This survey of the Debian free and open source project was administered in 2016 by Molly de Blanc, Mathieu O’Neil, Mahin Raissi and Stefano Zacchiroli. There was great interest for the survey within the Debian community, and 1,479 people responded—an impressive turnout for surveys of this kind in the field.
The Debian survey held in 2016 marked the first stage of an inquiry into the relationship between volunteer work in free and open source software and broader dimensions of work and employment. This research program was given a boost when O’Neil, Muselli and Zacchiroli were awarded a Critical Digital Infrastructure Fund grant (2019-2020) by the Sloan and Ford Foundations to study the coproduction of free and open source software by projects and firms. Some results of the analysis of GitHub contribution networks, media representations of coproduction, and firm discourses about open source were released as a public report in June 2021. At the time of writing, more advanced results and conclusions are making their way through the academic peer review process.
In addition, the Sloan and Ford Foundation grant helped to launch the Digital Commons Policy Council, a think tank for the digital commons. The DCPC aims to increase the recognition of the social benefits of the digital commons and of the volunteer labour which produces these common resources. To that end, researchers are planning to administer a follow-up Debian survey in 2022 on the broader societal recognition of volunteer work in free and open source software.