The Insight Toolkit becomes a NumFOCUS Sponsored Project: What does this mean for ITK users?

April 27, 2021

We are excited to announce that the Insight Toolkit (ITK) is being recognized by NumFOCUS as a Sponsored Project. ITK has long been supported by Kitware and the Insight Software Consortium (ISC), a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote the progress of science and technology through open source software. In an effort to sustain the growth and community of ITK, the ISC has become a Sponsored Project of NumFOCUS, a non-profit that promotes open practices in research, data, and scientific computing by serving as a fiscal sponsor for open source projects. This union will positively impact the future of ITK and related projects that aim to advance open source scientific imaging. 

Why the ISC Partnered with NumFOCUS

NumFOCUS is a non-profit that emerged from the scientific Python community and now supports a number of open source scientific computing projects. NumFOCUS recognizes that scientific software is a fundamental component of modern research and engineering. The complex calculations and sophisticated analyses made possible by advances in data management and software create new opportunities for discovery and innovation. Due to its overwhelming support of open source platforms, NumFOCUS was a perfect fit for ITK. 

The History of ITK and the Insight Software Consortium

ITK is the flagship project supported by the ISC. Commissioned by the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine in 1999, ITK is an open-source, cross-platform library that provides developers with an extensive suite of software tools for image analysis. It was initially developed by Kitware, GE Corporate R&D, MathSoft (now known as Insightful), the University of North Carolina, University of Tennessee, and University of Pennsylvania. Kitware employees have actively participated as ISC leadership since its inception. 

In 2004, these developers incorporated the ISC as a non-profit, and ITK copyrights were transferred to it. This was done to promote and ensure that ITK remains a protected forum for the open sharing of knowledge and technology across academia, industry, and government. Will Schroeder, Ph.D. and co-founder of Kitware, and Stephen Aylward, Ph.D. and senior director of strategic initiatives at Kitware, were both principal investigators for the original ITK development project and served as the founding treasurer and president of the ISC for many years. Currently, Matthew McCormick, Ph.D. and principal engineer on Kitware’s Medical Computing Team, serves as president and Beatriz Paniagua, Ph.D. and assistant director of medical computing at Kitware, serves as a council member.

The Future of ITK

Since joining NumFOCUS, the ISC has benefited from NumFOCUS’s business services, such as filing taxes, bank account management, legal services, providing small support grants, and more.

For ITK developers, the combined efforts of the ISC, NumFOCUS, and Kitware should greatly enhance interactions with the scientific computing software community and lead to increased support for day-to-day and long-term efforts. For example, NumFOCUS helps to enrich diversity and inclusion in projects, provides small development grants for resources such as travel and food at hackathons, and supports open science journals, like the Insight Journal. NumFOCUS also helps projects apply to Google Season of Docs and train technical writer awardees on how to work with an open source community. We are excited that the ITK is now backed by NumFOCUS, the ISC, and Kitware so we can continue to provide excellent support for ITK as the ITK open source community flourishes.

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