License adoption and Project success: Field evidence from a randomised controlled trial in open source software
Last registered on January 21, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
License adoption and Project success: Field evidence from a randomised controlled trial in open source software
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004478
Initial registration date
January 19, 2020
Last updated
January 21, 2020 2:01 PM EST
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
ETH Zurich
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ETH-Zurich
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2020-01-01
End date
2021-06-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In a collaborative, innovative project, do licensing terms that govern use of project output affect the team's effort and project success? This research seeks to provide experimental evidence on this question, in the important case of open-source software development. We propose a randomized field experiment on a popular code hosting platform. We create exogenous variation in licensing terms of projects through preference shifts of project owners, which we induce through suggestions and selective information provision. We measure the causal effect of license adoption on metrics for team size, team effort as well as product quality
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Ash, Elliott and Swagatam Sinha. 2020. "License adoption and Project success: Field evidence from a randomised controlled trial in open source software." AEA RCT Registry. January 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4478-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Our intervention will comprise of contacting open source software developers, who have not yet adopted a license, and nudge them to adopt a license. Depending on the type of message or nudge that we send, our subject population of software projects will be divided into three treatment arms:
1. Control group - These projects will not receive a message.
2. 'Copyleft' group - These projects will receive a message advising adoption of a copyleft license(e.g., GPLv3)
3. 'Permissive' group - These projects will receive a message advising adoption of a permissive license(e.g., Apache license)
Intervention Start Date
2020-01-30
Intervention End Date
2020-04-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Team Effort
2. Product Quality
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1. Team Effort (measured by number of commits to the project, and number of forks of the original project)
2. Product Quality (measured by user ratings, number of dependencies, and text based quality measures)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1. Team size (measyred by the total number of individual committers to the porojects of choice, as compared to the the total number of contributors in the 3 months preceding the intervention).
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The intervention will be evaluated with a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with three arms, with randomisation at the level of open source software projects. We will stratify our study on the basis of software ecosystem, and focus on 4 software ecosystems for the current study, from which we will randomly pick 300 projects.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
From an exhasutive list of candidate projects, we will randomly select projects by using a pseudo random generator on a pre designed program.
Randomization Unit
Treatment will be randomised at the level of software projects.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
6000 software projects
Sample size: planned number of observations
6000 software projects
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1500 projects in each of Passive Control group, Active Control group, Permissive License group and Copyleft license group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Ethics Commission of ETH Zurich
IRB Approval Date
2019-04-09
IRB Approval Number
N/A