Rob Elshire

Member for

2 years 4 months



I've been active in the Free Software community going on 20 years. My primary role is as a daily user of Debian on both the desktop and the server. Beyond the practicality of using awesome computational tools, I have an interest in applying the philosphy of Free Software to my professional activities. My training is primarily in molecular genetics with a focus on agriculture -- plant breeding in particular. While in graduate school, I explored how we might incorporate copy-left like mechanisms into the so-called intellectual property regime in plant variety development. I did not come up with a workable path for doing that.

The piece of work that I am best known for is the development of a method for looking at differences at the DNA level called genotyping-by-sequencing. It was a somewhat clever hack of a laboratory method to use commodity DNA sequencing to do a needed job better, cheaper and faster. Using an approach common in software development, I looked to simplify, simplify, simplify. We published it PLoSOne so that anyone could use it as is or modify it for their own needs. We also developed software under GNU licenses to process the data generated by the lab. Many people have used it as is in agriculture, but also in ecology, conservation biology, etc. Others have done new cool things based on it. For me this is an example of the GNU way in action.

In recent years, circumstances have allowed me to present these ideas more broadly. For example this effort at the eResearch 2016 conference here in New Zealand --… If you would like to find out more about what I do professionally, please take a look here:

Fun (??) Fact: Yes, that is a framed picture of RMS in my office.