Dissemination and continuous improvement of a CTSA-based software platform, SPARCRequest©, using an open source governance model

J Clin Transl Sci. 2019 Aug 27;3(5):227-233. doi: 10.1017/cts.2019.403. eCollection 2019 Oct.


SPARCRequest© (Services, Pricing, & Application for Research Centers) is a web-based research management system that provides a modular and adaptable "electronic storefront" for research-related services. Developed by the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina, it was released as open source (OS) code in 2014. The adoption of SPARCRequest© accelerated in 2016, when, to ensure responsiveness to the needs of partners, its governance also became open. This governance model enables OS partners to suggest and prioritize features for new releases. As a result, the software code has become more modularized and can be easily customized to meet the diverse needs of adopting hubs. This article describes innovative aspects of the OS governance model, including a multi-institutional committee structure to set strategic vision, make operational decisions, and develop technical solutions; a virtual roadmap that ensures transparency and aligns adopters with release-based goals; and a business process model that provides a robust voting mechanism for prioritizing new features while also enabling fast-paced bug fixes. OS software evolves best in open governance environments. OS governance has made SPARCRequest© more responsive to user needs, attracted more adopters, and increased the proportion of code contributed by adopters.

Keywords: CTSA; Open source governance; SPARCRequest©; South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research Institute; budgeting; clinical research; digital ecosystems; metric tracking; modular code; research management system.