26 May 2008

The Healthiest Kind of Commons

Creating a commons is all about sharing, and there can be few areas where sharing is more mutually beneficial than health. After all, everyone aspires to good health, and the best way to get that is to pool what we know. Surprisingly, that doesn't happen as much as it could at the moment, because antiquated ways of looking at medical knowledge - shaped by pharmaceutical companies - try to enclose as much of the commons as possible.

Happily, others are fighting that tendency. Here's the latest manifestation, called the Health Commons, from the same bunch of idealistic nutters that brought you the Science Commons:

Health Commons is a coalition of parties interested in changing the way basic science is translated into the understanding and improvement of human health. Coalition members agree to share data, knowledge, and services under standardized terms and conditions by committing to a set of common technologies, digital information standards, research materials, contracts, workflows, and software. These commitments ensure that knowledge, data, materials and tools can move seamlessly from partner to partner across the entire drug discovery chain. They enable participants to offer standardized services, ranging from simple molecular assays to complex drug synthesis solutions, that others can discover in directories and integrate into their own processes to expedite development — or assemble like LEGO blocks to create new services.

The Health Commons is too complex for any one organization or company to create. It requires a coalition of partners across the spectrum. It is also too complex for public, private, or non-profit organizations alone - reinventing therapy development for the networked world requires, from the beginning, a commitment to public-private partnership. Only through a public-private partnership can the key infrastructure of the Commons be created: the investments in the public domain of information and materials will only be realized if that public domain is served by a private set of systems integrators and materials, tools and service providers motivated by profit. And in turn, the long-term success of the private sector depends on a growing, robust, and self-replenishing public domain of data, research tools, and open source software.

Good to see open source being mentioned explicitly here: it does, indeed, form the basis of all these commons efforts, because it provides a completely flexible infrastructure that is also completely free.


Unknown said...

"...from the same bunch of idealistic nutters that brought you the Science Commons"

Dig your style GM !!

I sense and hope this is the start of something of a most positive nature and I'll be keeping an eye our for developments.

Glyn Moody said...

The meme is spreading...