Open Source Development Philosophy is Spreading

The principles of Open Source are spreading like a good contagion…

The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting article on Wednesday in its Technology Journal about GlaxoSmithKline, the drug maker, experimenting with applying “open source” principles in its pharmaceutical R&D efforts.  The article is available to subscribers, possibly non-subscribers as well, but in any event, if you’re able you can find it here.

What grabbed my attention is how this is yet another example of the principles of open source development being extended to other domains and in this case pharmaceutical research.  The idea is simple enough: by making certain Glaxo research intellectual property involving processes, test suites, and other related content publicly available in a royalty-free format and with conditions on use that require contribution of derivative works and results back to the public repository hosted by Glaxo, vital medical research in pharmaceuticals may accelerate.

To be sure, this isn’t entirely novel for the pharmaceutical industry; there are two preexisting so-called “open source drug development efforts: the “Tropical Disease Initiative” (funded by USAID) and the “Drugs for Neglected Diseases” initiative. But these earlier initiatives are helping catalyze the new GlaxoSmithKline effort.

The Glaxo open source project will partner with a Silicon Valley initiative called Collaborative Drug Discovery, Inc. and has backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Founders Fund.  Of course, disease and drug research is vital to society and it requires large funding to advance.  What I find particularly “kewl” about this is that another commercial sector is starting to realize the potential of public benefits efforts to their overall cause.

And this is precisely what the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation is attempting to do for another imperative effort: fortifying the integrity of a major piece of America’s critical democracy infrastructure — elections and voting systems.

The really good news for the OSDV Foundation cause is the capital required to accomplish is a tiny fraction of what is required to continue the efforts of pharmaceutical or genetics research.

I am pleased to see the advance of open source principles in other industries and domains; it validates the cause and invigorates the movement.  To be sure, as a capitalist at heart I remain convinced that open source efforts may not be the best solution for every market or industry, however, in some applications it is not only a preferred method, but is quite possibly the only method to achieve the goal(s).  Of course, at the OSDV Foundation and the TrustTheVote Project we believe it (open source principles) is an essential approach to building this nation’s (and possibly all democratic nations’) democracy infrastructure — the tools and services upon which we rely to ensure government’s operational continuity and the preservation of the guarantees of our constitution.

Happy Holiday Weekend

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