A sustainable future for LIME

One of the most difficult discussions around the release of LIME v2 is the decision to introduce a small cost for academic users. We have received only positive feedback on this decision so far, but here is our perspective that may help to put this change into context.

LIME has the basis in >10 years of academic research by the VOG Group. It was initially developed to address the lack of simple 3D model interpretation tools for geologists and geoscientists, and that is of course still the case. For many years the users of LIME were restricted to students and project collaborators in our working group’s immediate network. As time has gone on, more and more people use LIME – even for real work😉 – and expectations have duly risen…

 

LIME past and present

From the archive: LIME v0.1 (repertoire line creation and some simple display settings) and LIME v2.2.

To ensure the robustness and quality of the software, we have worked hard, through the developers in our team, to raise the professionalism, feature set and usability so it becomes an efficient and useful tool. So often, academic software outputs work for the one particular case or dataset required for publication of an article, but then are shelved because the lone researcher or student working on the software moves on, leaving the code undocumented or not robust enough for general usage. With LIME, we try hard to provide a tool for as wide a range of people in our society as possible – whether they are leading researchers, university students, public sector employees or industry professionals. Combining the innovations coming out of the research group with the engineering nitty gritty as it were.

Creating a unique and future-proof piece of software such as LIME comes with a real and significant cost to engage talented and creative team members, interact with users and increase quality. We have been lucky enough to have generated projects involving development of new LIME features, which we have then been happy to share. However, this meant that features evolved organically, on a “need-to-do basis”, ready to meet the next deadline but not the lasting needs of a sustainable software project. To tick-off the never-ending list of features on our roadmap, we recognise that longer-term planning and resources are required. In an ideal world we would continue to give LIME away for free to academia, and we have explored several models for sustainability. However, starting with v2 we have decided to ask for a small annual fee for academic users. This may change in the future as the software becomes increasingly recognised and adopted through uptake of commercial licenses.

All income generated goes back into the software development, to help us take on board the feedback we receive and make LIME even better.

LIME is a work in progress – it is continuing to evolve and becomes increasingly professional and user-friendly. The work is not yet done. We hope that the community will support us in reaching the long-term visions of LIME.

LIME team, April 2020

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