COMP110 Professional Skills in Computer Science (2013-14) -- Assignment 1

Your task for this assessment is to write a 2,000 word report on the following subject:

Innovation and Free/Open Source Software
Catalyst or Obstacle?

Innovation is one of the key characteristics of the IT industry and (Western) societies are generally supportive of innovation, putting in place mechanisms and policies that are intended to encourage innovation. Traditionally, research on innovation has distinguished two distinct models (i.e. sets of mechanisms and policies) that are intended to support innovation, one is called the private investment model, the other is called the collective action model. More recently, researchers have considered whether free/open source software development practices constitute a third model, the private-collective innovation model, that combines elements of both the private investment model and the collective action model.

Based on the existing research literature, your report should explain these three innovation models, consider how they interact, and derive a conclusion to what extent society should support each of the three innovation models.

You can use the following tasks and questions to guide your report:

  1. State and explain the characteristics of the `private investment model', the `collective action model', and the `private-collective model'. This should include a definition or definitions of `free/open source software'.
  2. Give two examples each of innovations or research within the the `private investment model', the `collective action model', and the `private-collective model'.
  3. Consider the question to what extent the three innovation models can `peacefully co-exist' and to what extent they interfere with each other in a way that hinders innovation.
  4. Give two examples where innovation under one of the models has interfered with innovation under a different model.
  5. Drawing on the considerations in 1-4 above, what factors influence successful innovation in each of the three models or in possible combinations of the three models? In particular, consider the question whether free/open source software is a catalyst or an obstacle to innovation if it co-exists with the other two innovation models.
  6. Derive and justify your own conclusions to what extent society should support each of the three innovation models.

Also, take note of the following:

  • The report must be prepared using a word-processor of your choice and must comply with the instructions for format and submission given below.
  • You need to justify any claims that you make and opinions that you state either by an argument or by a reference.
  • Citations and list of references must be given in ordinal-number style, using square brackets, following the ordinal-number style introduced in the COMP110 lectures, with entries in the bibliography sorted alphabetically.
    Use of Zotero together with the COMP110 Practical style, available at, is recommended but the responsibility for the correctness of the format of citations and references remains yours.
  • Articles in academic journals are the most highly valued type of source while websites/personal communcations/blogs are the least valued type of source; all other types of sources fall between these two extremes. To support the content of your essay you should seek to use the most highly valued sources that you can find.

The report must be written by yourself using your own words (see the University guidance on academic integrity, which can be found at, for additional information). Quotes are allowed if appropriate, limited in their extent, and clearly indicated as such.


Your report is expected to be 2,000 words in length. The text should be typeset for A4 paper format, using a 12 point font, double spaced lines, with an inner margin of 1.5cm and an outer margin of at least 3.0cm.

The list of references does not count towards the word limit.


Submission proceeds in two steps:

  1. Submit a PDF file of your report (no other format is allowed) via VITAL -> COMP110 -> Assessment -> COMP110 Assignment 1.

    Your submission will be checked for collusion/plagiarism using Turnitin. The VITAL submision system will allow you to see the so-called Turnitin `originality report' for your submission.

    In more detail, log onto VITAL, go to 2013-14-COMP110, click on 'Assessment' in the menu on the right, click on 'View/Complete' under 'COMP110 Assignment 1' in the middle section of the page, fill in the missing details for your submission and browse for the file to upload (remember, it must be PDF), then click on 'Upload'. After a few seconds you will then be transfered to a page that shows you the text, extracted from your PDF file, that Turnitin will check for plagiarism. Click on 'Submit' at the bottom of that page. On the following page click on 'Go to portfolio'. This will present you with a page showing your submission. Click on 'Show details'. On the resulting page, there is column called 'Report' with a coloured bar and the percentage of text that Turnitin was able to match to other sources. It sometimes takes a while for Turnitin to generate the report. So, you may have to wait a while and reload this page to update it.

    You can submit a file more than once, for example, if the Turnitin report indicates that your report does not comply with the expected standards of academic writing and referencing. Note that this re-submission possibility may only be available up to the deadline for the assignment.

  2. Submit a printout of your report together with a completed Declaration of Academic Integrity to the Student Office (Room G.09, Ashton Building).


The deadline for this assignment is

Monday, 18 November 2013, 14:30

Earlier submission is possible, but any submission after the deadline attracts the standard lateness penalties and the last of two steps of the submission process to be completed will be used to determine the lateness penalty. Please also remember that a strict interpretation of `lateness' is applied by the Department, that is, a submission on Monday, 18 November 2013, 14:31 is considered to be a day late.


This assessment will directly or indirectly address the following learning outcomes of the module:

  • effectively retrieve information including the use of library and web sources and the evaluation of information retrieved from such sources);
  • effectively use general IT facilities including organising their filestore, taking advantage of access control and security features of operating systems;
  • effectively use relevant software packages and appreciate different types of software;
  • effectively communicate in writing and orally;
  • recognise and employ sound reasoning and argumentation techniques as part of conducting basic research;
  • manage your own learning;
  • describe and discuss economic, historic, organisational, research, and social aspects of computing as a discipline and computing in practice.

This assignment will contribute 25% to the overall mark of COMP110.

Remember that to pass COMP110 you must submit work for all assignments on COMP110 and that the work must constitute a reasonable attempt.

The marking scheme that will be used to assess your work is available at As stated above, the University policy on late submissions applies to this assignment as does the University policy on academic integrity. There are additional penalties that also apply:

  1. If the submitted PDF file and the submitted printout are found not have the same content, then 10 marks will be subtracted.
  2. If the electronic submission is not a PDF file or the submission does not follow the typesetting instructions, then 5 marks will be subtracted.
  3. For every 100 words that you exceed the word limit of 2,000 words, 3 marks will be subtracted, that is, if you submit a report of 2,099 words, no penalty will be applied, if you submit a report of 2,100 to 2,199 words, 3 marks will be subtracted, etc.

That being said, no report which achieves a mark of 40 or more before the application of penalties will be reduced below the pass mark once penalties are taken into account, unless the work is submitted more than five working days late.