientific software licenses online.
- I am not concerned with the relationship between the software and publications; I don't need the license to require co-authorship or citations or anything, I just want commercial companies to use/distribute the software in a scientifically responsible way.
- I'm aware that relicensing my software does not prevent a company from using previous versions of the software that were licensed under the GPL.
- I'm looking for discussions about this tangle of issues, not arguments against the existence of an issue. I would consider any answers that doesn't treat the issue of scientific integrity as a meaningful ethical concern relative to the ethical concerns of the open/free software movement to be out of scope.